|Title: Persona 4 Golden
Publisher: Atlus USA
Release Date: 10/20/2012
Age Rating: M
Persona 4 Golden is a JRPG which was first released for the PlayStation 2 in 2008. It has since been updated and released for the PlayStation Vita. For those unacquainted with the game, it takes place in a small Japanese town called Inaba where a series of unexplained murders have taken place. Soon, a group of high school students will discover a fog-covered world that can be found within the TV. This world is overrun with creatures that are called Shadows. Students must first defeat their own shadow, which will then unlock their individual persona. With these powers they can defeat the shadows of the TV world and uncover the mysteries within.
The game features upgraded graphics from the PS2 release. The up-scaled graphics from the previous version are crisp and clear. Being in full HD now, I noticed several details in the backgrounds and dungeons that were not as pronounced on the PS2 version. These cosmetic upgrades make the world seem even more alive and robust than before.
The music and sounds are mostly unchanged from the previous version but there are several new songs that have been added. They include themes for the new areas, a new battle theme, and a theme for the added section of the game. This game already had one of the best soundtracks of any game out there to begin with and the added tracks are just the icing on the cake. The sound effects are pretty much what you would expect like hack and slashes from the combat, some environmental sounds, and menu beeps. They did add a ton of new voiced dialogue; lots of lines that were not voiced before are now fully voiced. Most of the old cast returned for the remake with only Chie and Teddy’s voices being changed. It will take players of the old version a few minutes to get used to the change but the dub is still top-notch.
The various dungeons are your basic dungeon crawler. Each one is filled with various loot and enemies. The chests have random treasures in them so if you replay one level several times you will likely end up with many different items out of the same dungeon. There are a few puzzles to figure out as well as a few mini bosses just to spice things up a bit. I found myself running each of these several times hoping for better drops or to find a better item. Enemies are shown on the screen and you will want to swing your sword at them to engage in combat. If you are unnoticed or hit them in the back, you will be rewarded with first strike. In the event the enemy makes contact with you first, they will be given the first attack. This can end very badly for you so you need to be careful not to let that happen.
The combat system of the game is pretty much your standard turn-based RPG affair. Each persona will have its strengths and weaknesses and you will have to figure out how best to employ them to dispatch the shadows. The shadows also have weaknesses; as you try out each element you will find which ones work the best. Don’t worry about having to remember each weakness. After you find what each enemy is weak against, the game records this and you can then hit a button to scan the target and it will show which elements you have tried along with its strengths and weaknesses. When hitting an enemy’s weakness, you will not only do more damage but you will also get another turn. This is the best way to plan out your strategy for making battles go more smoothly. If you manage to knock all of them down, you will get an all-out attack for even more damage. Be warned: if the enemy hits your party weakness they will get an additional turn as well.
Now comes the part that makes Persona 4 Golden a unique experience: you will live out the MC’s (main character’s) daily life. You will choose how to spend your days by building up character skills, strengthening social links, or a variety of other activities. Building your social links is key to the game as each one represents a card in the arcana. As these links build you will receive a bonuses when fusing personas of that arcana. This will lead to more powerful personas for your MC to use in battle. Social links are your interactions with the different characters of the world; they can be your school mates, people from part-time jobs, or just people in and around town. Spending time with them will allow these links to grow, thus making you more powerful. This adds a great deal of personality to the game and makes it stand out.
For those of us that have played the PS2 version of the game, there is plenty of new content here to enjoy. There are some new events, new social links to explore and additional time toward the end of the game. In this additional time you can build social links and skills. There are also several new events that take place as well that will add more depth to characters and their crazy ways. Some of the upgrades include persona fusing being made easier with the feature that shows which personas you can make by level or arcana without having to try each combination out. They are shown in a list and can be sorted to show you exactly what you can do in seconds. There are a ton of costumes that can be obtained for each character; some of these you will buy and some you will find by doing various tasks. Not only do these look nice, they also change some of the win quotes and poses for the characters as well. There are also some online features, such as being able to ask for help from other players roaming around the dungeons. To do this, you simply hit the SOS button and you will get a stat boost from other players online to help you out. There is an additional feature where you can see what other players are doing in the game on that day. This is very similar to when you find notes left in the Souls series, giving you helpful tips on how to spend your days. These are just some of the new additions to this version.
In short, you take one of the best PS2 RPGs of all-time, upgrade the graphics, and add a ton of new content and you get one of the finest games I have played in years. I had a blast with this game, even having played the original, finding tons of new things to explore and discover. If you own a Vita, you should definitely pick this one up. If you don’t own a Vita, this could be the must-own title you are waiting for to purchase the console. Once you pick this game up, you will be reaching out for the truth for many hours to come.