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Persona 4 Golden [Vita] Review

Posted on November 30, 2012 AT 05:04pm

Persona 4 was one of the best modern JRPGs you could possibly buy and now it’s even better. Originally released on PlayStation 2 back in 2008, this instant classic was praised for its blend of high school life simulation, time management style, and incredibly rewarding combat system. It went on to become a very popular anime as well as a fighter, which retold the story of the game but with a new button mashing arcade feel. All that just shows how much Persona 4 rules. The fact that the story can be translated over to a 2D fighter, and still work, proves it is clearly something special. Now, Atlus has released Persona 4 Golden, the definitive version of the game. There is more to do, more characters to interact with, a new ending, and Easter eggs. But does it translate well from it’s console roots to the portable PlayStation Vita?

In the same way that PokéMon games are addicting, Persona 4 will pull you in and is determined to not let you put it down. Its story revolves around a group of high schoolers who bond over solving a murder mystery that involves an alternate dimension inside of TVs and locals who are being murdered one by one. You play as a big city kid who’s moving to the country to be with your uncle. You can choose play as either a boy or girl, a new change of pace from it’s original release. As soon as you get to town, your police detective uncle is quickly called away. A television anchor, who’s been tangled in a love triangle, has gone missing and soon is found dead; hanging upside down from a television antennae over a local home. Rumors quickly spread around the town and you make fast friends with Yosuke, another big city kid, who’s a bit of a screw up but likable. The two of you soon pull in Chie, a girl obsessed with Kung-Fu movies and food. Together, you start to solve this crime.

At it’s core, Persona 4, is a dungeon-crawling, RPG with a turn-based battle system where you call upon creatures you collect and merge called Personas. Each character in your party has an individual Persona. Your character is given their own unique Persona, but is also able to collect new ones and combine them to create even stronger ones with new abilities. During combat you’re able to switch between Personas and dish out attacks you feel would take down enemies the best way possible. Dungeons are randomly generated so that each time you enter a new layout is unfolded with new treasures to find and enemies randomly spawned through the map. These aren’t random encounters, though. The enemies, known as Shadows, are seen and you can choose to run from them, attack them head on, or try to sneak behind them to get the upper hand. Just watch out because the Shadows can sneak behind you as well and get the first attack.

The combat system is one of the best in the genre featuring special conditions that let you do combo attacks against enemies that will take them out faster. Say you’ve used strong attacks and knocked down each Shadow that you’re fighting, then you get the chance to perform an all out brawl like in a cartoon. All of a sudden there is a giant dust cloud, objects flying everywhere, and “BANG! BOOM! POW”  in big letters flying over head. Moments like this are a treat and really punch up the action, thus, making it feel more dynamic and rewarding for your smart strategies. Special attacks and abilities are called “Skills” and are learned by your personas. The attacks are all based around elements. Each can be stronger or weaker against enemies. It’s learning this “Rock Paper Scissors” type system that will keep you and your party alive and on top as you battle.

Persona 4‘s adventure moves on a calendar based system, which means each day you have to choose what your actions will be. Whether it’s spending time with your friends, working an after school job, studying, or battling in the TV world, each helps you level up in some respect. Hanging out with friends will help you build social links which in turn help you level up different classes of Personas. Each Persona is given a personality based on a Tarot card and each friend you make has a Tarot sign assigned to them. Hanging out with one friend might level up one of the Personas you have, which will grant you and them new abilities that you wouldn’t other wise get. Working an after school job will help you level up something like your “Expression” which will help you have stronger conversations with your friends and thereby leveling up your Personas more. OR maybe you’ll study, gain knowledge, do well on mid-terms, and level up your popularity all around. Each action has a reaction. It’s choosing these that make the school life simulation interesting and rewarding.

As the days go by the weather changes as well, which also plays a key factor in the game. As characters from the town are kidnapped and put in the TV world, you have only until the rain comes in order to rescue them. The moment the fog rolls in after a few days of rain, they’ll be found dead and you’ll lose the game, having to revert to a previous save. This means you’re able to level up socially before tackling a dungeon or spread your dungeon crawling out over a few days. It’s a strange “grinding” system that never really feels quite like “grinding” in the traditional sense. While the option to replay old dungeons and kill off Shadows is always there, it never feels forced on you, and on easier difficulties you can choose to enjoy the more social aspects of the game and do more.

On top of all of this there are social clubs and sports clubs to join, side missions littered everywhere, easter eggs featuring secret characters, weapon crafting, reading books to level up socially and more. It’s an incredibly deep game that always has something to do. There will never be a point when playing where you won’t have some objective to do, and if you feel you missed something on the first play through you’ll always have New Game + where you carry over your stats and continue with new options for conversation and more. There’s also a new ending on New Game +, just that much more reason to play.

Summary: Persona 4 is fantastic. The voice acting, the story, the mystery, the characters, the combat… it’s all great. If you own a Vita, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. It stands as its own story, so don’t worry that you’re coming in on the middle of a numbered franchise.

  • THE GOOD: The translation to the Vita has resulted in the best version of one of the best JRPGs of the past decade. It’s all here in glorious HD.
  • THE BAD: If only this version were on the PS3 as well. It might fit the format better. Staring at a small screen for hours on end can be murder on your eyes, but at least it’s beautiful murder.

Score: 9.5

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