Persona 4 Golden is a stunning game that’s arguably the most essential release in the PlayStation Vita’s catalogue thus far. An upgrade of the already outstanding PlayStation 2 title, developer Atlus has extended the adventure with new content, characters, and story. This is the definitive version of an incredible RPG, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
The plot begins when your character moves from the big city to the small town of Inaba with his Uncle and cousin. As time progresses – and your protagonist makes new friends – a gruesome assassination occurs, leaving the police unable to find the killer. Meanwhile, you and your classmates decide to watch the Midnight Channel, a mysterious television show which only appears at midnight on rainy days. Sucked into a new world, you find yourself the target of mysterious monsters called Shadows – and at the centre of a murder mystery plot.
Unsurprisingly, character design plays an extremely important role throughout Persona 4 Golden's narrative. Each of the protagonists is extremely unique and well realised. Throughout the game, you’ll grow closer and closer to each of the characters, and begin to appreciate their company more. It's even possible to obtain a girlfriend if you play your cards right and spend enough time with a female character.
As the plot develops, the classmates discover that they can see clues pertaining to the individuals that they believe the aforementioned killer is going to target next. They also discover that by entering the bizarre television world – occupied by a rambunctious bear named Teddie – they can help to solve the murder mystery and save the lives of those targeted by the shadowy antagonist.
Each day, you're able to perform different actions. From socialising with your friends after school to solving quests in the evening, the amount of activities is staggering. With so many options on offer, the game really allows you to shape the experience to your own tastes. Just like in the real world, you have to make decisions about how you're going to spend your time.
Combat starts when you enter the television world with your buddies. Depending on how far you've progressed, you'll be able to access different dungeons with unique themes. For example, there's a reality TV show and an exotic dance club, with the differences complementing the overall plot.
Each dungeon allows you to scale numerous floors until you reach the top, where you'll be presented with a boss fight. On the various floors are treasure chests, enemies, and even rare foes in the shape of a Golden Hand. Slaughter the mysterious antagonists and you'll net huge rewards, including extremely uncommon items.
The turn-based combat system is fast-paced, but it also gives you plenty of opportunity to choose your actions without feeling rushed. When it's your turn, you'll be able to select from a wide-range of options such as attacking, casting skills, and even running away.
At the end of each battle, you'll earn experience points, money, items, and the ability to enter Shuffle Time. Ultimately, this presents you with randomly generated cards with huge bonuses. These cards include the ability to gain more experience, money, and rare skills. Not all of them are good, though – it's also possible to be awarded with cards that negatively impact your experience. The risk/reward nature of the mechanic makes it an extremely addictive rewards system.
In order to improve your characters, you'll need to both slaughter Shadows in the television world, and also develop social links with the protagonists throughout the game. This could mean going to soccer practice every Tuesday and Thursday in order to spend time with your friends during and after school. The stronger your social link, the more powerful Personas you'll be able to summon.
Each student develops and uses their own Persona, with the exception of your character. Instead, you're capable of summoning a multitude of different Personas. As your level increases, you'll be able to hold more at a given time. The strength of the Personas depends on the enemy type that you're facing, so it's important to properly prepare before you enter battle.
To obtain Personas, you'll need to either acquire them in combat as part of the aforementioned Shuffle Time mechanic or via infusing. This allows you to combine different Personas in order to create brand new ones. By fusing different types of Persona, you're able to transfer a select number of skills depending on the beast's level. Ultimately, this allows for an extremely high level of customisation.
Persona 4 Golden's graphics have been slightly upgraded over its original PlayStation 2 release, and look gorgeous on the PlayStation Vita's OLED screen. Even the menu system is unbelievably slick. The sound effects and music all complement the action perfectly, and even though there are only a handful of battle songs, they will all get stuck in your head for hours.
Not only is the entire original PS2 release replicated here, but a few extras have been thrown in for good measure too. There's a brand new character with new quests and mini-games, alongside a large amount of fresh voice acting.
Another new addition includes the ability to compare actions with other players, request help, and lend support to others. When not in the television world, the Voice feature allows you to view the decisions that other gamers made during a particular time of the day. This includes viewing the most commonly crafted Personas at a given level, and also provides useful information related to spending your spare time efficiently.
However, the most notable improvement comes in the form of being able to sneak out of the house in the evening and visit various shops, as well as develop social links with the other characters in the game. This adds even more content to the title, allowing you to garner even more playtime out of the already epic RPG.
If all of that wasn't enough, you can even do jobs before the day ends. These range from folding Origami cranes to working at the local hospital part time. Different careers raise unique statistics such as diligence, knowledge, and courage. When these stats level up, you're rewarded with additional lines of dialogue and better paying jobs.
In short, the amount of content is truly staggering. From developing social links to infusing Personas, it'll take you hundreds of hours to experience everything that the title has to offer. However, what's truly remarkable is just how good all of the different components are. Most games succumb to filler, but Persona 4 Golden delivers a quality experience throughout the entirety of its enormous running time.
Persona 4 Golden really is the complete package. It has an amazing story, charming characters, intense combat, and huge amounts of gameplay. Indeed, you'll be hard pressed to find an RPG as polished and well designed as this one – and whether you're new to the genre or an expert in the field, this is the very definition of a must play.