One minute my five-year-old was giggling along with the playful antics of Yooka-Laylee on the PlayStation 4. The next he was in Persona 5, erasing over 35 hours of Phantom thievery in the blink of an eye. It's the closest I've come to crying over a video game in years.
When you write about keyboards, toys, snacks and sometimes video games for a living, there's not a lot of time to put dozens of hours into a game your aren't playing specifically for work. It's why being assigned a lengthy Japanese role-playing game for review at Kotaku often involves gladiatorial combat (Schreier is a beast with a battle axe). The fact that I managed to rack up nearly 30 hours in Persona 5 prior to last week's holiday is a testament to how much I love being a crime-fighting anime teenager.
Last week was spring break for my twin five-year-old sons, Seamus and Archer, so I took the week off to sit in my living room and play more Persona 5. There were other, more kid-friendly activities planned for the week as well, but playing Persona 5 was right up there. I moved the PlayStation 4 into the living room, ordered irresponsible food delivery and settled in for an epic multi-day marathon of shadow battles and social links.
Yeah, too old for that. Between kids' activities, kid interruptions, napping and actually doing things as a family, I only logged about 10 more hours in the game over the course of seven days. They were a really good 10 hours though.
Everything was going swimmingly until Yooka-Laylee came along.
Yooka-Laylee is a bright and enthusiastic throwback to classic 3D platforming. It is adventurous and full of discoveries. It is silly and irreverent, never taking itself seriously. But it also wears out its welcome fast, spiraling players into a ceaseless collectathon full of frustrating puzzles, technical difficulties, and aimlessness. It has brought back the best of 3D platforming, but also the worst.
This past Saturday morning I loaded up Playtonic Games' tribute to the Nintendo 64 3D adventures of old, and my children were instantly smitten. The colourful characters, the gibberish voices and the silly noises made while falling into pits (my kids are big fans of falling) delighted the boys to no end. Eventually Seamus asked if he could play, so I handed him the controller, left him in the care of his mother and wandered off into my office for an impromptu nap.
"Seamus, no!" my wife shouted from the living room, waking me from chair sleep. It's a common phrase in our house, shouted regularly at varying levels of intensity, so I didn't pay it much heed. "Seamus, do not... your father will..." came next, followed by silence. Well, not exactly silence. I also heard a familiar song.
Oh no. Oh no no no.
I rushed into the living room just in time to see Seamus popping out of the Persona 5 save menu.
"Give me the controller, Seamus," I said with a quavering voice.
"I tried to stop him," my wife said as I opened the save menu. My knees grew weak. My heart sank. It was gone. It was all gone. Where there had been a game with nearly 40 hours of play time, there was now one with 15 minutes.
"He only saved over the second one," my wife offered. Yes, Seamus had helpfully skipped over the first save, created after only 10 hours. Good lad.
I could have wept. I could feel that lump in the back of my throat just waiting to burst. I sat on the couch, staring at the screen for what felt like forever. Then I handed Seamus the controller, stood up and returned to my office.
I told Twitter about what had just happened, and several folks suggested I check for cloud saves. Unfortunately I had recently transferred data from a regular PlayStation 4 to a PlayStation 4 Pro, and despite auto cloud saving being enabled, nothing had been uploaded since before the move. All was lost.
My chances of finishing Persona 5 any time soon are incredibly slim. As much as I loved (yes, loved) forming a crack team of heart thieves, falling in love with a punk rock doctor, eating massive hamburgers for fabulous stats and prizes, and watching films about baked goods superheroes, I just can't see myself finding that much time to do it all over again. I'll just have to live vicariously through just about everyone else on the site.
Imagine your old high school. Picture the doors you'd pass through at the start of each day. See if you can recall the awkward conversations you had with your friends, or the smell of the cafeteria at lunchtime. Now throw all that in the garbage and replace it with something impossibly cooler, impossibly more stylish, impossibly better. That's Persona 5.
I don't blame Seamus, really. I mean, he totally did it, but he didn't know what he was doing. He was just having fun with something he knew brought his daddy much joy, as inappropriate for children as that thing might have been. It was a very sweet way to tear my heart out of my chest.
Consider this a cautionary tale. Enable cloud saves. Back up your data. Never trust my children.