As I sit in my computer chair and begin to write this review, hundreds of thoughts float around in my mind. Ciphering through which thoughts to put to paper, one thought stands out to me the most: “Man, I need to get back to Persona 4 Golden.” Although I have not completely finished the game, I could not wait till I finished the game to write this review. I needed to let everyone know that Persona 4 Golden is phenomenal! And, just because I have not finished the game that does not mean I am not capable of writing a review. I have put forty five hours into it.
Golden is not just a port of the PS2 version, Persona 4. Atlus completely revamped the graphics and gave it a nice, clean feel for the Vita’s LED screen. They added more dungeons to explore, extra bosses and an extra character. Online functionality is also new. When you start the game, you are offered the option to play the game online. Doing this will allow you to see what other players have done for that particular day (If you do not know what I am talking about, you will by the end). Also, while fighting through a dungeon, you can click “SOS” in the top left screen to send out a help line to other players playing the game. They can send you items and boosts to help you out. A cool feature, indeed.
Persona 4 Golden starts in Inaba, a small Japanese town not known for anything, really. You play as a young high school student who is thrown head first into the deep end when murders start popping up around Inaba. A forgotten legend states that if you look at your TV screen at midnight on a rainy night, an image of your soul mate will appear. Your life will never be the same once you look at that screen. The murders are correlated with the images on the TV, but how so? That is the big mystery. You have been gifted with an unique power that lets you enter the TV through the screen into another world where the murders occur. You must find out who is sending people to that TV and with the help of your friends and personas, bring peace to Inaba.
So, there is a lot going on in this game. Personas, social links, side quests, dungeon crawling, character building. But, do not let that make you cower in fear. All of these elements are opened to you in small doses making it easy to figure everything out.
The game is for the most part an interactive story. You spend a lot of time just watching the characters talk. There is a setting in the options that makes it so the dialogue scrolls by itself, and I really recommend that, so all you have to do is sit back and relax and watch the cutscene unfold. Most of the scenes are awkward… but awkward in such a good way that you will find yourself laughing more than cringing. You have exactly one year starting on April 16th to save Inaba. Each day has different objectives and things to do. It is all up to you what you want to pick. You can read a book, you can spend time with a friend, you can catch bugs, cook, fight, whatever you want. This is probably my favorite part of the game.
The gameplay aspect is in the form of dungeon crawling. That is where the other world comes in that I explained earlier. You can have up to four players in your group. You start out on floor one and you work your way up. Each floor has a different pattern each time you enter it, so number one will not look the same if you came back to it after leaving it. After a battle ends, a mini game called Shuffle time will begin and cards will be shown, all giving you different kinds of rewards. You get to choose which one you want, but be careful; some cards are harmful. When you encounter an enemy, you will use something called Personas along with your basic attack.
Personas are ghost like creatures projected by your inner soul. Not making that up. Each one of the main characters has one. It is what your true soul form would be like. You can have hundreds of different personas. You can find them, create them and fuse them together to make more personas. There are different elements implemented in the battle system that the personas will specialize in. Some personas will be great with fire based attacks. Some will be great with wind. You can fuse personas together to get the best of both. Enemies will have strengths and weaknesses, so you will need to figure out which persona you will use on what enemy. Very easy to understand, difficult to master.
To make stronger personas, however, segueway, you need to build stronger social links. A social link is the bond you share with another character. To build this up, you must spend time with them. Each time you do, a cutscene will unravel and you will understand more about that person. There are over twenty different social links you can connect with. Once you max out a social link, that character will give you a nice gift and you can make extra rare personas. The social link story arcs are unbelievably addicting. If I could get this game on a never ending loop of social links, I would. They are all super well done.
As I stated before, in Golden an online function has been added giving you the ability to see what other players are doing on certain days, whether it be playing basketball or studying. You do not have to follow the most used option; do what you want. Along with this, Atlus added a TV station at the main screen that will give you different channels like a quiz game show or upcoming events and news for Golden.
Persona 4 Golden is by far worth the purchase of a Vita. It is filled of hundreds of hours of content with definite replayability, characters that are so complex and unique that you will get attached to them (Oh, Rise), and the battle system is so easy and so addicting that you will not know how to put it down. Do yourself a favor: go buy a Vita and get Golden.