Off to a Slow Start

I could put a joke about how I only have a few posts, despite being up for a few months, but that’s a bit too obvious. No, I’m here to talk about something more serious than easy jokes at my own expense. This is a serious problem that likely affects many, many gamers out there.

I, among others, am absolutely horrible at the start of games where you have a noticeable, significant process of character advancement. The first few dungeons and bosses of Persona 4? A nightmare. A fresh game of League of Legends, and me with few items and fewer spells? Oh crap. The first legitimately tough fights in Etrian Odyssey 3? They make me metaphorically weep.

Taking my first, and most prominent, example (and because I’ve been harping on and on about Chrono Trigger too much lately) let’s see if I can’t piece together why it turns out like this.

As a warning, there will be Persona 4 spoilers beyond this point. These spoilers will at least mention elements throughout the entire game, including at least one major antagonist. So keep on reading, if you’d like, but I’d recommend playing the game or reading a Let’s Play or something, if you haven’t already.

So yeah, now that we’re safely behind the link I can begin explaining how the first two dungeons of Persona 4 were easily the hardest two until you hit Heaven (because the actual dungeon of Mitsuo’s dungeon wasn’t very hard, just annoying).

Yes. Yes she will.

Now, looking back, I’m beginning to see why I had so much trouble with this as opposed to… say… Naoto’s boss or even Adachi (Ameno-Sagiri, however, is another story entirely). I’m going to chalk it up to three reasons. Two are pretty solid and one’s a bit weird, but hey.

My first reason is my severe lack of experience. I don’t mean that in the game mechanics way. That kind of experience falls under the weird reason. Anyhoo, this was my first real SMT game and the first RPG I’d played in a good while. As such, I didn’t know what to expect. I must say, however, it was a fine entry boss for someone completely new to the mechanics of how Persona – and by extension MegaTen – games work.

For those of you unaware of how things work in these games, let me explain. But first, let me ask why you’re reading this. Seriously, stop spoiling the game. Go play it or watch a Let’s Play or something. Anyway, in the Persona games I’ve played (3: FES and 4), the characters have elemental weaknesses and strengths. You happen to have a mandatory party member weak to fire, but strong against – and a user of – ice magic. This boss, Shadow Yukiko, happens to use fire and often targets her.

In a normal RPG, this would just mean extra damage or a higher chance of a status effect. Persona would like you to know it’s not exactly a normal RPG. If you hit an enemy’s weakness, you get another turn with that character… and this works the other way around, too. Granted, you can guard, but that basically makes that character dead weight. I couldn’t exactly afford that.

Now, before people begin telling me about the Red Wall trick that you can do with Slime, I’ll admit that I didn’t know that. That was part of the inexperience on my part, honestly. All I knew was that ice really hurt Shadow Yukiko and gave us an extra turn, and to make sure we guard whenever she’s about to cast Agi. Anyway, that about does it for that first reason. As a bit of an aside, even if I did make a Slime with Red Wall, the boss summons a Charming Prince who uses Blue Wall, which nulls her ice resistance, on her. That would simply put us on even terms.

Her tendency to keep him around had me make the main character burn 'em down.

My second guess at why I had so much trouble with her was not having a large number of available tools at the time. I had a handful of Personae, possibly a few healing items, and three characters. Later on in the game I would have had a larger number of Personae, both with me and to choose from, more items, and a better pool of characters to use to form a party. Considering I was playing on Hard and it was a fairly intense fight, I had to set one of my characters as a healer. Now, Yosuke starts off with some healing spells, but – as anyone who’s gotten decently far into the game can tell you – this doesn’t make him a healer. His magic isn’t good enough and he lacks access to the top-tier healing spells. However, he had Dia and that was good enough for me.

… But I still had Chie and her weakness to fire. I forget what Personae the main character had at the moment, but something tells me anything fire-resistant didn’t have a lot of ice magic to spare, at least not yet. For example, you can get Black Frost later on in the game who has absorbs fire and ice, along with being reflecting instant-kill dark magic! See where I’m going with this? Combine this with reason one up above. The results weren’t pretty.

Seriously, make this guy. Every fight basically becomes 'change Persona to Black Frost, spam magic, win' until the last dungeon.

Now we move on to the really weird reason, which sort of stems my own inexperience. Like I said before, Persona 4 was my first Shin Megami Tensei game. Anyone who’s played the games should know that it’s really hard to do anything with brute force alone. Unfortunately, ‘brute force’ (through grinding until the sun exploded) was my usual tactic. I mean, I probably could have leveled up enough to take her on by just having Chie guard and spam Bufu whenever possible, but… Well, I couldn’t very well do that, because I was on a time limit.

Once again, time for a bit more explanation for those of you who haven’t played it. See, in this and Persona 3, you have a bit of time limit. In P3, it was simply until the next bit of story progression and forced boss fight. In 4, however, if you don’t complete the current dungeon before your time’s up? Game over. Granted, you’re given the option to turn time back by one week – while still keeping your stats, if I’m not mistaken – but… I didn’t know that. So yeah, I couldn’t grind until I just pounded that boss into the dust with my eyes closed.

When the fog sets in, so does the rushing and worrying.

Well, that about sums it up. After several bits of trial and error, I managed to take her down. I like to say that I’m a better player because of everything this particularly hard fight put me through. I think I may even go through again, without New Game Plus, to see what I’ve learned. Who knows, maybe I’ll beat it before the next-to-last day this time.

Thanks for reading and take care, guys.

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