Persona 4 Golden is an RPG-Simulation title for the Playstation Vita made by Atlus. You're the voiceless protagonist whom gets together a team of normal kids that investigates mysterious deaths around an unassuming rural town. Can you find the killer?
The crux of the gameplay in Persona 4 Golden is in the title itself: Personas. These are aspects of one's character that manifest as a powerful magical being during the dungeon crawler segments. In most RPG games, the only strategy for improving your party's combat effectiveness is to grind levels and get experience.
Persona turns this on its head by introducing the concept of social links. Social links are the relationship your character has with his friends in the game world. As your relationship improves, you'll help your friends come to terms with their doubt and issues, which directly leads to their personas gaining power, either by getting new abilities or by evolving into a more powerful persona. Each social link consists of its own short plot full of dialogue options. There are a lot of social links too, far beyond that of just the main cast.
This forms the basis for the simulation aspect of the game. While dungeon grinding is still important, neglecting the social links will put you at a large disadvantage.
Persona 4 Golden is a Playstation Vita remake of Persona 4, which originally came out for the Playstation 2.
The Endless Hours of Entertainment:
There's a seemingly endless number of possible paths to take through this game. Even with my streamlined approach to the social links, I still missed at least one even with two playthroughs. There's a whole bunch of possible social links and dialogue options just waiting to be explored by the player. While the overall story is linear, the simulation-side of the game isn't at all.
Characters and a Story that You'll Love:
The make-it or break-it moment for anything trying to be an RPG-Simulation game like Persona 4 is will almost certainly be the characters. If I dislike them, I'll dislike the game. If I dislike their stories, I'll dislike the game. If the non-dungeon story is bad, I'll dislike the game.
Luckily, Persona 4 is an amazing story packed with great characters, brilliant stories, and a great deal of excellent heartwarming moments. There's something oddly satisfying about all your friends getting together and having something as simple as a birthday party in this game. There's chuckle-worthy witty writing and there are plenty of endearing character moments along the way in the game. Sure, it's all run-of-the-mill slice-of-life tropes, but they still manage to make these characters far more real. In the end, it all comes together to make an unforgettable character story.
A Polished and Refined System:
Persona 4 Golden is an extremely well-refined gameplay system. The dungeon combat is well made and the exploration aspect is easy to learn. The whole interface is very clean and easy to use.
Not Just a Port:
While the ability to replay Persona 4 is enough for most of us to buy this game, Golden goes several steps further and adds a whole bunch of content to the game. New social links, new personas, new dialogue, at least an hour of new content, and an all-new ending with a new epilogue.
The Dungeon Grinding:
While this iteration of the Persona franchise is more tolerable than say Persona 3, the time you spend just grinding your levels up still will take up a significant amount of your time. It isn't overly bad or good, it just will grate on you after about thirty minutes of curb stomping enemies over and over.
The Learning Curve:
In order to be at all effective in combat at any gameplay level above normal, you must understand how to use the gameplay systems of the game. Everything from the Fuse Persona system to the best way to maximize your party's damage potential for certain dungeons needs to be understood to win.
Problematically these systems are confusing at first glance and people will ignore them instead of sitting down and reading up on them. Without a good idea of what you're doing from the get go, you'll likely just start blindly trying things on your first couple of playthroughs. It's not a deal-breaker, but there is a steep learning curve. Start on a low level if you're new.
Persona 4 Golden is one of the most polished RPGs I've ever had the pleasure of playing. It also has to be one of the best games I've ever played. It had hours upon hours of gameplay that all felt well-written and polished. There's a great deal of replay potential due to the large number of possible social links to complete and to refine your dungeon-clearing strategies.
Even people who played the original Persona 4 will want to give this a shot due to the new levels, new personas, and new epilogue. There's a surprising amount of new content added to the game.
The game tends hit its biggest lull during the long grinding sections of the dungeon aspect of the game. It can get mind numbing at times when you realize how long you've been running around this dungeon grinding up levels. You need the stamina to chug through those parts. Luckily, being a portable title, quick games of 5-10 minutes are an easy way to stave off this monotony. The learning curve for the newcomers to Persona is steep too and it will take a playthrough or two to get acquainted with the system.
This'll be best for the lover of RPGs, bonus points if you like JRPGs. There's more character story than there is action story, so it won't be for the action-oriented gamer. It's steep time requirements will be a turn-off for some, as my first game took over 80 hours to complete in sum.
Persona 4 Golden is the perfect companion game for your Playstation Vita if you have any interest in this type of genre. You'll get hours of gameplay out of it at a reasonable cost and it'll keep you coming back for more. This game was perfect for eating up time on the plane ride from Salt Lake City to Omaha and back.
This review was created with Talk Amongst Yourselves' official review format.
This review was the first of my video game review series. I will be running it parallel to my Anime Marathon series. You'll be able to find all my video game reviews on Dex's Corner using the tag "Video Game Review".
You can find all my posts on Dex's Corner.