The Golden Standard of JRPG’s
Persona 4 Golden makes its way to modern consoles including the PS4, Switch and Xbox. The game was originally released on PS2 roughly 15 years ago and has had its Golden release on Vita and PC but was not very accessible to those without the means to play. It is widely known as one of the best JRPGs on the Vita and in some cases of all time but how does a 15-year-old game fare on modern consoles?
Our nameless protagonist is bound for a train to Inaba, a quiet rural village where he takes residence with the Dojima family so he can attend school due to his real parents working away. It’s a comfortable setting far from Persona 5 where the Hero was treated as a villain. He moves in with his uncle Ryotaro and cousin Nanako who welcome him in.
As this a Persona game it isn’t long before strange events start to grip the quiet community, Highly strange deaths suddenly start to occur among other deaths of a similar nature. Also as a student, it isn’t long before schoolroom rumours start to take place that involves the deaths within the community. Soon after at school, you make friends with Yosuke and Chie who quickly bond with the protagonist which sets the wheels in motion for what’s to come. The rumour of the midnight channel which shows who is apparently going to die next becomes very real as the team soon discovers. In comedic fashion, they witness the Hero put his whole body into a giant flatscreen in the middle of the electronics department of a large store and panic and somehow all fumble into another world inside the TV.
It is apparent that this world is the key to solving the strange mysteries that are currently happening and our heroes are soon met with demonic versions of themselves and it is only until they admit their wrongs that they are able to calm their demon half and obtain the power of Persona; and as any Persona player knows this is how you summon giant self-reflecting entities to do your dirty work. Teddie is the Persona 4 mascot who resembles a blue stuffed bear, while he has a blank expression, he is rather friendly, and with all the strange happenings in Inaba, this only adds to the light-heartedness of Persona 4.
Persona 4 is not without its darker narrative though and it doesn’t shy away from it. In the first 4-6 hours of the game, the narrative is really strong and while there is a lot of light-hearted comedy with very charismatic characters there are also highly descriptive strange murders going on which makes the story all the more heart-wrenching. The world inside Persona 4 is certainly strange and foreboding much like other entries but it does it so much better due to the focus on the characters and the setting where the events take place.
Gameplay in Persona 4 is a mix of social elements such as bonding with your classmates, visiting places to increase your stats permanently and most importantly visiting the world inside the TV to save the next Victim from a harsh fate. This means that Persona 4 has that element of time limit added to the game. Luckily this is far from unfair and you are given more than enough time to explore the otherworld. I found myself grinding in the first few floors of the dungeon only to find myself already levelled for the first boss and challenge within the first 3 days. This gave me a good amount of free time to socialise and do other things before my time was up. You can of course spread this over several days and fit in key activities in between, and that’s the great thing about Persona, it’s completely up to you. Persona 4 of course Is turn-based and follows the formula of knocking enemies on their feet to try and get an overall advantage in battle. Knock them all over with their weaknesses and you can do an all-out attack which will either annihilate them or do a lot of damage.
I found myself battling and levelling my Personas more than I needed thanks to how enjoyable it actually is. Persona 5 went back to the Shin Megami Tensei style of conversing with enemies which of course is a great mechanic, I mean if it’s not broken why fix it? Persona 4 Golden does have a great system in place which involves cards that appear where you can pick one or several to give you an increased benefit, this can be extra money or increased EXP and if you are able to claim all cards you get a clean sweep bonus allowing you to not only get all cards but guarantees you will get a bonus the next battle. It’s such a great and involving system and even though some of the cards can give a disadvantage I always found the advantage cards such as increasing Persona stats and Treasure chest keys always outweigh the bad ones.
While the dungeons are procedurally generated they do have a certain warmth to them, unlike Persona 3. Persona 4 dungeons look a lot more vibrant even though evil monsters do lurk around every corner. As you can grind loot in them also there’s no matter of urgency to worry about using Items or spending too much money, also unlike Persona 3 you can never get tired of staying too long in a dungeon. When you aren’t levelling your Personas in dungeons you can level them outside in the Velvet Room of course. This time Igor takes residence in a fancy limousine forever travelling through a blue fog and can combine two or three Personas into a new one. You can also exchange Skill Cards here which will allow you to purchase that skill at any time to be able to teach them to your Personas.
In all Persona 4 Golden is a superb game that has me hooked much the same as Persona 5 did when it came out. The game has such a cool art style and great music, the story is fantastic and the characters have such great personalities that tie in with each other and the story so perfectly. Chie no longer sounds like an old lady and a lot of the issues that were in the original Persona 4 have been fixed. This is the same Persona 4 Golden that was released on PC and Vita so there is nothing new to see here if you’ve already played them but for newcomers to the series then Persona 4 is one game that I can’t recommend enough. This game is a must-buy for any JRPG fan.
A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by Atlus