Persona 4 Golden is an expansion of the popular JRPG Persona 4, which was released in December of 2008. It is a Playstation Vita exclusive title. The central plot of the game revolves around a mystical power called Persona, and how it is being used by a serial killer to commit murders. The core gameplay is a mix between that of a dungeon crawler, and a life sim. You will spend around 60% of the game living out your day to day life as the protagonist, and 40% investigating the mysterious “TV World” that is being used to commit murders, and battling with Shadows, the main enemies of the game.
If you aren’t in to Dialouge Heavy games, this one isn’t for you.
THE GOOD: When I first started this game up, I was relatively unimpressed. The story is rather cheesy at first, and the main part of the game doesn’t get started until you are a few hours in. But once it does, I guarantee you that you will have an extremely hard time ever putting it down. This is one of the best RPG’s I’ve ever played, and certainly the best game for the Vita thus far. Both the life simulation and dungeon crawling aspects of the game are executed perfectly, with both of them advancing the other in terms of storyline and gameplay. The “Social Links” you form with other people during the day help to strengthen the potential “Persona” creatures you can create at night, and as the story advances you will become more and more powerful, forming several different Personas, all with different unique abilities. Most of the Social Links are extremely well written, and there is an incredible amount of choice and customization in how you live your life during the day. The story is also a complete thrill ride, with twists you’ll have never seen coming throughout.
Combat rarely gets repetitive.
The original Persona 4 game is greatly expanded on in this title. A whole new side story is added, featuring a new character named Marie, a mysterious girl that needs help finding out who she really is. This side story has an effect on the main game as well, as the two narratives end up tying together, if you chose to build up Marie’s social link that is. It also adds several new features to the core game, including a new Motorcycle component that allows you to teach your companions new abilities, two new endings, brand new voice actors, and more storyline events. Hours upon hours of new content are added, and the game is improved to the point that I couldn’t imagine going back to the old game at this point.
Now, let’s talk a little about the combat. This is a turn based JRPG style game, somewhat in the style of Final Fantasy. It has several unique twists, however, that always make combat interesting. First of all, you are not limited to one set of skills per character, like most JRPG’s. You can switch which Persona you are using at any time, in order to match up with your enemies weaknesses. You can also change your battle strategy freely, and can order each individual companion to either do as they wish, focus on offense, defense, healing, or simply do exactly as you say. There is also a “rush” feature for the easier battles, that lets you sit back and watch as everyone on your team attacks the enemy with brute force.
When an enemy is knocked down, you can order an all out assault!
THE BAD: Like I said earlier, the game starts out slowly. The story can get rather cheesy at rare occasions, and there are some moments where you are presented with an illusion of choice. For example, I didn’t have enough courage to perform an action in my first playthrough, but I did in my second. Sadly, I found that both choices had exactly the same result. There are also many main story choices that would seem huge, but actually don’t matter at all. You can not control who you let into your group of investigators, which is unfortunate for you if you hate one of the characters.
If you’re lucky, you won’t hate any of the main characters.
THE UGLY: While the game is extremely long, it turns out to be shorter than it looks at first glance. You are told from the start of the game that you will have a year to build relationships with others and live your life, but this is not entirely true. There are several instances where the game skips days, and sometimes even weeks, of your life. I didn’t manage to complete many of the social links in my first playthrough, and I loosely followed a guide for my second. You can not afford to waste much time in this game, as you will have to spend almost all of your days advancing social links if you wish to complete them all. Your next visit to Hagakure Ramen may be detrimental to your 100% completion of the game, without you even knowing it! There are also several quests, and one or two social links, that are rather vague in description, and may require a quick check online to complete.
There are also some characters that are voiced somewhat poorly. Many of the voice actors in the game are top notch, some even make the characters they play. However, there are a few characters that could use a lot of work, and that don’t exactly flow well with the others. Speaking of voice actors, only the main characters have them. The side social link characters talk by text exclusively, aside from a few short phrases they say occasionally. It is understandable that a huge game like this can’t have every single character completely voiced over, though, so it isn’t more than a minor gripe.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: This game is excellent, and extremely addicting. With all the options presented to you, don’t be surprised if you want to replay the entire thing right after finishing it all. The “New Game+” mode is a great touch, and really rewards you for having played through already. If you own a Playstation Vita, and do not have this game, I recommend you stop making the mistake of not playing it, and pick it up right now. It is easily the best entry in the “Persona” series, and will last you a very, very, long time.