Persona 4 Golden
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Price: $39.99 – Available Here
JRPGs are often considered a genre of their own RPG fans and out of these JRPGs there is one franchise which is often regarded as one of the best around. That franchise happens to be the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona and it has been many years since a title has been released under the Persona name, in fact it has been four years since the fourth title in the series was released on the PlayStation 2. Now Atlus has taken Persona 4, the game many have heralded as the best game in the series, and added a few new aspects within the title and provide us with an enhanced version in the form of Persona 4 Golden. Does this title shine brighter than ever?
Players take the role of a teenage male (who can be named as player’s wish) as he is forced to live in a small town called Inaba out in the countryside for a year thanks to the fact that his parents have to work abroad. When the player arrives they begin to try to settle into life in this rather simple city as a new student. However that quickly changes when a mysterious murder occurs near the school and rumors of a mysterious television program called the Midnight Channel begin to circulate at the school.
The story quickly escalates as the young man discovers that not only does this Midnight Channel exist, but he has the power to actually travel inside of TV screens into a whole new world which serves a “shadow world” to our own. Inside of this world the dark side of humanity is collected in the form of dangerous creatures called shadows and when someone is trapped within the shadow world, they are killed within the normal world. With these strange occurrences and the threat of death for his newfound friends, the main character and his friends team up to investigate the Midnight Channel and try to save anyone trapped within the deadly place. However with all signs pointing to someone intentionally trying to kill people with the Midnight Channel, can this investigation group manage to put a stop to these murders?
Plenty of RPGs place a mild emphasis on story but nothing I’ve played before has come close to touching upon the amount of attention and time that is paid to creating a unique experience where players may have the constant threat of death from the Midnight Channel on their minds, but they will be spending more time worrying about their relationships with the various characters in the game instead. You see, while there is a decent murder mystery formed around the Midnight Channel, the various events that tie into the mystery create an intriguing psychological drama cleverly disguised as a teenage boy’s school life.
You see, Persona 4 Golden’s storyline is structured to feel like the year in the life of the main character. While there are trips inside of the television world and battles against strange and powerful shadows, the rest of the game focuses around the life of the main character and his friends as they live their high school lives. This means that between fighting enemies, players will be attending class, going on part-time jobs, hanging out in clubs and more.
In these activities players will form “Social Links” with other characters in the game, including side-characters, which not only help make their own Persona stronger, but also unlock various abilities for party members. Now while party members may have the most focus in Persona 4 Golden thanks to the fact that nearly all of their emotional issues are displayed thanks to the nature of the Shadow World, but side characters are also given plenty of attention. Each of these side characters contain side-stories which can be just as interesting as the main cast and it truly helps make the player feel like they are actually part of the in-game world instead of simply moving through it.
It is also worth noting that one of the improvements with Persona 4 Golden is the addition of a brand new character which has a large number of new Social Link’s to partake in which creates an additional storyline which is quite different from the others as well as a few new story events which place the main characters in new situations that were not found in the original version of the game.
These new additions are simply icing on the cake as far as Persona 4 Golden’s storyline is concerned. Even before these additions were created, the story found within this game is one the best that you will find in gaming today and thanks to the gifted writing staff, Persona 4 Golden’s emotionally charged story will stick with the player long after it has been completed.
When Persona 4 was originally released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2008 the title was no slouch as far as graphics are concerned. Now while they may have looked great for their time, they have aged since then, but thankfully with this release of Persona 4 Golden the game has received a nice visual overhaul that brings the title into today’s generation of gaming. The character models and scenery have been updated and so have the character portraits which appear whenever one of characters is speaking.
It also helps that with the Vita’s current generation tech, the colors in Persona 4 Golden are gorgeous and really pop out at you as you play the game. It is also worth noting that there are numerous anime cutscenes scattered throughout the game which are stunning in quality and really help make certain moments within the game special.
Now while some people may complain about the fact that Persona 4 Golden does not feature an option to listen to the Japanese voice track, the English voice cast has performed an admirable job portraying their characters. P4G features a number of new voiced scenes which were not voiced in the original and it is worth noting that the English voice actress for Chie has been changed, but her new actress still handles the character well and fans of the original should find little to complain about regarding the change.
As far as background music is concerned, Persona 4 Golden is like candy for the ears. The songs that make up the game’s OST are wonderful in more ways than one and while certain tracks may play quite often, you won’t even care thanks to how great these background songs are. Interestingly enough, a large number of these songs also have singers accompanying the orchestra and each of these songs are a treat whenever they begin to play.
As far as gameplay goes, little has been outright changed from the original game and instead a number of improvements and new features have been made to make Persona 4 Golden the shining example of what an RPG should be like in today’s day and age. Now as mentioned in the story section of this review, a large part of Persona 4 Golden involves the social link system that involves the player interacting with other characters in the game and forming bonds with them.
As you form bonds with those around you, not only will your party members learn more skills that can be used in combat (such as extra attacks or helping you up from a fall) but you will also be able to create and summon stronger Personas to fight against the shadow. In fact, while players do have weapons, armor and accessories that can be equipped like any standard RPG, the summoning and fusing of Personas is where most of the focus in the game lies. It is worth noting that Fusing has been re-worked so that players can actually choose certain attacks they want to carry over to their fused Persona rather than hoping for a lucky fusion.
Now as the player enters the dungeons of the Shadow world to save those trapped inside, they will find a number of enhancements and additions to the combat system. Players can now find a few new Personas and this is made ever easier thanks to the fact that the post-battle Shuffle Time has been changed so players have an easier time selecting the cards they want and acquiring a “Full Sweep” which guarantees another Shuffle Time after the next battle as well as the option to select more cards to gain further power ups and experience.
Now while Persona 4 Golden does not have any multiplayer features, players will probably be interested in making sure they are able to connect to the internet while playing the game. The reason for this is the fact that two new features have been added in to the game in the form of a Vox Populi system which displays all of the different choices other players made during the same time-frame within the story as well as a special SOS feature which can be activated once between every battle. This SOS is sent out to other players who can provide assistance with a simple tap of the touch-screen and the next time you enter a battle, you may receive a small boost to your HP and SP levels which can be critical to surviving drawn out dungeons.
A number of side features have been added into Persona 4 Golden which provides the player more exploration options and the aforementioned new story Social Link content. The neighboring city of Okina can now be visited and explored and a number of new shops are now available which will allow you to pick up various costumes for the playable characters. These costumes are simply cosmetic changes that only appear whenever you are in a dungeon, but they provide a nice distraction. Among these additions players can now venture out at night occasionally and explore the (sometimes creepy) night-life of Inaba as well as use motor scooters to get around.
Atlus has done something great with Persona 4 Golden. They have added just enough to make it so that Persona 4 Golden feels like a more advanced version of the classic game by keeping everything that made the original game great and adding on to it with brand new features, stellar visual upgrades and gorgeous cutscenes which is wrapped around an engrossing story that takes place in a world so enthralling it will be hard to walk away from. Persona 4 Golden is easily the best game on the Vita right now and any Vita owner, nay anyone even remotely interested in RPGs, should not pass up Persona 4 Golden.