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Persona 4: Golden (Vita) artwork

Persona 4: Golden (Vita) review

"Rated M for Mara."

Persona 4 Golden is the fifth and (at least for now) final port/remake of a Persona game on a Sony handheld, and it’s the most complete one, as well.

When Persona 3 was ported to the PSP, there were some tradeoffs. The game was missing all of its anime cutscenes, its overworld had been replaced by a point-and-click interface, and the bonus “The Answer” chapter from the FES rerelease was nowhere to be found. Instead, it had a whole new optional main character. There’s still no “definitive” version of Persona 3, but the same can’t be said for Persona 4. Golden is the only version of the game you need.

At its core, the game is pretty much the same as it was on PS2. If you’ve played Persona 3, you know what you’re getting into. You play as a highschool student, a new arrival to the small town of Inaba. Most of the time, you go to school, study, participate in extracurricular activities, and build “social links” by making friends and nurturing relationships. All of that would be kind of boring, without the Midnight Channel, a TV channel that appears at 12:00 AM, showing images of people who are about to be (or already have been) kidnapped and thrown into the TV world. On those occasions, you’ll venture into that world, drawing power from the aforementioned personal relationships to strengthen your “personas” and explore dungeons to rescue the people trapped inside.

Persona 4: Golden asset

Persona 4 takes a lot of inspiration from Jungian psychology, with personas (amazing creatures that emerge from within the player characters to help them in battle) and shadows (the enemy monsters) representing the masks characters wear to interact with the world, and the sides of their personalities they reject or keep hidden respectively. Dungeons, too, are based on the secret personalities of those trapped inside of them. Dungeon themes are certainly interesting, including such bases as a castle, representing one character’s longing to be rescued from her life by a “prince charming,” and a bath house, representing another character’s struggle to deal with his own perception of masculinity.

Dungeons are interesting to look at, but a complete drag to actually explore. Persona 4’s biggest weakness is that dungeons are randomly generated, using only two different pieces: one-block-wide hallways and two-by-two square rooms. That’s it. Every floor of every dungeon is built from those two blocks, with one room containing a stairway to the next floor. They can change the wallpaper all they want, but dungeons remain repetitive. The only breaks come in the form of very rare light puzzles. You'll come across a locked door and have to search for a key in a random one of those square rooms, for example, or you'll find solitary, unmarked tiles that teleport you to another spot on that floor. Puzzles only happen at a rate of about one per dungeon, if they happen at all, and they don’t do much to help break up the tedium.

However, aside from that one point, Persona 4 does basically everything right. The battle system is simple, with only two “tricks.” You can knock down enemies by exploiting their weaknesses and then gang up on them with an “all out attack,” and your main character can switch personas at any time (changing his stats, spells and elemental weaknesses in the process). This simple system is put to good use, however. While the game isn’t as tough as Persona 3, boss battles do require a level of strategy not seen in most JRPGs. Some battles may seem unwinnable at first, but none of them are cheap. They just require a certain amount of preparation, and they are satisfying once finally won. Don’t expect to power through the game using the same four party members and the same single persona the whole time. Prepare to spend some time fusing personas together to create new ones, which is easier than ever, thanks to the new ability to choose which spells are passed on to the newly created personas.

Persona 4: Golden asset

The story is a murder mystery that’s actually pretty interesting. Characters are likable and well-acted. You can build relationships with all of your party members outside of battle, strengthening their personas and leading to them all being well-developed characters, if you put the time into exploring their side stories. This new version has new voices for the characters Teddie and Chie, to match their voices in Persona 4: Arena. Teddie’s new voice is similar to his old voice, but Chie’s is very different. Chie used to sound quite a bit older and more reserved than reading her text and looking at her body language would lead you to believe. Returning fans will probably complain about her new voice, at least at first, but her new, younger, and more energetic voice suits the character better.

Persona 4 Golden has a nice bit of new content for returning players. There are tons of optional costumes for each character, which have no effect on gameplay but are a nice bonus. There are new personas for both the main character and the supporting cast. Enemy weaknesses and stats have been mixed up a bit, meaning the familiar battle tactics won’t always work. The post-battle “shuffle time” system (a mechanic through which the player obtains various bonuses) has also been revamped. Some new anime cutscenes are included, with some new story events, including an epilogue, that range from entertaining to boring to sickeningly and obnoxiously fanservicey. (All story scenes, new and old, can be skipped, which will come in handy for those who have already played Persona 4 or just don’t need cartoon teenage breasts shoved into their faces during that one new scene.) Those new events take up time that would otherwise be spent building social links, and the game makes up for it by allowing you to play through the months of January and February, which were skipped in the original PS2 release.

Golden also includes a new story character and two new social links to build, along with a new dungeon. The new dungeon is somewhat late in the game, and may serve as an annoyance if you’re ready for the game to be over at that point, but it’s also the most interesting dungeon in the game. It implements a few gameplay tweaks involving items and magic limitations that force you to play a bit differently from usual. The floor layout is still comprised of those same hallways and rooms as the other dungeons, though.

Persona 4: Golden asset

This release includes an extras menu, including, among other things, a cutscene viewer and music player, clips from live performances of Persona 3 and 4 music, and a quiz minigame. Speaking of music, Persona 4 has a soundtrack worthy of the Persona name. The soundtrack is varied, setting the mood of dramatic scenes well, and getting you pumped to battle bosses or explore those terrible dungeons. That music player got a good bit of use from me, and it probably will from you, too.

Persona 4 Golden is one of the Vita’s best games, even if it is a port of a PS2 game. If you have a Vita and you like RPGs, you probably don’t need me to tell you that this is the game you’ve been waiting for. This port improves on an already great original game, with new content that’s (more or less) seamlessly woven into the existing game. The new content may or may not be enough to justify a purchase from returning fans, depending on the individual, but those people have already decided whether or not they want to play Persona 4 again. For new players, this is a game that’s not to be missed.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (November 12, 2012)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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