Title: Persona 4 Golden
Back during the 2008 when Persona 4 was first released I was very ecstatic when I finally was able to play it. Being a long time fan of the Shin Megami Tensei (MegaTen for short) series, Persona 4 easily dwarfed the pleasured I received from Persona 3 and almost overtook Nocturne as my favorite from the era. Fast-forward to 2014 – 6 years later with my first PSVITA and Persona 4 Golden as my first game for the system and all that pleasure and fun flooded back to me. Despite already experiencing the story, gameplay, and characters – P4Golden with its extra scenes, new mechanics, and enhanced visuals didn’t go to waste in the slightest and was more like piece of puzzle that was missing from the original. In various way, this was the version that made my experience complete.
Just like the former, Persona 4 Golden revolves around the silent highschool protagonist that moves to Inaba and gets involved in a bizarre murder “whodunnit” case along with his new-found friends. Awakening to their power as Persona users – the ability to call forth powerful pantheons from their psyches, they decide to work to see if they can discover the truth behind the case that seems to linked to the mysterious Midnight Channel. There is more to the story than that (and will evolve as the player progress), but just the gist of what lies in store for the player along this 60+hour narrative that will be both easy for newcomers to the series to immerse themselves into and for veterans a possibly happy return with new material filling out the rest of what the PS2 version didn’t. By way of new additions aforementioned, they are a lot of new scenes – which of the bulk certainly do add to the entries lighthearted atmosphere overall, but do make me feel closer to some of the characters than the original as well as make the game very poignant by the time you fully finish it. With a new epilogue, alternate story ending, and new character, Marie (assistant to Igor and Margret in the Velvet Room) that ties into the story, there is easily plenty for players of the predecessor to get their fill of. Like always, the game has various difficulties levels that can be chosen from and the ability to adjust said levels mid-game will be unlocked as the player completes their 1st playthrough.
For those not in the know, Persona 4 Golden plays out like one part dating sim and one part dungeon crawler, that might sound confusing, but quite simple. During the day and (night) you can do various things like with most dating sims: studying, working jobs, and buying/selling goods/weapons/equipment for your dungeon adventures, but ultimately, most time will be spent on Social Links. Social Links are engagements that you have various individuals that will allow you access to new Persona (more that later) and if from your Investigation group new skills such as blocking a fatal blow on the protagonist, etc. Much like a dating sim, if you pick the right choices your Social Link level will increase and decrease the amount of time needed to be spent next time to increase it putting it into simpler terms. With over 12 links to max out, you will have to manage your time carefully to increase them, since some links are dependent on the protagonists social stats that increase from activities like studying, jobs, etc – while others like specific jobs are tied to one another. There are some activities like studying and working jobs that take up time like leveling up social links, so it is up the player to choose how to spend it. Once you get your social links leveled, you can then head to the “Velvet Room” at any time to fuse two or more persona you already have to make a new one that correspondence to a specific link as well as your own level (I.E lvl 8 protagonist can fuse Cu Sith x Slime to get Valkyrie). It all sounds very confusion, but actually very simple once you get started. However, when you are not doing the sim portion of the game you will most likely be tackling dungeons.
When prompted by the story, you will have enter dungeons (accessible only during the day) where the objective is to rescue someone / clear a specific dungeon before a requested date as you transverse to the highest level. Later on, you will have gather clues from various residences in Inaba to locate a various persons dungeon. Much like any crawler, you will find items and see story specific scenes during specific floors, but also have to contend with enemies called “shadows” and where the combat comes into play. Combat is not that different from the original: turn based and up to 4 characters can be used. Since different enemies have different weakness you will need various persona in your arsenal as well as rely on your teammates to take advantage of the enemies soft points and protect your own. New additions to combat include team fusion attacks (la a Persona 3) and new support attacks that will come from characters are not participating. Boss Battles also have been retooled, mostly by way of some bosses now having some resistances removed to certain attacks or at least having a weakness to one (I.E: 2nd Boss is now weak to ice). This does take a bite out of the games difficulty even on the highest mode for veterans, but still can be challenging for most, if not approached with caution. Much like the former, if you fail recuse the person before the allotted time, it is game over and you force to reload from a previous save or restart a week prior. If you recuse them early, you then will have more time to work social links, go back to dungeons for experience, and whatever else strikes your fancy. Other new features include also going to the Velvet to not only fuse new persona gained from strengthening social links, but also endow them with skills obtain from skill cards you can get throughout the game during “Shuffle Time” – that will give the player new persona, increase or decrease experience, increase or decrease money, etc depending on the card(s) chosen during the mini-game. If your able to collect all the cards, you get a “Sweep Bonus” that will always start the mini-game again, once a battle ends allowing the player to get even more bonuses if lucky.
When you are not playing the main game, there are few extras you find at the start screen like: music videos/commercials for the game/anime, sample music tracks from the game, watch some live concerts of the game music, re-watch animated cutscences, and lastly, take part in a Quiz game. The Quiz game is just fun for (and also tied to one of the games trophies) that will test your knowledge of the Persona 4 universe as you must answer questions about the series before any of your party members do.
Visually speaking, Persona 4 Golden is nothing short of impressive and with the PSVITA OLED screen (if you have that model) all the proof you need. As the name suggest, the game features a lot of bright shades and hues of color that perfectly compliments what the VITA is capable of, but also very impressive on a technical level that it is free of to little framerate drops. The soundtrack for the game also gets nice redo, featuring some new tracks (the Void Request boss track is awesome btw) as well as retaining the others players have come to know.
Looking back to where the PSVITA was in terms of games when it first came out, I can definitely see why Persona 4 Golden was considered the best of what the system has to offer. Even as I begin importing a few titles as well as play the ones I have currently, none thus far has come close to offering what Persona 4 Golden has to and will be very difficult to part with it, when everything is said and done. If you like RPG’s, a fan of the series, or someone who has been remotely interested in the genre, I highly recommend checking it our for yourself. You definitely will not regret it and will be a few dollars well spent on an already outstanding port.
Pros: Interesting story, great gameplay, great soundtrack, a lot of content to uncover, portable, adjustable/customizable difficulty level (2nd playthrough), great visuals (recommended).
Cons: Boss battles/battles are too toned down, subsequent playthrough material is limited,