Persona 4's incel dungeon was 15 years ahead of its time
A rollercoaster ride.
The launch of Persona 4 Golden for modern platforms is upon us (finally!), and there’s no better time to take a look back at the game’s best dungeon, the Void Quest. Persona 4 Golden is full of memorable moments and harrowing journeys through difficult stages, but the Void Dungeon is a standout, delivering a memorable and refreshing theme, with an equally as gripping boss — whose backstory feels uncomfortable, yet ahead of its time. From start to finish, this section of Persona 4 is captivating, proving Atlus is ahead of the curve when it comes to narrative and dungeon design.
Mid-game spoilers for Persona 4 Golden ahead.
The Void Quest dungeon is presented like a retro video game, and even starts with a nostalgic “Start/Continue” screen. Along the way, you encounter blocky walls that resemble the pixelated visual style of old NES games, which makes the dungeon stand out. It’s designed to look like the original Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, while still including the gorgeous Persona 4 style we all know and love.
But the visuals aren’t the only thing that makes this dungeon feel like a retro video game. Persona is known for its superb music and the Void Quest is an excellent example of that. Throughout the duration of this dungeon, you’ll hear 8-bit sounds akin to an old arcade game from the early 90s. It’s a nostalgia trip through and through, reminding us of the early days of this wonderful medium.
The dungeon ends with a battle against one of the game’s villains, who throws a colorful, 8-bit warrior at you in the form of Shadow the Hero. The music and sounds that play during this battle are exceptional, with familiar beeps and boops from the games of the past. This foe caps off the most memorable dungeon in the game, while slowly trickling out the details of this villain’s wildly creepy backstory.
While navigating through the Void Quest itself is a fun, lighthearted experience, all of that comes to a halt when you encounter the dungeon’s boss, Mitsuo Kubo. In his human form, Kubo is immediately unnerving, most notably due to his black, emotionless eyes.
While initially suspected of being the game’s main antagonist, Kubo turns out to be nothing more than a cloud-chasing copycat with a chip on his shoulder. Earlier in the game, Kubo actually interacts with one of the main party members, Yukiko. He attempts to hit on her, but Yukiko is put off and promptly (though politely!) rejects him. Kubo then spends a portion of the game stalking Yukiko and taking pictures of her — when he’s not playing video games. Though incels were certainly “a thing” in 2008, when Persona 4 first launched, the archetype wasn’t as recognizable as it is now.
There are so many beloved and memorable narrative beats within Persona 4 Golden, but the story of Mitsuo Kubo — and the dungeon associated with him — is a highlight, due to its retro theme and unforgettably unsettling backstory story.
Persona Week is Inverse's love letter to the Atlus RPG series that blends deeply strategic dungeon-crawling with vivid and heartfelt social sim elements.