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Persona 4 Golden Review

Persona 4 Golden ReviewEven for enthusiasts of other Japanese role-playing games, the Shin Megami Tensei series can be initially off-putting. From the pistol-like evokers which teen protagonists point to their heads in SMT: Persona 3 to the Jungian exploration of unconscious representations in Persona 4, the franchise habitually shirks the hackneyed mythos that is common to the RPG genre. Prudently, the series’ mechanics aren’t as far-flung- providing engaging, yet vaguely familiar rifts on dating-sim, time management, and even Pokémon-like cultivation systems.

The recent release of Persona 4 Golden for the PS Vita commendably demonstrates these qualities, providing far more than a port of 2008’s Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. A supplemented storyline expands the portrayal of characters and bestows a bounty of new activities, while other adjustments temper the original game’s oft-vexing difficulty level. Optional online functionality extends assistance in dungeons, while subtly suggesting the route to side quests. In execution, so many small tweaks and additions are integrated into the title that Persona 4 Golden occasionally feels like a fresh experience.

Persona 4 Golden ReviewMuch of the power of the original iteration rose from the intimate articulation of each character. While Persona 4 avoids the oft-taboo allusions to suicide, depression, and isolation of its forefather, the title’s social relationships are richer and more credible. Mirroring previous Persona titles, lead character Yu Narukami is the prototypical tabula rasa, permitting players to rename the character and shape his personality through activity choice and dialog options. While the silent protagonist is a common JRPG trope, Persona 4’s decision to use the technique isn’t based on timeworn tradition. Instead, the game offers an unrivaled exploration of repressed inadequacies and uncertainties. Potentially, the game has the power to act as a broad Rokeach test, goading gamers to consider their own strengths and deficiencies.

For players uninterested in self-reflection, Persona 4 Golden’s plotline still carries plenty of narrative heft. Following his parents move abroad, Narukami leaves the city to live with his uncle and cousin in the town of Inaba.  After making a few new acquaintances at the local high school, the city’s state of rural normalcy is upended by a series of grisly murders. Remarkably, an urban legend about a television program called the Midnight Channel proves to the catalyst for the story. The surreptitious station ends up transporting the newfound group of friends into an alternative dimension, where the manifestations of each character’s inner strength become Personas. The powerful entities are prove capable of not only battling enemies, but as an instrument to quell future bloodshed.

Persona 4 Golden ReviewMost satisfying are the subtle tweaks made to Persona 4’s plotline, which not only offer a bit more character development but also provide additional foreshadowing of the game’s conclusion. Unlike, say Mass Effect 3’s revised culmination, Golden’s addenda aren’t relegated to a single sequence. Instead, short segments are flawlessly integrated through the entire storyline, refining the game’s narrative impact.

Like the previous version, the game’s turn-based combat spurs players with identifying enemy elemental types and exploiting the inherent weaknesses of each foe. Pleasingly, the rock-scissors-paper-esque battle system allows for more than just a statistical advantage. With the “1 More” mechanic, combatants can earn additional turns for preying on an opponent’s weakness. While characters can be directly controlled during battle, Persona 4 also allows players to issue general tactic orders such as “Full Assault” or “Conserve SP” which AI allies follow with a gratifying effectiveness.

Persona 4 Golden ReviewFor many players, the game’s fusion element will prove to be remarkably addictive. During the course of the game’s eighty hour journey, dozens of additional Personas defy collection and subsequent fusion; with synthesis bestowing some substantial new abilities. Naturally, not every amalgamation yields fruitful results, making the sporadic serendipitous discovery feel particularly fulfilling, especially if players aren’t using a FAQ to glean info.

Parties that become mortally wounded in dungeons will certainly appreciate Golden’s online assistance option. Teams close to termination can touch an icon in the corner of the screen to put out a rescue request, which allows any other players to contribute HP or SP to the party. Similarly, another command reveals how other gamers are spending their in-game day, filling the screen with word bubbles which reveal the activities of their compatriots. In execution, this elective system works much like Demon Soul’s clue system, potentially pointing players in the direction of side-quests.

Persona 4 Golden ReviewTo lessen the impact of frustration, defeat in the dungeons return players to the beginning of the floor, rather than making them slog from the last save point. Echoing Persona 3 Portable’s additional difficulty options, Golden offers five challenge levels, making the game accessible for role-playing recruits who just want to follow to storyline to veterans seeking a near-insurmountable trial.

Influencing the team’s competence during combat is Persona’s Social Link system, which provides a perfect complement to Shadow subduing. Fusing stronger Personas requires the protagonist to develop closer interpersonal connections with both friends and love interests. Beyond going to school during the day, going on dates, hanging out with friends, and playing sports, Golden allows players to have part-time jobs during the evening hours.  Unsurprisingly, the benefit of earning money while building rapport proves invaluable, and fit naturally into the game’s itinerary of extracurricular options.

