For the past year, my Nintendo 3DS usage has easily trumped my PS Vita play time by hundreds of hours. Our editor-in-chief has recommended Persona 4 Golden to me when I was complaining that Vita had no games, and boy, am I glad I listened to him (for once)! I am now a converted Persona 4 Golden fangirl and I foresee myself spending more time with it (to platinum the game), and shell out more monies for game merchandise (hello Nendoroids, Figmas and figures).
Persona 4 Golden is an enhanced PS Vita port of Persona 4 for the PlayStation 2. I don’t know why, but I overlooked Persona during my PS2 gaming days probably because I didn’t like the first game that came out for the PlayStation 1. Anyway, my first impressions five minutes into the game are:
- Damn, that intro is colorful… could easily give me a headache.
- Hey, awesome music! Thanks Shoji Meguro!
- The interface is really flashy and funky!
- Why is my avatar running like a caffeine junkie?
It took me a good while to get used to the “flashiness” of the user interface and the art style of the game. To be honest, I kind of hated it at first but it grew on me; I now appreciate the art as an essential part of the game that gives it its own unique charm. There’s really something fresh about the experience I had with Persona 4 Golden that drew me in more and more from the moment I started playing it. I didn’t even notice the time — after looking at my desk clock, I’ve spent a good three hours without getting bored (which is quite rare). Luckily, we had a pretty long weekend when I started playing the game so I got my fix.
In Persona 4 Golden, you play the nameless ‘city boy’ character (in my game, he is named Cheena, hahaha) who recently transferred to Inaba, which is pretty much the boonies. You move in with your uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, who is a police investigator and his little daughter Nanako. Shortly after, a series of strange murders occur in the region involving a rising star reporter who had an affair with a married government officer. You get acquainted with the key characters in the game, mostly your high school classmates, and get sucked into a strange alternate world inside a… television. In this world, you discover your innate power of being able to summon your ‘Persona’ and get into the heart of solving the mysterious murders that happened as well as the recent kidnappings that’s affecting the town. The game has a very long introduction before you get to your first battle (about one and a half hours of setting up the scenario and story, and loads of running around town), but this is well worth it.
Persona 4 Golden is quite deep in the sense that there are many things that you can do while playing. This may seem overwhelming when you start, especially during the introductions, as you get to see what kinds of activities you can take part in, but you will get the hang of this as you progress in the game. Here are some notable features that you might be interested in!
Time. The game is divided into different time events:
- Early Morning – this happens when someone calls you during the weekdays or during Sundays so you can watch the TV shopping program.
- Daytime – this is the time when you are going to school from Mondays to Saturdays. You have this as a free time during Sundays and holidays. Walking to school and your school lectures also happen at this time.
- Lunch – this triggers when you prepared lunch to bring to school. Also, school mates may approach you during this time to invite you to spend time with them after school.
- After School – this is your free time. You can spend this by going around town to do whatever it is you want to do. More on this later!
- Evening – this is the time you go home. You can also do one more activity before going to sleep and proceeding to the next day.
Persona 4 Golden has a calendar. You start the game around Spring time when you first move in to Inaba. After doing a bunch of activities per day during the different time intervals, you will progress and move on to the next day.
Inaba. This is the main setting of the game, and as mentioned above, you have recently moved in to this fog-laden place from the city. The place is divided into different areas:
- Yasogami High School – the school you go to.
- Central Shopping District – where all the local stores are, plus the shrine and the bus stop.
- Junes Department Store – newly erected mall that is threatening the business in the shopping district.
- Samegawa Flood Plain – this is where you walk to get to school. The riverbank is also located here.
- Dojima Residence – where you live.
There are more places that you can unlock later in the game, but of course I don’t want to spoil you!
Persona. This is actually the ‘battle’ part of the game. Half of the game involves a ‘simulation’ of choosing responses and actions in your day-to-day life, while the battle part is the one where you actually get to kick some ass! This happens while you are inside the television world investigating the murders and kidnappings of the different characters in the game. Personas are creatures that you summon from your own being to help you fight the ‘shadows’ that roam around the dungeons. The dungeons are also themed according to the case that you are trying to solve but I won’t delve on this further as you need to experience it firsthand to understand completely. The dungeons are randomly generated with treasure boxes littered around the area for extra items.
Shuffle Time. By performing attacks or casting spells which shadows are ‘weak’ on, you get the chance to earn more experience points, items, or even Personas. A bunch of cards will be laid out in random and you get to choose prizes that you want to keep. You can choose cards that allow you to pick more cards and if you successfully get all of them, you get a sweep bonus that will give you 3 picks on your next shuffle time.
