Review: Persona 4 Golden (PSV)
Title: Persona 4 Golden
Format: PlayStation Network Download (3.1 GB) / Game Card
Release Date: November 20, 2012 (US)
Price: $39.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: M
Persona 4 Golden is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.
In 2008, Persona 4 released as one of the last great games for the venerable PlayStation 2. Fast forward to this year, and Persona 4 is back in a brand new version dubbed Persona 4 Golden for the PlayStation Vita. Like the previous games before it, Persona 4 has been ported to Sony’s flagship handheld with more features, more content, and more of everything. Persona 4 Golden brings along new content, HD visuals, and 1.5 times the amount of voice acting as its console counter-part. I’m happy to say that Persona 4 Golden is not only the premier RPG experience for the PlayStation Vita, it’s by far one of the best, if not the best, games on the system.
The Persona series has always been known for it’s unique approach to gameplay. Part social simulator and part dungeon crawler, Persona 4 is no slouch when it comes to gameplay. The protagonist of the story, which you name yourself, finds himself thrust into a supernatural tale full of wonder, murder, mystery, and intrigue after moving out to the rural town of Inaba. It’s up to you and your newly found high school friends to discover what is going on and find the culprits behind these mysterious murders and disappearances.
Persona 4 exists in two worlds. During your normal day-to-day activities, you wander around shopping malls, your high school, the local shopping market, and your home. When it comes time to explore and fight, you’re thrust into a world that exists behind the television screen. Inside, monsters wreak havoc and try to attack you. Your band of high-schoolers, with the aid of the affable Teddy, must track down these monsters, find the source of the fog, and stop whatever lies in your way.
Similar to most RPGs, Persona 4 Golden employs a weapon and armor system. You can buy and sell weapons to your hearts content in the town’s armor shop, and you can then equip your team with the equipment that best suits them. Also like other RPGs, Persona 4 Golden has its own unique battle mechanic. That would be the idea of Personas (think of them as collectible fighters similar to summons). These Personas have the ability to level up and fuse, providing plenty of incentive for players to use them. With over 150 Personas to discover, players are sure to find the combinations and strategies that best fit them. Each one felt unique, and I eventually found myself loving the whole system. It’s something that reminiscent of classic RPGS, but at the same time, wholly unique.
The social simulation element also plays a key role in the combat of Persona 4. As you talk and interact with characters throughout the game, certain Personas, powers, and characters will gain or lose attributes in combat. The constant balance of trying to maintain relationships with all of the characters in the game can get overwhelming, but it remains fun nonetheless. It’s almost reminiscent of Catherine, one of Atlus’ other recent games that employs a social simulation system, but unlike that game, there is no morality system to speak of.
The game puts up a complicated front. Having to deal with the changing time of day, changing calendar year, Personas, relationships, fusions, equipment management, and more can seem like a lot at first, and frankly it is. The game starts of slow and complicated, but I found myself getting into it eventually. There aren’t that many tutorials to speak of, but at least the player is not left completely unguided.
The dungeon crawling is satisfying and rewarding. You travel through each dungeon in 3rd person, and encounter enemies by walking up to them. Luckily, there are no random encounters in the game. The pick up and play nature of the game fits the handheld perfectly. I found myself hopping on this game when I had twenty or thirty minutes to spare. If you’re a fan of this game, I’d definitely recommend picking this up off of the PSN store, as I always loved having it on my memory card. Everything about this game screams good game design, and if you like this style of RPG, you’re going to love this game.
The visuals in Persona 4 are relatively good across the board. Converting from SD to HD has been relatively kind, but there are some visual quirks. Characters seem to ghost when there is a lot of movement, and I had a hard time telling whether this was a deliberate choice or a limitation of the Vita’s hardware. Character and enemy models are great and detailed, but other games like Uncharted and PlayStation All-Stars look crisper and better. It’s due in part to this being a PS2 game, but either way, this is a good looking game.
The real star of the visual show has to be the cutscenes. Every cutscene is so well-drawn and animated that most of the time, I forgot that I was playing a video game. At times, it genuinely felt like I was watching an anime. Cutscenes never felt like a bother or a hindrance, they felt organic, meaningful, and beautiful every single time. It is not an overstatement when I say that the cutscenes in Persona 4 Golden are some of the best in any video game ever made.
Like the visuals, the audio is absolutely fantastic. Persona 4 Golden brings 1.5 times the amount of voice-overs as the PS2 counterpart, and in this case, more is definitely better. Unlike a lot of JRPG’s, Persona 4 Golden’s English dubbing is excellent and believable. The characters feel genuine, and there are little to no awkward pauses or pronunciations in dialog. The rest of the audio also fares well, with monster sound effects, weapons, and UI elements all sounding like they should. Nothing negative stands out, but the voices really steal the show.
Persona 4 Golden’s online additions are neat, but don’t really add much to the game. An icon can pop up on the screen at pre-determined times throughout the game, and it allows you to see how other players have spent their time so far in the game at that particular moment. You can also send out a help signal in a dungeon to get a stat boost for your next battle, but I found myself rarely using it. Like a lot of other Vita RPG ports, the online functionality of Persona 4 Golden is neat, but undercooked.
Persona 4 Golden is by far my favorite game on the PlayStation Vita. It alone will grant me over 100 hours of content between the main quest, side quests, and new game plus. The dungeon crawling is addicting and fantastic, the social simulation is deep, the Persona system encourages experimentation, and the cutscenes are amazing. Even though this does little to nothing to change the game from its 2008 roots, Persona 4 stands out as one of the best RPG’s made in recent memory. If you’re looking for an amazing RPG to keep on your Vita, don’t wait any longer. This is one game that you simply cannot miss.