Persona 4 Golden - Review

Back in 2008 an RPG called Persona 4 hit the Western shores. It was the long awaited sequel to the well known PS2 RPG Persona 3, and before we knew it, it became a hit. Fans fell in love with the character's, the gameplay, the school life "life sim" aspects, as well as it's story. Although the game before it was just as popular among fans, Persona 4 took things to a whole new level. Soon there was a manga series to go along with it, a full anime, and even a direct sequel fighting game produced by Arc System Works. To put it simple, Persona 4 was a game that fans liked a lot, and because of that it evolved past just being a game. Well, things didn't stop there.

In 2012 a brand new version of Persona 4 hit the shelves for the PlayStation Vita called "Persona 4 Golden." Just what is Persona 4 Golden? Is it worth owning if you already had Persona 4? What about the new comers, is this a good place to start? Well, how about we find out?

The Golden Story:

Persona 4 Golden opens up with "you" being face to face with a strange man in what seems to be a limo. You are in the velvet room, a room that exists between reality and dreams, and you have been called there for a very special reason. Everything that happens in that room is tied to your fate, and it seems your life is about to change. The strange man sitting at the end of the limo is named Igor and he tells you just that. While your future is unclear, he gives you a warning, and asks for your name. At this point you are asked to name your character whatever you want, but the main character's "canon" name is Narukami Yu (Yu Narukami by English standards).

After telling Igor his name, Yu (or whatever you named yourself) then comes to reality. He is traveling on a train to a small town called Inaba, where he will be spending the next year of his life. It turns out his parents had been transferred overseas due to their job, and they have decided to send him to live with his uncle Ryotaro and his cousin Nanako Dojima.

Once Yu arrives in Inaba, he is greeted by his uncle and cousin, and taken back to his new home. As he sits down with his family for dinner, his uncle gets a call to go into work, and apparently like always, Nanoko is left home alone. It turns out Dojima is a police detective, and because of that he is rarely home alone. Poor little Nanoko is left to fend for herself most of the time, and today is no different. After finishing dinner, Nanoko helps Yu get settled in to his room, and the very next day they both go off to school.

While at school Yu slowly begins to make some new friends. Yosuke, just like Yu, is a big city boy who was forced to move to the small town after his parents became the manager of the local super store Junes, Chie is a tomboy kung fu nut, and Yukiko is the shy girl everyone seems to hit on. At first this small group doesn't seem like much, but not too long after they all met, things began to change.

During his first day of school, a dead body was found hanging from a TV antenna close to the school, and the strange rumors of a "Midnight Channel" began to circulate. It turns out, if you look at the TV at midnight on a raining night while it is turned off, your "true love" will appear; however only the latter part turned out to be a rumor. As the police investigated the murder, Yu and his friends decide to check out the midnight channel rumor to see if it was true, and sure enough, it was. A young girl showed up on the screen, but it wasn't Yu's true love. As he reaches out to touch the screen, Yu is shocked to find his arm going into the TV! Although he at first tries to climb all the way in, he gets stuck in the TV's frame, and decides to pull himself out and tell his friends about what happened the next day.

The next day at school Yu discusses the Midnight Channel with Yosuke and Chie, only to find out that they had all seen the very same girl. Although everyone is confused as to what the midnight channel is, Yu decides to tell the others about what happened to him; how he went inside the TV. At this point everyone thinks that he was just dreaming, and they decide to pretend he never even brought it up. Although within the next few hours, all of them would come to learn the truth, and their lives would be changed forever.

After going to Junes to look at a brand new TV, Yu finds himself falling into a big screen TV, with his friends close behind. They all ends up in a strange world, wonder into a strange blood stained room, and then on their way out they find themselves face to face with a strange bear like thing named Teddie. According to Teddie someone had been throwing people into his world, making the once quite land into a world filled with noise. Since Teddie didn't want to be bothered, he opened a portal back to the "real world," and sends everyone back home.

Deciding to put everything that had just happened behind them, Yu and co decide to return home, and pretend it never happened... Although it seems fate has other plans for them. It turns out the girl on the Midnight Channel was a friend of Yosuke's, and the very next day she is found dead hanging just like the first victim. Yosuke takes the news of her death hard, and that is when he decides to drag Yu back into that strange world with him. If the Midnight Channel and that world are connected to her death, Yosuke was determined to get to the bottom of it.

After talking to Teddie about what happened, Yu and Yosuke follow him to a strange dream like version of Inaba. There they find a strange door to the liquor store the girl's family ran, and coming out of it are strange creatures Teddie calls "Shadows." Upon seeing these shadows, a voice rings through Yu's head that tells him "I am thou," and a card magically appears in his hand. "Per, so, na!" Upon yelling the words, a warrior appears above Yu's head, and with its sword it slices the shadow's to bits. Yu had gained the power of "Persona," the ability to summon your inner self.