Fusion, Compendium and Skill Cards. You have a limit on the number of Personas that you can carry with you. I guess it’s weird if you have too many personalities in real life! To unload your Personas, you can fuse them to create stronger types that you can then bring into battle with you. Fusing Personas can pass on abilities that they have to a new one, so it’s great to have different kinds on your hands to use different skills during battle. The compendium is like your Pokedex where you can store Personas and call them again when you need them (by spending money). You can also acquire Skill Cards from your shuffle times and use them to make a Persona learn a certain skill. Or, you may also opt to give it to Marie, the card keeper, so she can store it for you. Doing this will make you lose your card, but at least you can buy them as many times as you want when you need them in the future.
Social Links. This is actually one of the most interesting features in the game. As you might already know, the Persona being referred to in the game comes from the Jungian philosophy of having different selves. As the main premise of the game, you build Personas by establishing ‘social links’ with the different characters in the game. You do this by spending time with them doing different activities or idle chat — just like a dating sim. Different characters hold the keys in creating other types of Personas as well as powering them up through bonuses so it is recommended to build strong relationships with the people in the game. Stronger relationships = stronger Personas in battle.
Characters. The characters in the game are pretty memorable, especially the ones who join your investigation party. I don’t want to discuss this too much as I might spoil something important in the game, but I have to say, I love the character progression. I think Atlus really spent time on this since the game focuses on Social Links so you really get to know more about the characters and their motivations. Another good thing is the quality of the dub. Sure, it can be improved but the dub quality of North American releases are getting better now as compared to the really dismal jobs during the late 90s and early 2000s. Atlus did a good job of getting voice actors that bring these characters into life.
Character Stats. As a high school boy, you have five stats that you have to work on to stay strong in Yasogami High and Inaba in general. Knowledge can be acquired by studying on your desk, the library, listening intently to lectures or answering your teacher’s questions correctly. Expression can be honed by helping your friend answer the teacher’s question and doing some translation jobs (more on this later). Courage can also be strengthened by doing some pretty stupid things like choosing bold responses during conversations, eating strange things in your refrigerator, or working the night shift at your local hospital. Understanding is improved by strengthening your relationships with other people, talking with them and picking the ‘correct’ responses that make you understand their behavior better, or by doing pro-bono work. Lastly, Diligence is a trait that can be worked on by doing typical menial work and training, as well as tending your vegetable garden. Reading books can also help you improve your stats depending on what reading material you have.
Jobs. You can go around town looking for jobs to fund your investigations by way of buying weapons, armors, and accessories for your party. These bastards don’t pony up so you’ll have to earn on your own to equip them. You can do different jobs according to your qualifications (if you have enough stats) like envelope stuffing, translating, origami folding, daycare assistant and more.
Quests. There are a bunch of people in the game who will eventually go to you for help in finding random stuff in Inaba. Most of the things that you need to look for actually exist in the TV world so I have no idea how they know about these things! Successfully completing quests will earn you item rewards or Yen that you can use to buy…
Equipment. You can either buy weapons, armor or accessories in the forgery or the home TV shopping channel. In the forgery, you may need to sell materials that you acquire in the TV world for the smith to create new items that you can buy. Each character has a specialty weapon as well as costumes that change when you are inside dungeons. It’s pretty cosmetic more than functional sometimes but it’s fun to look at.
As for the overall gameplay experience, it might be a bit confusing at the start because a lot of the features are introduced to you in quick successions so you don’t have enough breather to fully comprehend what’s going on. However, as you play and get to understand the different aspects of the game, you’ll be able to appreciate the different features in the game and why they make the game so enjoyable. As I mentioned earlier, the game is actually divided into two – simulation and RPG, so you can enjoy both genres in one game. What is also good is that the game has a lot of room for replayability – there will be stuff that you will surely miss in your first playthrough and the game’s real ending is only revealed in your second finish. But this shouldn’t be a problem because you will surely be compelled to give the game a second go because it is that good.
Anyway, here’s the TL;DR Review!
- Interesting story line
- Well-written character dialogues
- Memorable characters
- Battle system is also fine-tuned for turn-based RPG lovers
- Packed with tons of things to do inside the game
- Free Jungian philosophy lessons
- Free Persona concert videos
- Animation quality can improve, but no biggie
- English dub can improve, but I actually enjoyed hearing “Yokiku-senpie” all the time, so whatever
Things that can swing either way:
- Requires at least 50 hours to finish. This is okay with me, but for people who are used to playing next-gen games that run only at about 6 hours to complete, this can be an issue.
- Replayability. This can also pose problems for people who want to just play once and move on to the next game, but to fully enjoy P4G, you need to invest at least two playthroughs.
Persona 4 Golden is $29.99, available for the PlayStation Vita and via digital download in the PlayStation Network.
LTTP stands for Late to the Party. I played this a few months ago and even had the draft of the post sitting around in the site, but I never got around to finish writing it. This masterpiece here even preceded the new review format, so yeah, it is what it is.