Persona 4 Golden Review

Persona 4 Golden Review

Genre: Japanese Role Playing Game

Platform: Playstation Vita

Developer: Atlus

Publisher: Atlus

Released: November 20th 2012

When Sony released its new Handheld console at the beginning of the year, many thought the platform had the potential to be a J-RPG powerhouse, just like the first Psp was. Unfortunately things are still far from being like that not only from a JRPG point of view: overall software development is still very low. Despite this situation and the low sales of the console, a single game managed to do really well for the new Playstation Portable console: Persona 4 Golden brought a significant increase in hardware sales when it was released in Japan. Will it do the same in the rest of the world? It’s too soon to know that but what we know for sure it’s that the game is one of the best games developed for PsVita and one of the best Jrpgs ever created.

This is my home

The story begins with out unnamed main character transfer to the quiet rural town of Inaba, a place he’ll call home for the next 12 months: he’ll stay at his uncle’s house temporarily after his parents transferred abroad for work.
The town of Inaba is not the safest place one would expect by looking at the landscape: a series of mysterious murders will shake up all its inhabitants. And no one seems to be safe from this mysterious killer who leaves the body in strange places and grotesquely conditions. Adding to the mystery is the Midnight Channel rumor that’s been spreading all over the town: if someone looks at a TV during a rainy night they’ll be able to see their “soulmate” whcih actually is the next victim of the vicious killer. I won’t spoil the story any further since I really don’t want to ruin the experience for you but be assured that the plot is really really good and probably one of the best in genre: once things pick up, and they really pick up quickly, you won’t be able to put the game down to discover more of this great tale.
On this regard I found the game’s story and characters a lot better than Persona 3′s one: the story in particular really took a while to get going and there were a lot of slower and eventless moments. In Persona 4 the plot builds up without having too much fluff added just to lenghten the duration of the story: it’s a tight package and a really, really great one.
Like I already said, characters are really great and believable: an honorable mention goes to Kanji whom I really enjoyed but overall the characters are all likeable, receiving a good amount of development and all of them serve a true purpose in the story, no random tagging along in here!
Voice acting really contributes in making the characters shine: the English dub is excellent from beginning to end and even though you’re going to hear many familiar actors, they all do an outstanding job. Unfortunately, two actors couldn’t reprise they roles in the PsVita port and it may take time to get used to the new voices: still their performance is really good.

Inside the TV

Gameplay wise we’re looking at some standard Japanese Role Playing Games with some nice twists.
Players will be able to explore randomly generated dungeons that will be accessible by getting inside a large TV for plots reasons I won’t spoil: the dungeons are pretty linear and the main goal is reaching the stairs to get to the next floor; once the top floor has been reached, players will have to face a boss which more than often requires a specific strategy to win.
The Battle system is a turn based system where players control parties of maximum 4 characters: players will be able to attack with their equipped weapons, use skills and items or defend to reduce damage. The battle system encourages players to exploit enemy’s weakness: if you can get a weakness hit on an enemy, you’ll get a bonus extra turn. Be careful though that even characters have weakness and on higher difficulties this almost always spells defeat: it’s important to plan ahead and get the most suited characters in battle. Other battle system features include all out attacks occurring when all enemies are downed after taking weakness hits and various support actions from other characters, action that will increase as the bond between them increased during the simulation parts of the game. Overall the battle system is fast paced and extremely likeable.

Per-so-na

The main character is unique in the world of Persona 4 Golden for his ability to switch “Personas”at will.
Personas are almost like masks: the game describes them as the facade used to overcome difficulties in life. In the Persona games this masks take form of mythological monsters, Gods and Deities for various religions around the world. Ok, that’s all nice to hear, but what do they do in battle? They bestow their users with skills and magic spells: every Persona has its own stats and skills which can be customized in a variety of ways.
The most used way to customize skills is by fusing them in the Velvet Room: you can fuse two or three at the time and even access special fusion combinations later on the game. Resulting Personas will have a mixture of skills from the ones that generated them, allowing for great customization. Be careful though since not all skills may be inherited by all Persona types: a Persona with affinity to the light element won’t be able to inherit darkness spells and so on. This limitation can be somewhat circumvented by one of the additions in the PsVita port: after a certain event players will be able to buy Skill Cards containing a single skill and they’ll be able to assign that particular skill to any Persona of their arsenal.

Going back to school

Almost all of the main characters are students so you’ll be spending a lot of time in school: that’s where the simulation elements will come into play. Other than living through typical school life moments like listening to lectures, taking exams and the classic school trip, players will also take part in sport and arts club, meet and bond with other students as well as deepen the relationship with the other main characters through Social Links.
Social Links serve as the main mean to get the most powerful personas available: each Social Link is tied to a tarot arcana, just like all personas in the game and by leveling up a social link you’ll get an experience bonus when fusing a persona with the corresponding arcana. Once the social link is at level 10 you’ll be able to create the strongest persona of that arcana which cannot be fused without a particular key item.
When leveling the Social Links with the other party members you’ll also unlock some special abilities in battle: they’ll take a hit for the protagonist if he’s in critical conditions, they’ll do a follow up attack once you hit an enemy weakness, they’ll recover altered status and much more. Social links also help in character development and make the characters themselves even more deeper ad you get to know them better and their personal motivations.

Inaba never looked so good

The PsVita port of Persona 4 comes 8 years later than the main game and obviously features a lot of tweakings and additions: two new social link have been added, with new arcanas and associated personas. There are even more story events and activities to do after school day: a new city can be visited at night with some new shops, one of these helping in the Persona customization process by selling Skill Cards, as I already mentioned before. There’s also a new extra dungeon that’s easily missable, though, so be on the lookout for any possible hint during the game. Another addition comes in the form af a multiplayer mode: during dungeons exploration you may hear a signal meaning that another player may be requesting help on the same dungeon. It’s not a game changing feature but still, a nice diversion to break the monotony of dungeon crawling.
Graphics wise the game looks almost the same as the Ps2 counterpart: models and locations look a bit sharper but there’s no really big difference. The Soundtrack is as good as it was on Ps2: groovy and catchy with so many memorable tunes and vocal tracks.

Enough of this, let me go into the TV

If have a PsVita you really have to do yourself a favor and get Persona 4: Golden. There’s really nothing wrong with the game: it’s a long game with an excellent story, loads of contents and secrets to discover and excellent presentation. The only flow you may find is in the graphics which still are close the original game but since this is an enhanced port, you should already expect something like this. My only advice is to just the game if you can: there’s not much available on PsVita right now and Persona 4: Golden will probably make you happy that you have a PsVita.

PROS

  • Great story and character
  • Excellent presentation
  • Great English dub
  • Huge amount of content
  • Great soundtrack

CONS

  • Ps2 level graphics
  • Town can’t be freely explored

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★½ 

9.5 out of 10


Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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About the Author

avatar Gamer since 1989, Japanese culture and gaming lover and former JRPG enthusiast, heavy metal musician. 24 hours a day are too little to balance gaming, studying, working and playing in band!