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Persona 4 Golden review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Exponential amounts of new content
  • Noticeable aesthetic and aural improvements
  • The same Persona 4 you know and love
  • Losing progress during long grinds
  • Unpredictable AI patterns during important battles
  • Content overload will keep you busy for a while

Shin Megami Tensei is a polarizing franchise that attracts as many new fans as it repels, with bizarre tales and often macabre setpieces that go all-in on anime aesthetics. To see a niche RPG such as the Persona series garner such a strong following is a breath of fresh air, namely with Persona 4, one of the most popular MegaTen departures yet. The cult hit returns with renewed vigor to a much smaller screen with Persona 4 Golden, a souped-up Vita port. With brand new content and slick updates, this is the definitive way to experience the gripping tale of the Midnight Channel.

You fill the shoes of a student who's just moved from the big city to the rural town of Inaba, to room with his new caretaker Detective Dojima and daughter Nanako. Shortly after the move, a murder occurs. Amidst the chaos, you're getting cozy with fellow students Chie, Yosuke, and Yukiko, who surmise that the murder, and others that follow, might have been a crime of passion. Soon after, you discover a world inside the TV where the killings seem to be taking place. You've got to get to the bottom of things before even more lives are claimed, including yours.

At its core, the turn-based gameplay is relatively unchanged from 2008, but there are plenty of tweaks and rearrangements in place that make you feel as though you're playing an entirely new game. You'll still rise each day and head off to school. Just like in real life, you'll attend class, join one of many after-school clubs, and tackle odd jobs when you get home. Unlike real life, you can also venture into the world inside the TV to navigate dungeons.

The TV world transforms into a differently themed dungeon area with each new victim that must be rescued. This is where you'll spend most of your time in-game if you mean to discover every Persona and every one of the Midnight Channel's secrets. You've got the average turn-based exhibition seen in the majority of JRPGs, except teammates are by default not directly controlled. Instead, you change party tactics between full assaults, conserving ability points or the consumption of healing items whenever possible.

The tactics work reasonably well, and Persona 4's AI manages to make the correct decisions most of the time--but in some boss battles, it becomes a frustrating game of Russian Roulette. Will your teammate use a healing item on you since it’s game over if the protagonist dies? Or will they use a spell that the enemy is immune to and waste their turn? You can never be sure. This isn't a problem unique to P4G or the series in general, but it's still worth mentioning as a frustration. Other than that, combat is vivid and entertaining, with a wide variety of wicked enemies to defeat.

Dungeons may be the most integral part of the campaign, but don’t think that you’ll get far without taking the time to manage your time effectively. You can waste every single day balancing school work, your job, social engagements, and recreational activities and ignore your training in the TV world if you'd like, but that won't be helping your cause. It can be a bit tough to walk the line between eradicating Shadows in the dungeons and learning about Mesopotamia, but it's an endlessly satisfying one.

The aforementioned new content is expertly woven into the narrative that's already in place--so fantastically, in fact, it feels as though you're playing through pieces of the game you just didn't experience on your first playthrough. The most obvious addition comes in the form of a brand new character: the standoffish Marie, who acts as another Social Link and carries with her a rich narrative that should please even those who completed the game back upon release. If Marie doesn't catch your eye, dozens of new school trips, events, and other Social Links are available for completion, as well as new scripted dialogue.

If you felt claustrophobic in Inaba during your forays throughout the town, you can now breathe a sigh of relief. Via motor scooter (a hilarious-yet-efficient mode of transportation new to P4G), you can journey to the neighboring city of Okina, where different shops and additional experiences await you--particularly, a clothing store where you can buy outfits for your party that add purely aesthetic value. A smattering of new Personas, customizable parent movesets for Fusions, and brand new cutscenes round out the package. You can even view musical selections, animation, and other pieces of media via virtual television listings and other programs.

For those wishing to take the journey to the 'net, P4G offers online options for the first time ever. Vox Populi allows you to check your in-game decisions against others who have completed them prior to you. Alternatively, if you're feeling less inquisitive and more helpless in the dungeons during your grind, you can use SOS to call for help from friends via Wi-Fi.

