In 2008, Atlus released Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 for the Playstation 2 to much critical acclaim. Four years later, they are bringing an updated version for the PS Vita titled Persona 4: Golden. Has Atlus struck gaming gold once again?
Persona 4: Golden is a story of mystery, murder, and discovering your true self. It touches on very mature themes and does it well without being preachy. You, as the protagonist, are spending a year in the rural Japanese town of Inaba, living with your uncle and cousin and attending Yasogami High School. Soon after your arrival, a series of bizarre murders start up. You also learn about the Midnight Channel which can be seen on rainy nights and seems to show the victims before they are killed. Before long, you and your friends get sucked into a television and learn where the murders are taking place. Inside the TV world, your power to summon Personas-beings that represent the different “faces” people put on in order to deal with real world situations, and aid you in fighting your enemies in the TV world-awakens and the adventure begins. The story stays emotionally charged throughout the game and very rarely gets boring.
Gameplay has two different aspects. The first is the RPG part. Inside the TV world, you fight enemies known as shadows through turn-based combat.. Your characters either use weapons or their Personas to attack. Each enemy has strengths and weaknesses to discover. Even weak enemies can be a problem if you make a wrong move. Exploiting enemy weaknesses can allow you to attack multiple times or even unleash an “All-Out Attack.”
As you battle through the TV world, you gain experience and level up in typical RPG fashion. Your Personas do the same, which not only increases their stats, but also grants them additional abilities. Personas, aside from the one you start with, are acquired by defeating shadows and through fusion, a feature provided once again by everyone’s favorite Velvet Room resident, Igor. For the uninitiated, Igor helps you throughout your adventure by fusing Personas for you, as he did in Persona 3.
On the flipside of the RPG component, Persona 4: Golden also has a deep social component. This is where you interact with people, which, in turn, creates social links in addition to strengthening your personality traits. Social links are key in creating powerful new Personas. Advancing your personality traits allows for more contextual options during conversations, access to new places, and better academic performance.
Persona 4: Golden can seem a tad overwhelming at first. It takes a bit of time to find the right balance between level-grinding and advancing your social links. Don’t get discouraged. After about a month or so of in-game time goes by, you’ll get the hang of it. Just make sure you’re in it for the long haul. Persona 4: Golden can easily suck over 100 hours out of your life. Luckily, you’ll enjoy almost every minute of it.
I do have to say that the PS Vita is a great system for Persona 4. I find it easier to play when not tied to the couch. The PS Vita’s sleep function is also a bonus as you don’t need to hurry to find a save point in order to go about your real life. Persona 4 looks great on the Vita. While the story is four years old, Atlus did a great job adding extra content to bring Persona 4 vets back and still make first-timers feel welcome. There are additional social links to find, new personas, more difficulty levels, and a number of other gameplay updates and bonus extras.
While in the TV world, you can use the Vita’s Wi-Fi to ask other gamers for assistance. While going about your daily life, you can also use the network to find out what other gamers spent their time doing. The touchscreen is used to access both of these features. Thankfully, Atlus didn’t just tack on controls just to use the Vita’s various features. The additions are nice without making you feel obligated to use them. Also unique to the Vita version is a new opening sequence.
As in Persona 3, Persona 4: Golden is loaded with catchy J-Pop-style music. The voice acting is done well, marrying emotion with the right touch of cheesiness. Your character is of the silent protagonist variety so, when a choice needs to be made, you’re essentially the one making it. The supporting cast is strong and enjoyable.
Persona 4: Golden is one of the first games that makes owning a PS Vita worthwhile. The original was a great game and this updated version expands on that greatness. If you missed it the first time around, I highly suggest you don’t repeat that mistake. Tune in to the Midnight Channel. You won’t regret it.
Note: This review was conducted on a digitally downloaded copy received from the publisher.