Persona 4 Golden ReviewWondrously, Golden’s inclusions and tweaks are inspired, ushering in very few hitches. Although some sticklers will take fault with the game’s rerecording of Chie’s dialog, the new actress does a competent, but dissimilar interpretation of the character that’s consistent with Persona 4 Arena’s voice work. More pressing is Persona 4’s prologue, which at an hour and a half might hinder impatient players from discovering the title’s virtues.

While many developers are happy to throw in a handful of hollow tweaks for a reinvigoration, Atlus’ remakes have consistently demonstrated a willingness to deliver the definitive version. With enough new content to goad returning gamers as well as a fastidiously polished experience for novices, Persona 4 Golden belongs in the library of every PS Vita owner with the slightest interest in JRPGs. Instead of relying of tiresome trope and hackneyed mechanics, Persona 4 offers an original, absorbing trek worth every penny of its $39.99 MSRP.

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About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

40 comments

  1. Good god. Look at the size of that thing.

    Shorter, not longer, Deagle! If I had that much time to read the review, I’d be playing P4G already.

    • 12 paragraphs is pretty epic Des. Check out the Escapists, they put out decent reviews that are 4 paragraphs long.

      • I’ve read Escapists and Av Clubs short reviews. They’re about 1/4 as long and about 1/10th a good as longer reviews from sites with better writers.

        Keep doing what you do, Des!

        One question: why no mention of the new transportation and destination.

    • It was the best of ports,
      it was the worst of ports,
      it was a game of wisdom,
      it was a game of foolishness,
      it was the combat system of belief,
      it was the combat system of incredulity,
      it was released during the holiday season of Light,
      it was released during the holiday season of Darkness,
      its price in the spring will give hope,
      its price in the winter brings despair,
      it has everything going for it, it has nothing going for it, it will go straight to GOTY lists, it will go direct in the other way – in short the game is so like the previous game that some of its noisiest authorities insist on its being recieved, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

      • Sean: “Everyone falls for paper dolls.”

      • Translation: Deagle’s review is shit.

        I heard it’s nothing like Persona 3, though. Totally different tone, location, plot, characters, etc.

        • “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known”

          Relax. It’s NOLA’s rift on “A Tale of Two Cities”, Charles Dicken’s book set amidst the French Revolution. I’m thinking that Persona 4 stands for Paris, but I’m not quite sure what game represents London. He’s enigmatic, that guy. I’m not the only one that read that one, right?

      • “it was the worst of ports…it has nothing going for it”

        NOLA, why are your trolling. No one has said that.

        • Tale of Two Cities…I was making a long winded joke about how long the review is. It was mostly just for DEagle, because I knew he’d get it.

          TL;DR – You should probably pay more attention in English Lit.

  2. Hopefully, this will make the wait for P5 that much easier. Just picked up a PS Vita for $200 this weekend (AC:L Pack)

  3. Glad to hear Altus did good on P4G. I played the P4 when it came out and loved damn near every single minute of it. Its the kind of RPG that can turn haters on to the games.

  4. Good review. I actually like it when a review doesn’t mention every little detail, because I like the felling of being surprised. So, thanks for that.

  5. If you like P4’s story over P3, then you’re crazy. I’d rather have P3 Golden myself.

  6. So this is $40 for the cart, any discount for the download version?

    • You’ll want the download because you can spend week, months, years on this game and don’t want to plug your slot up.

  7. Persona 4 is one the best JRPGs of all time. It’s incredible deep has a great storyline, cool characters. If you’ve on the fence take the plunge.

    PS: Each Persona is it’s own story. You don’t have to play previous ones to “get it”.

  8. Wow,wasn’t expecting that score. So, P4G is your game of the year?

  9. I always hear about how great Persona 3 and 4 are, but I don’t think I’d like them. One day I’ll take the plunge.

  10. I missed Amazon’s $180 Super duper bundle, but I still want a Vita to play this.

  11. When I get a Vita, this and Disgaea 3 will be the first two games I’ll get.

    How are the graphics? Did they improve them at all?

  12. I’m curious- what was everyone’s first JRPG? Mine was FFVII.

  13. Pretty good review. Glad to see you guys still covering JRPGs.

  14. “to the Jungian exploration of unconscious representations in Persona 4”

    Good review, but once again you make me wish I paid more attention in college.

  15. Just got my copy in the mail. Into the midnight channel I go today.

  16. Christmas cannot come soon enough… *Kululu Laugh*

    • You picked up a Vita, Blue?

      • As of X-Mas, yep! Some AT&T stores have $99 3G Vitas with two games. My mom lucked out and was able to get one for me for Christmas. Already ordered Persona 4 Golden so I wouldn’t have to wait to play it.

        Now I’ve just got to get through my Black Friday backlog before Christmas.