This year, I took my first step into the world of Persona. As someone who is into horror, with a great interest in visual novels and turn-based battling, you’d think I’d have made the plunge sooner, but no. The Persona games have sat in my ever-expanding backlog for a while now, and once Persona 4 Golden made its way to the Nintendo Switch earlier this year, I decided that it was time.

I started with Persona 4 Golden,figuring that this would set me up nicely to play both Persona 5 Royale and the upcoming Persona 3 Reload title nicely, considering they’re all self-contained stories. With that decision made, I buttoned up my school uniform and delved into the mysterious – but cosy – town of Inaba, which is inspired by Mount Fuji and riddled with constant disaster.

I didn’t quite expect to become as enthralled as I did with Persona 4 Golden, but Atlus creates deeply interesting characters and places them in a world that feels thoroughly lived in, with combat that – while repetitive – is satisfying to get right. I won’t be the first or last to mention some of the creepy jokes or dynamics that also emerge, which admittedly add to just how unnerving everything else is, but those aside, this murder-mystery oozes style and boasts a roster of characters you’ll quickly become attached to.

If you’re not familiar, Persona 4 has you play as a student who’s moved to a new school for a year, which sounds normal enough… at first. Away from the city he is accustomed to, our protagonist makes friends with an array of quirky personalities, but it doesn’t take too long for dead bodies to begin turning up on phone lines. That’s right. Persona 4 gets dark fast, and it lands on this ragtag group of friends – who’re a bit like Scooby Doo’s mystery gang in a different timeline – to actually get to the bottom of what’s going on.

And there’s such an interesting array of characters at play; cowards, tough guys, teen idols, and even a teddy bear are the folk you find yourself bonding with and battling through dungeons alongside. Dungeons which exist inside of a television, might I add. Yup, Persona gets even weirder, and that’s exactly why I love it so much. Whether you’re desperate to know what happens next in your relationship with Persona 4’s resident DILF, Dojima, or are just dying to get to the bottom of the serial murders that are ongoing, Persona 4 Golden keeps you glued to it throughout its 70+ hour length.

It’s a game that I’ve grown to love discussing. While I was playing it, my friends were constantly asking who I thought the ‘culprit’ was, and if I’d gotten any closer to solving the unfolding mystery. There are endless things to talk about. What do you mean there’s a portal leading to another dimension in my television? And why is there a talking teddy bear, aptly named Teddie? Also, what the hell are all these strange shadows? Having not played Persona before, there was so much to discover, and at no point did any of it feel overwhelming. Bizarre, fun, and often beautiful – I’m ashamed it took me so long to play Persona 4 Golden, and I’m glad I finally got around to it this year.

Next year, I’m looking forward to seeing what Persona 3 Reload is all about. Then, maybe I’ll finally tackle Persona 5 Royale the year after that too…