Title: Persona 4 Golden
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 3.1 GB
NA Availability: Digital Download | Retail
EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes
It’s only a few weeks until the newest Persona game releases for the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV. Back months ago, I promised myself I would repeat the review trend I started with Final Fantasy X HD Remaster. I would review every game of the series it came from prior to reviewing that game when it released. I decided I would do the same thing for the Persona series, considering almost the entire franchise is available to the PS Vita.
I began this with the PSP remake of the first game, and then went on to review Persona 2: Innocent Sin for PSP and the PS1 version of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. A long time went by before I eventually reviewed Persona 3 Portable. Now, with Persona 4: Dancing All Night’s release window at the end of this month, it’s time to fill the gap between reviews. In all reality, I already have my review of Persona 4: Dancing All Night written and ready to post. I just can’t do that until later in the month.
So, with all of the hype going on in the Vita community for P4D, here is my official review of one of the most highly acclaimed games for the Vita, Persona 4 Golden!
Persona 4 takes place in the small town of Inaba, where a slew of murder cases begins when some local residents begin appearing hung from various landmarks, having been killed. At the same time, a rumor known as the Midnight Channel begins to spark interest, claiming that you will see your soul mate at the stroke of midnight on a rainy night, which is shown to soon be linked to the same string of murders taking place in the small town.
Right before this takes place, a nameless protagonist (later in the series to be known as Yu Narikami thanks to the game’s anime adaptation) moves to Inaba to live with his uncle and cousin, quickly making friends and becoming involved in this murder case. Not long after he moves into the town, he discovers that he can pass through TV Sets and explore a strange world full of fog and shadows. Upon entering and finding out that people thrown into that world are being murdered, he and his friends work together with a strange power they acquire there to be save the future victims and find the killer responsible.
The story of P4 is more similar to Persona 3 than the previous series, but still unique enough that it stands on its own. While it isn’t as dark as the previous games, it has a lot of depth in the character backstories as well as the high school life side-stories that are told as you play the game to simulate both the murder investigations and a normal high school social life.
Persona 4 Golden, just like the game it’s a remake of, is a dungeon-crawler turn-based RPG with time and life sim elements thrown into the mix. You’ll be going and managing your time between spending time with people you know in the real world as well as going through dungeons and fighting through turn-based battles in the TV World’s dungeons in order to rescue victims and solve the murder case. It’s primarily an RPG, but it’s got a lot of other elements thrown in as well.
The first order of business is to discuss the changes. This is a pretty extensive remake, and Atlus added a lot of enhancements and extras to the game. While most remakes are just enhanced ports, this has a lot added. To give you a few examples of the additions. The game has new Social Links, Personas to create, story events, a new “Golden” ending, a new difficulty setting, new locations to explore, a new dungeon, an extended epilogue for the original game’s True Ending, TV listings you can view, among other things. In short, they added a ton of new features.
As you progress through the game, you will have 2 main tasks. The first is managing your high school life, and the second is exploring dungeons as you solve the murder case. You will be going from day to day through a calendar and must manage your time between spending time with your friends and exploring dungeons, both of which will meld together through the Persona systems that are built into the game.
Spending time with others is what’s called Social Links, just like they were in Persona 3. Characters are available on certain days of the week to spend time with, be it a high school friend or a part-time job you’ve signed up for. Each Social Link is around a different Arcana, or type of Persona you can acquire and create. The higher you can get your Social Link of that Arcana, the more benefits you will get when acquiring Personas of that type.
Time progresses in phases where a victim will appear and you’ll have to dive into the TV world to explore dungeons and fight a boss to rescue them. The game gives you a good amount of time to do this, so you don’t have to run the entire dungeon in one day. Whether you finish it the day it appears or a week later, the story won’t progress further until a certain date on the calendar. So, you can do it right away and then work on Social Links for the remaining days. Or you can balance your days between the two.
Dungeons and Combat are similar to Persona 3. The dungeons are set with doors, chests, and shadow enemies for you to explore around and fight with. The basic gameplay system here is almost completely mirrored from P3, but there are a few differences. The most notable change is the dungeon layout. In Persona 3, every dungeon looked like the same dungeon as before, but with a couple different colors on the walls. In Persona 4, every dungeon looks like a completely different and environment, and really helps to lift the repetitive feel that Persona 3’s dungeon crawling had.
Combat is the same. You take turns in combat and the key to winning battles is figuring out weaknesses in your enemy. Some enemies are immune to certain elements and others are immune to everything but one specific type of attack. Figuring that out is key. Shuffle Time also returns, giving you cards to get at the end of battle for permanent stat boosts, new Personas, keys for treasure chests, healing, and a few other things.
If you go through the game once for a single ending that isn’t one of the bad endings, you’re going to be spending at least 35-40 hours in the game. I did my last replay on the Normal Difficulty for the Golden Ending, and I skipped a bunch of scenes. The last save I did before the true final boss was around 41 hours. Even with knowing what to do, it’s a pretty long game. You can, of course, add a lot more if you want to go for different endings or go through the game again to see the different people you can form intimate relationships with.
Moving around in the game isn’t very hard to do. The controls are pretty simple, and there aren’t many required touch controls, other than pulling up the TV listings. This is good, making it a comfortable experience on the PS Vita as well as the PlayStation TV.
Moving around in the town or dungeons is done with the Left Analog Stick. The camera can be moved with the Right Analog Stick, but that’s only available in dungeons. The only place you can walk around in and move the camera in town is the school. The L and R triggers are used in battle for various features but most of the rest is done with the face buttons.
The X button is used for choosing options in menus as well as interactive with places and objects, such as treasure chests for NPC’s. Square is used for quick travel in town or issuing commands in dungeons. Triangle is used to pull up the customization menu in town and dungeons, but to enable Rush Mode / Auto Battle in combat. Finally, the circle button is used to cancel options in menus. Overall, it’s pretty standard for an RPG and is easy to learn.
Overall, the presentation was done really well. The visuals on the Vita are a little more refined than they were on the PlayStation 2 and all of the 3D environments are intact, unlike the point-and-click menus in Persona 3 Portable. The 3D models aren’t perfect, and you can find the occasional jagged edge. But, overall, it looks really nice on the go.
Performance is also done really well. The load times are always really short, and the music in the game is very catchy and much more upbeat than Persona 3’s music was. With good reason, since they’re making a music game for Persona 4, as the Vita knows full well.
The only thing that I’ll mention and take points from is the fact that in some sequences and animations, the game starts to lag and slow down. This is specifically apparent in the Military Base dungeon in the second half of the game. Almost all of the battles had an extra delay when launching and many animations there had some slowdown to them. If not for that, this game would have gotten a perfect score.
Persona 4 Golden is one of the most polished games the Vita has to offer. On the downside, one of the dungeon features some slowdown issues in animations. Outside of this is an excellent example of how to do a good remake and one of the most memorable games for both the handheld and the PlayStation TV.