Bad Police Work in Video Games: Persona 3 and 4

In the real world, the police are the ones who usually solve the crimes and bring the bad guys to justice. In video games, developers rightly assume that the gamer wants to be the one solving all the world’s problems. In video games that have a contemporary setting, police usually have to make it into the game in some way, even if it’s minor. What is hilarious is how ineffectual the police usually are, even when the player character is a member of the force. Today I’m going to be looking at the police presence in Persona 3 and 4. The reasons for restricting the scope of the article to these two games is that I’m far more familiar with them than Persona 1 or the half of Persona 2 I’ve played. The fact that I’m currently playing through Persona 4: The Golden on the Vita like every true-blooded JRPG fan also factors into my decision. Local police are extremely important to the story of Persona 4, and barely relevant in Persona 3, but both of the forces make some really bafflingly bad decisions.

We’re not looking at what game is better, but Persona 4. Persona 4 is better in every conceivable way.

Persona 3 is about your character and his (Her if you’re going that way in P3P) friends trying to stop an outbreak of something called Apathy Syndrome. They’ve discovered the cause of it relates to a hidden hour in the day that only a few humans can experience and they set off to a giant tower to hunt monsters. This is a very simplistic look at a much more complex storyline, but it suffices for my purpose. The main point I’m making is that there is no real room for the police. The problems happening in the city relate to a medical condition as far as any of the humans know. Of course in later editions (Either FES or P3P, can’t remember. Probably FES), there are disappearances plaguing the world as people fall into the tower, and you need to save them. This gives the police at least some reason to be concerned, but as it’s an add on I’m not going to harp too much on it.

The police should be worried about the increase in teen suicide though.

The real problem with Persona 3’s police force is their interactions with your characters. They are the weapon shop of this JRPG. Let that sink in a second. The police in Persona 3 are selling weapons to high school kids. They aren’t equipping you because they know you’re the only one’s who can stop the supernatural menace. No, they are making a profit by selling children weapons. Then there’s the kind of weapons they sell. You won’t find guns, aside from Aigis’ weapons (Which include grenade launchers by the way). No, the police are selling katanas, spears, rapiers, bows, spiked gloves, knives, and naginatas. What kind of police force keeps a steady stock of medieval weaponry? They continually get more stock in so they are obviously ordering more and more. The question I have is what purpose would this fill in the police force? Clearly, officers wouldn’t use such weapons in public, which means this supply is intended to be used to be sold to the public. This is the exact opposite of something the police should be doing.

Why yes, officer, I do want a Roman gladius. 3400 yen is a steal. 

Persona 4 is about a string of murders happening around rural Inaba. Once again, your character and his friends are the only ones who can stop the murders because, in actuality, the murders are committed through supernatural means. People are getting pushed into another dimension, and being killed by the monsters inside. Their bodies get thrown out into the real world, so the police get heavily involved in the case. Actually, the police in this game are about as competent as you can hope for. Sure the slacker detective Adachi doesn’t ever fill you with hope, but the central detective Ryotaro Dojima is constantly being held up as a highly competent man, who is trying to make real world sense of supernatural crimes.

Dojima is admittedly a badass.

My complaint doesn’t involve Dojima or the primary investigation too much. My problem lies with the character Naoto Shirogane. Naoto is a special detective brought in to help the police since they’re having problems with the case. She is an absolute genius and makes many major leaps in the case that take considerably longer for your team to figure out. The problem is that she’s 15. Her skill is proven and the fact that she feels like she’s treated like a kid is part of her arc, but what are the police thinking? Calling for help from the city is one thing, but calling in a 15 year old “detective prince” is another. It is the same as calling in a psychic; it makes a sideshow of the entire police investigation. Let’s put it this way. Ignore the main party completely. If Naoto had solved the case completely, what do you think the media would say about he police work in Inaba? There had been two murders before they called Naoto in. It seems a little hasty all things considering. Of course Naoto is by far my favourite character in the game, so I guess I’m happy about this bit of incompetence.

She even personally takes care of all of the cavity searches.

Short post today. More of a hype post for Persona 4 really, if I were to analyze my work (Which we’re not doing…). When you have a game about teenagers solving mysteries that the grownups can’t possibly solve, you have to make sure that the police can’t just get off their butts and take charge. Of course, you also have to make sure the police don’t look like absolute idiots too. The hiring of Naoto Shirogane in Persona 4 is a contentious bit of the plot, so at least the sense of it is questioned. Selling medieval weapons to children in a mall in Persona 3 isn’t explained away to any extent. I mean, what the hell were they thinking?

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


One thought on “Bad Police Work in Video Games: Persona 3 and 4

  1. That would be a re-occurring theme in your posts. I'm sure there are many other games that include incompetent police officers. It's kinda what tv shows and movies were based off of in the 80's and 90's so there probably a bit in video games, too. Perhaps not as outrageous as selling medieval weapons to teenagers, and hiring a 15 year old to solve a murder crime, but still…

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