Originally launched for the PlayStation 2, Persona 4 has since been ported to the PlayStation Vita. It’s not the best installment in the series and it’s not even one of the most-played games on the portable system. If a JRPG is 15 years old, what’s the point in playing it now? Because even after all these years, playing a Persona game is still a lot of fun and completely immerses you in its world.
There’s a good chance that Atlus wouldn’t have bothered to bring back the older games in the series if Persona 5 hadn’t been such a huge hit. However, if you’ve enjoyed the most recent entries in the IP, you owe it to yourself to check out Persona 4 Golden or even Persona 3 to see how far the series has come and how much the devs have worked to improve it.
The series’ first two installments, which are less well-known, centered on adults and served as a shining illustration of the Japanese creative attitude (the creators even incorporated Hitler into the tale). With the third installment, the Persona games took a far more laid-back and humorous turn, focusing on the heroic efforts of youths to right the wrongs of the world. While the tale and societal themes it explores are no less serious, the developers’ presentation of them has been improved.
You begin Persona 4 Golden as a high school student who, at the urging of his uncle Dojima, relocates to the countryside to finish his education and live under his watchful eye. Therefore, our city youngster (whom you may freely name) finds himself in the middle of Inaba, under the watchful eye of a single father who also happens to be the police chief. Your parents will be on board for the entire year, busy with boring and pointless business.
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The game follows the common practice of Japanese role-playing games by having you follow a calendar and schedule your daily activities from the minute you leave the train station. In addition to the typical high school activities of studying and meeting new friends, our protagonist will find himself at the center of a series of killings that seem to be connected to the myth of the Midnight channel, which has the local law enforcement officials stumped.
Only you and your fellow criminals can identify the offender and mete out justice, and in the process, you’ll forge relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime. From this vantage point, Persona 4 Golden is the same as any previous Persona game; yet, the devil is in the specifics.
Huge props go to the game’s writers for the way they construct the story and tension, as well as the subjects they poke at, many of which are still topical today, 15 years after the game’s release. Throughout the course of the game’s 60-hour runtime, you’ll encounter numerous sequences dealing with timely difficulties.
The events take place in both everyday and the supernatural, as they do in every Persona game. The first persona thinks of you as a typical high school senior who is just striving to go ahead. You can improve your abilities and connect with others by studying, reading books, building maquettes, working several jobs, growing veggies, or simply hanging out with pals.
As for the supernatural elements, you’ll get to travel to a parallel world where you’ll face off against monsters and save individuals from their inner demons.
Each major character will forge a Persona, an incredibly powerful guise with access to a wide range of magical and other skills that can swing the outcome of any given battle. Only your hero is able to possess multiple Personas and merge them together to create more potent creatures. To acquire new Personas, the protagonist must first fully investigate the game’s dungeons.
If you’re familiar with the current Persona games, you’ll find this to be a breeze. Even if you’ve never played a Persona game before, you’ll pick up the basics fast by diving into the action and following the in-game tutorial in Persona 4 Golden. After only a few hours, you’ll be hooked and strategizing how to spend each day to improve your in-game performance and strengthen your friendships with other players.
Those who have played Persona 5 may be disappointed to see that most of the interactive chores and missions (like those found in Persona 4 Golden) are simple fetch quests. The dynamic, turn-based action remains as fresh today as it did when the game was first released. The same holds true for the optional bonus prize system, which, if you performed well in battle, allows you to select a card from a pool.
These cards can represent brand-new Personas, bonuses to experience or cash, or even buffs to existing Personas’ stats. The rules may seem complicated at first, but you’ll pick them up quickly and soon be crafting strategies for both the battlefield and the Shuffle to maximise your card haul.
All of Persona 4’s original content is included in Golden, as well as a few nifty additions like Quick Save in the dungeons. If the worst should happen and your hero falls, this feature will allow you to restart just the current floor of the dungeon rather than the entire thing. The ability to change the game’s difficulty in real-time saves time and effort compared to restarting the game entirely.
The visuals have also been updated, albeit this is where Persona 4 Golden begins to betray its age. The game still has a dated appearance despite the enhanced graphics and the new high-quality graphical overlay linked with the dialogues. Chibi characters in the manner of the PlayStation 2 move throughout the game world, but the speech overlay features characters with vastly greater depth and color.
Day-to-day living seems a little lacklustre, while the dungeons are garish and bursting with oversaturated colors. Even while not in combat, the characters’ animations remain jerky; for example, their lips remain cemented together when speaking.