Now with the power to use persona, Yu dives into the TVs to save the poor lost souls who show up on the Midnight Channel. As the months go by, more people become kidnapped, Yu and Co dive into the TV world, they use their personas to fight the shadows, and help each victim face their inner self. Upon facing their inner self, that victim also gains the power of persona, and joins Yu in the search for the truth. Just who is behind these murders? Why are they throwing people into the TV? Just what is Teddie? What are shadows? Why does the Midnight Channel show the victim even before they enter the TV? Why is there even a world inside the TV? How come Yu gained his power before facing his shadow? Is he different? The town of Inaba is filled with mysteries, and it is your job to get to the bottom of it. All while still being a high school student!

School Life:

The gameplay of Persona 4 Golden is split up into two main sections, and because of that I'll be discussing each aspect of the gameplay separately. The first part of Persona 4 is your everyday school life. This section of the game plays a lot like a visual novel mixed with a dating sim or life sim. Since the game takes place over a year, you actually do go through most of the days. Now sure, at times there will be small time skips (such as during midterms and finals), but for the most part you really do spend a full year in Inaba.

Normally your schedule will be as followed. Monday through Saturday Yu will wake up and go to school. On the way to school you may see a cutscene with him walking there, and along the way Yu may talk to one of his friends, or overhear something from other students. After that is class time. Although most of the time you won't even see the class, sometimes an important topic will be brought up, or you'll be asked a question in class. If you answer one of these questions correctly, your stats will increase. Once class is over, you then enter the "after school" part of the day, and the entire world is open to you!

After school you can basically do anything, and there is a LOT to pick from. Whatever action you do will advance the time to evening, and that is why it is important to plan out what you want to do for that day. You can hang out with one of your friends, go to the movies, study in the library, work at one of the part time jobs, go to one of the school clubs you may have joined, and so on. There are also some activities you can do which will not advance time such as doing side quests, talking to NPCs, buying stuff at the store, buying books, etc. Either way, there are a lot of things you can do after school, and they all help you in different ways; although Social Links are the main parts of it.

In Persona 4 you can become friends with your classmates, or other people around town, and this comes in the form of social links. By hanging out with people after school, you will build up your friendship, and that will in return help you in battle. While becoming closer with your party members may unlock special skills and abilities for them, hanging out with people in general will help you with your personas. By having stronger social links you can create stronger personas, and that really helps out in the long run.

As I said before, doing well in class will increase your stats, but that isn't the only way to increase them. By eating food, doing jobs, and reading books, you can increase your other "social skills" as well. These social skills will allow you to do different things, based on what level you have them at. For example if you're brave enough, you could tell your teacher off in class, or if you're a very understanding person you can help tutor a student. Getting your skills up gives you more options to say to your friends to help build your friendship faster as well, so its always a good idea to get them as high as possible.

After you have did your one "main action" of the day, the game will then advance to the evening section of the day. Now in the evening you'll sometimes start out by watching a cutscene (usually you'll be eating with Nanoko or watching the news to find out about the latest events and the weather), but after the scene is over you can do whatever you want. Although in the original Persona 4 you were limited on what you can do, in Golden you can actually go out into the city at night.

At night Inaba is a slightly different place. The store becomes a bar (which you can also work at), you can visit the shrine to make a wish and become closer to people faster, you can sometimes meet up with friends who'll discuss the latest events in the story (also it'll make them closer to you), you can go night fishing, you can catch bugs at night, there are quite a few night jobs you can take (such as working at the hospital), or you could always return home and do some things there. At your house you can make models, make box lunches to eat with friends the next day, you can do other forms of part time work from home, you can read books (which will increase stats or give you new abilities), or you can even study for school. You really have quite a lot of options at night, but even so a lot of the cities areas are limited. While in the day you can travel allover, at night you are stuck mainly at the shopping district.

Although for the most part you'll have complete control over what you do, there are special events that happen during the year that you must attend to. You'll go on school trips (which are normally quite funny), go on vacations with friends, go to special events, hang out on holidays, or even be forced to take exams at school. These sections of the game give you little to no control, and are completely story based. Still they help break up the daily grind, they add in comedy, and help pull you into this world even more.

As you manage your daily live and investigate the murders, you can also preform one other major action which leads us to the second main part of the game. By going to Junes during the day, you can enter the TV world, and begin the RPG aspect of Persona 4 Golden.

The TV World and Personas:

While in the TV World, the game turns into a dungeon crawler. You will form a party of 4 characters, pick an area to go into, and begin exploring. Each area is simply just hallways and doors, but they do have their own themes, and enemies to encounter. Enemies will show up on the map as black shadows, and by hitting them with your sword first you can gain the upper hand in battle.