Persona 4 Golden sports a phenomenal amount of content packed into a single card. One of the PlayStation 2's greatest role-playing games of all time graces the Vita with slick, vivid aesthetic improvements, loads of additional areas to explore, and tons of reasons to come back even if you've beaten the game into the ground. If you're looking for your brand-new RPG addiction, pick up a copy of Persona 4 Golden and prepare to lose hundreds of hours of your life to the Midnight Channel. Whether veteran or spirited beginner, you won't be disappointed.

More Info

Release date: Nov 20 2012 - PS Vita (US)
Feb 22 2013 - PS Vita (UK)
Available Platforms: PS Vita
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Atlus
Developed by: ARC System Works
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence

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18 comments

  • RonnyLive19881 - November 13, 2012 4:29 p.m.

    I'd of probably cared about this title a bit more if I wasn't deep into Paper Mario Sticker Star at the moment, maybe this will be cheap on Black Friday or hopefully it will be cheap in a month or two.
  • avantguardian - November 13, 2012 5:01 p.m.

    anyone who overlooks this game is missing out.
  • Cyberninja - November 13, 2012 5:08 p.m.

    Glad this is almost out, had the Vita since launch with hardly anything to play.
  • Relayer71 - November 13, 2012 6:26 p.m.

    "Will your teammate use a healing item on you since it’s game over if the protagonist dies? Or will they use a spell that the enemy is immune to and waste their turn? You can never be sure" - This makes no sense. You should be able to control ALL characters in P4 (unlike P3). Was this removed from this port?
  • overrated44 - November 13, 2012 6:26 p.m.

    *Sigh* I already got rid of my Vita but I would REALLY like to play this. Might have to bust out the PS2 pretty soon.
  • Amuro1X - November 13, 2012 7:08 p.m.

    I'm not sure how the complaint about the AI is valid. The game allows you to directly control your party by switching them to manual control.
  • fullmetallegend - November 13, 2012 7:31 p.m.

    Is that confirmed? I found it incredibly odd that you could choose their actions in the original, but not in this one. That would definitely make that complaint invalid, as well.
  • MidgardDragon - November 14, 2012 5:27 a.m.

    Of course it's confirmed. They didn't remove things from the game, only added to them, If they took out direct control every other review would have made the appropriate big deal about it.
  • JMarsella09 - November 13, 2012 7:16 p.m.

    This will dominate my life when it is out.
  • tehtimeisnow - November 13, 2012 7:19 p.m.

    i wuoldnt ever play this gane the grafics look horrable
  • TheBountyHunted - November 13, 2012 8:55 p.m.

    P4 is easily one of my favorite games, I can't wait to play through it for a third time on the Vita with new stuff!
  • n00b - November 14, 2012 1:52 a.m.

    as good as black ops 2
  • MidgardDragon - November 14, 2012 5:25 a.m.

    Do you not know to switch to direct control? That negative of AI should not be there as you should nepver be letting the AI be in control.
  • RedHarlow - November 14, 2012 8:31 a.m.

    NARUTOOO!
  • profile0000 - November 14, 2012 11:59 a.m.

    I really want to play P4, and it seems P4G is the best way to do it, but I don't have a Vita. Is it worth buying a Vita just for this game?
  • RainOps - November 19, 2012 12:43 a.m.

    I would say yes since you can get a bundle for $199 with the Black Friday sales going on.
  • Nocturne989 - December 2, 2012 10:49 a.m.

    I was somewhat skeptical that this game could suck me in again, since I preordered the PS2 version and beat it like 6 times. I was so wrong. The new content, sleek upgrades to visuals, new characters, the other new features, and the fact that this game still holds up amazingly in its own right make Persona 4 Golden an insanely amazing experience. I'm stuck watching the Midnight Channel again :)
  • IBReady - December 12, 2012 1:23 p.m.

    um... as stated earlier, you can change your party members to direct control. that's always been in P4 and among the smartest changes to P3P.

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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