Reviews
Persona 4: Golden

By Tim Krynicki - December 4th, 2012

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Vita exclusive of 2012? I think so!

A little elf told me that today is the 4th anniversary of the release of the original on the PS2! Enjoy!

It’s hard to imagine that just four years ago, Atlus released one of the most talked-about RPGs to ever grace Sony’s PlayStation 2 console. Riding on the immense success of its predecessor, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 fixed many of the grievances that fans had with Persona 3. Though numbered as a sequel, new players could still enjoy a standalone experience thanks to its new setting, and a better-paced story with another lovable cast of high school misfits. With positive fan reactions and ace review scores across the board, it’s no surprise that the original release of Persona 4 is regarded as one of the finest games from a previous console generation.

Your role in the world of Persona 4 is that of a high school student who has come to spend their next year of studies at their uncle’s house in the fictional Japanese town of Yaso Inaba. Just when you think it’s safe to assume that you will be spending the next 70 hours of game time with a dating sim, the story throws a curve ball with an alternate dimension, an ongoing murder mystery and the deed-seated psychological issues facing each one of your party members. It’s unexpectedly deep stuff – though not something I would source on a thesis regarding the duality of man or the like. Since I have often considered myself to be well past the intended target demographic, experiencing a story that does not read like a checklist of clichéd tropes is one to be savored.

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“Every day’s great at your local Junes!”

Unless you have been fortunate enough to play the original, you will get to know -very quickly- that Golden knows how to serve its compelling story in helpings that are just the right size for the moment. The scenes are never too long or too short, and in the end you are left with more than enough to motivate you to keep going. The only down side to this is that Golden is still a re-telling of a story from four years ago. That being said, caution is advised for new players to stay far away from storyline discussions until their first run-through until the game has been completed, as the Internet has been anything but kind in keeping some of the game’s major twists a secret.

Players will be gently nudged into Persona 4’s inner workings with an assembled party and a character-themed dungeon to explore within the first three hours. It is at this point that you’ll get to play with the series’ take on the monster collection formula most commonly referred to as Pokémon. Post-battle rewards will sometimes include monsters, all of whom have their unique elemental attributes and abilities. While your party members eventually awaken to their one monster (persona) to aid them in battle, the player-character has the unique ability to stock and switch between multiple personas in the midst of battle.

Don’t be surprised if it takes some time to get used to the skill-naming system used in the Shin Megami Tensei series, as it is unique in its own right. You’ll catch on to the basics like Agi for fire, Zio for electricity, Bufu for ice (and so on) easily enough. The buffing and de-buffing spells are another matter*. Thankfully there’s a face button reserved as a reminder in case you run into a similar question.

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This is where you’d make a reference to Yu Gi Oh! and scream “It’s time to duel!”

You can also take your stocked personas to Igor’s Velvet Room and fuse them together to make even stronger creatures; there is a good chance that a number of their skills will carry over into the new creation. The fusion system is a phone book of information to fully understand, as the results are based on anything from: the original persona’s level, its type, the tarot arcana its aligned with, and more. You can try to guess and test these combinations although the search function eliminates most of the head-scratching by presenting you with possible fusions based on the personas you have on hand at the time of your visit.

Your interactions with characters outside of the dungeons will also play a significant part in determining if the personas you’re fusing are strong enough to see a dungeon through to the end boss. These Social Links form and grow stronger with the more time you spend with your friends and clubs after school. Each Link is represented by a different tarot arcana; level this arcana up and you’ll begin to notice that your fused personas from the same suite are gaining additional level-ups and skills when fusing them. No pressure right? Wrong. Find yourself spending too much time outside of dungeon exploration and you’ll either be seriously under-leveled by the next boss encounter, or the weather takes a turn for the worse signaling the death of the killer’s captive and a game over for you.

Persona 4 Golden should also be held in high regard thanks to its immaculate sound design. Going as far back as the PlayStation 2 release, it’s obvious that the English localization team went above and beyond what was required to spit-shine an authentic Japanese experience for an English-speaking audience. The entire voice cast (particularly both Johnny Yong Bosch and especially Yuri Lowenthal) deliver performances that immediately draw you into the on-screen action. Even going as far as keeping the honorifics at the end of younger and older characters’ names adds a nice touch of authenticity to the game’s already golden experience.

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“WA-TAAAAAAA!”

Famed music composer, Shoji Meguro, returns with another guitar and synth-laden soundtrack that is certain to go down as one of her (not to mention the entire series) best work to date.

Golden’s extras, selectable from the main screen, are also a welcome additions to this version of the game as it gives players access to listen to their favorite tracks from the game (along with several remixes exclusively produced for the Vita version), an anime cutscene theatre, as well as live Persona concert recordings from Meguro-san herself. Doubtful these were included by fan demand but it definitely shows that Atlus is one of those rare niche publishers who have no qualm in taking the extra step when catering to their fans. Respect.

* – Like the difference between Sukunda anda Tarukaja? Heck if I could tell you off the top of my head.
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    One response so far:
  2. By personausermike
    Posted on Dec 5, 2012

    Definitly can’t wait to start playing this again, and good review…got me all hyped up to play it

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