While in battle you'll have the choice to either directly control your other party members, or let the computer take care of it, and you will also have a verity of options to help plan out your attacks. Although you can simply hit "attack" to bash an enemy with your weapon (Yu's is a sword), this isn't always the best option. The real main aspect of battles is the personas themselves, and it is up to you to figure out how to use them best. Each persona has their own abilities and stats, and Yu has the ability to switch between personas during battle. This is something you'll want to do quite often, and for very good reason. The entire goal while fighting in this game is to actually knock every single enemy over so you can pull off an "All Out Attack."

Every enemy in the game has a weakness, and by exploiting that weakness you will knock them over, and gain an extra turn. For example, say you're fighting against three enemies who are weak to electric type attacks. Well, Yu's default persona is electric type, and he has an electric attack called "Zio." By using Zio you'll be able to knock over an enemy, gain another turn, use Zio to knock over the second enemy, gain another turn, then use it gain for a final time to knock the last one down. Once this happens you can press the X button to pull off the All Out Attack, and flat out destroy everyone. This is the basics of the battle system, and to fully use it you will have to switch around your personas. Still, this is only the half of it.

The personas themselves are a very complex system, and it takes some time to learn. Although you can randomly get more personas at the end of each battle, the main way to get them is by going into the velvet room (which you can access from both the real world and tv world), and fusing your personas together. By fusing two or more personas, you can create a completely brand new persona that will receive skills from the two you used to make it, as well as level up based on your social link bonuses. These personas are stronger than what you would normally find, and by fusing you can create personas with the skills and attacks you want them to have. You can also get skill cards to use on them by fighting enemies, but skill cards are rare, and its even rarer to get the one that you actually need/want.

Leveling up in Persona 4 Golden is the final main feature of the game's RPG elements, and it is also a system which is a little bit different from most RPGs. As you fight and kill enemies, your character (Yu) will level up, but so will the persona he has equip at the time. While leveling up Yu will increase his HP, and SP (which personas spend when they use their special attacks), it also allows Yu to hold more personas at one time. Other than that no other stats increase on Yu (or the other characters), and the only way to make him stronger is buy buying better armor or weapons. The personas on the other hand, their stats DO increase. Each time a persona levels up, they become stronger, their attacks do more damage, and they learn new skills to use. Leveling your personas becomes a very important part of the game, and will be how you'll get stronger.

While actually exploring the areas, running through halls, and opening doors is pretty basic (and can become repetitive), the battles and personas help keep the RPG action fun, and it never really drags on for too long. Each area is actually pretty short, only taking an hour or so to complete. If you're the type of person who hates dungeon crawling, you really don't have to worry in this one. By rushing through it, these areas only take up about 10% of the game, but if you actually like that sort of thing, you can easily spend as much time in them as you want.

The Music and Style of P4G:

Once in awhile in my reviews I'll bring up something outside of the main features. This "something" is normally a feature or aspect that really just stood out in the game, and helped give it it's charm. For Persona 4 Golden, that would have to be its music, and overall style.

Persona 4 Golden uses a style that really makes the game pop. It is filled with bright anime styled graphics, detailed anime mugshots, it is filled with Japanese themes, and the music really stands out. The first time you go into a battle and hear "Reach Out to The Truth," you will be shocked! Every song in the soundtrack just fits the game' so well, and it all really helps set the mood. The game features anime styled comedy to give you a few good laughs, and there's a wide verity of extras added exclusively to Golden. You can watch live persona concerts, watch Japanese trailers for the games, listen to the game's soundtrack, view art galleries, and even play a bonus trivia game. The extras are a really nice addition, and I often found myself going back to them just to rewatch a cutscene, or listen to one of the game's tracks.

If you're a fan of modern day anime, Persona 4 Golden will really stand out to you. Like I said before, everything about the game just "pops," and it is filled with memorable moments.

The Good and the Bad:

Persona 4 Golden isn't a game that everyone will like, but if you own a Vita and like JRPGs or even Visual Novels, it is a MUST have! The game's story is great, you will fall in love with the characters, the combat is fast and fun, fusing personas can become addicting, the music is great, and you will just be flat out hooked from start to finish. Really the game doesn't have any bad points, and is one of them few games I can review and say it is truly perfect for what it is. The only real issue with the game is the fact that its a dungeon crawler with hallway after hallway to explore, but then again a lot of people out there love that. On top of all of that, Persona 4 Golden was designed in a way so that EVERYONE could enjoy it, and that comes with a wide verity of difficulty modes. While the easiest mode lets you retry battles you die (your characters are revived with full health while the enemy retains the damage they received), the hardest mode is there to really push you and give you a challenge.

If you have a Vita, and you like this sort of game, this is one you just CANNOT pass up! It has quite a lot of features the original PS2 version didn't have, and it even has a longer story mode featuring new areas and story arcs not originally seen. Even if you played the game before, you really have nothing to lose by getting Golden. Even when you finish the game it makes you want to come back for more, so you might as well come back to Golden. It really is, well, golden!

Persona 4 Golden for the PlayStation Vita gets a solid 10/10.

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