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Persona 4 Golden review

 

My first memory of Persona 4 was when I saw it on the self of the Game Crazy that I used to work at. It looked interesting enough for me to rent it from the Hollywood video side of the store. I only played a couple of hours of the game, but it was enough to convince me that I must buy this game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the game due to “low customer interest”. By the time the game did come in, I left the company right before it went bankrupt and closed down all of its stores. When I saw it at GameStop a few years later, it was still being sold at the new price, $39.99. Which isn’t so bad, but I already had moved on to the next generation of games, which took most of my attention and money. Then Sony’s next portable system was announced and it was revealed that Persona 4 was to be ported to it as Persona 4 Golden. This was my very first Vita game and the one I played the most.

It’s been five years since Persona 4 Golden released on the Vita and with the release of Persona 5 earlier this month, I thought I’d go play the game again and see what made me love the game in the first place and does it still hold up today.

Persona

Persona fusion made simpler- The battle system of Persona 4 Golden revolves around the use of Personas. As the player and the party travel through the dungeons in the shadow world, he is able to collect more personas to use for battle. Personas can also be fused together in order to create a more power persona. In the original P4, in order to get a persona with the abilities that you wanted instead of a random ability added. P4 Golden makes fusing personas much simpler and gives control of which abilities can get carried over to the new persona. There’s even a persona forecast that lets you see what days give bonus effects and can decide what day would be good to fuse personas. The new fusion option give are search, normal and triangle. Search complies a list of all the possible personas you can create using the ones currently in your possession. Normal is take two personas and fusing them into one, and triangle is taking three and fusing them into one.

Gameplay tweaked- There’s a saying that goes “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”. With re-mastered ports, HD upgrades and the like, there is always someone who feels that things need to be tweaked just a bit. This goes for the original developers and the devs in charge of making the port/upgrade. Sometimes the tweaks are needed, other times they take perfectly good game design and mess it up somehow (looking at you Silent Hill HD collection). With the case of P4 Golden, Atlus made a couple of gameplay tweaks that actually make the game better and more accessible to new comers. Characters and shadow monsters have been rebalanced. Tag team attacks, which has close friends (such as Chie and Yukiko for example) join together for a powerful attack, have been added in. A new cavalry attack that involves party members not active in battle performing a follow up attack in addition to an all-out attack made by the main party was added in as well. These changes/additions however did seem to speed up the battle encounters a bit, but I personally didn’t mind.

Visually appealing- Not all games that make the jump from last gen graphics to this gen graphics are  pleasing to the eye. Sometimes the polygons can get distorted by the upgrade and will make the game look even more dated that it already was. In P4 Golden, gone are all of the jagged edges and sharp points. Atlus took the time to smooth out the graphics, making it look way better looking than the original.The colors really pop and makes the game even more visually appealing, especially during the anime cut scenes, thanks to the 5 in 960 x 544 OLED screens. Speaking of the anime…

Anime cut scenes get updated- Studio AIC ASTA  (Tenchi Muyo, Ah! My Goddess) was the studio that did the anime cut scenes in the first P4. They returned to do the anime cut scenes for the rerelease of the game, called Persona 4 The Golden in Japan, right after coming off of developing an anime based off the game. Thanks to several animation advances since the original game’s release, most anime is now in HD which lends for brighter colors and detailed cells. AIC ASTA took what they did for the anime and applied it to P4 Golden and even added in extend  scenes that were shown in the anime and not in the original game.

 

Great soundtrack- When it comes to JRPGs, especially those that have an anime influence to them, the music can be a bit too JPoppy for most people, even to those who like JPop, myself included. Though the songs may be appropriate for the game itself, they tend to be tracks that most wouldn’t want on their music playlist. It doesn’t help that a lot of song are in Engrish which can also turn off people. Persona 4 Golden on the other hand finds a great balance and fusion of Jpop, jazz, rap, and rock. From the laid back harmony of the harmonica in the game’s new intro song, Shadow World, to the fast pace guitar riffs of the battle theme Time to Make History, there is not a single bad track in the game. Vocalist Shihoko Hirata does a great job belting out each song that has vocals despite all of the lyrics being in English.  This is all in part to the great music direction of SMT series composer Shoji Meguro and lyricist Reiko Tanaka. These songs can appeal to all kinds of gamers without excluding anyone, which is what a soundtrack should do. My personal favorites are the new opening theme Shadow World and the new normal battle theme Reach Out to the Truth.

Relatable characters- A problem most people have with JRPGs is that they can’t project themselves on to that character. They are either to bright and cheery or moody and dreary. Simply put, they can’t relate to the hero whose destiny has him or her is forced to save the world though they feel like they are not good enough and etc. With P4 Golden, all of the characters and even some of the NPCs are likeable and relatable. Sure the main cast is a group of Japanese high school students, but each of those students have personalities that we have, can relate to or may have encountered before. These characters display the same emotions that we would display when going about our day. I think that’s why the characters are so likeable, there a bit of something for everyone in the characters personalities.

Best English dub- With most fans of JRPGs, a majority of the time they will prefer to play with Japanese audio and English text, just like with their anime. P4 Golden’s English dub is one of the best dubs in a JRPG that I have play so far. Atlus brought back the VAs from the first game to reprise their roles, with the exception of Chie and Teddie’s VAs. The English voices don’t sound too annoying or grating when they talk in cut scenes and they match the characters’ personalities that they are voicing.  In the case of Chie and Teddie, I think that the new VAs did a great job with their characters, especially Chie.

 

Vita exclusive additions- When Atlus made the decision to port the original P4 to the Vita, they also realized that with the added power and space of the Vita that they could add things to the game that they couldn’t do before. P4 was already a long and enjoyable game, now with the new exclusive Vita additions P4 Golden is longer and is better than the original. First off, the neighboring city of  Okina is now opened for players to explore. Here they can watch a movie with their friends extract skill cards at café Chagall and even buy additional costumes over at Croco Furs. You can sneak out at night and hang out at the Shiroku Pub, which is the item shop during the day. There is also a feature that allows players to check the in game weather when not near a TV and my favorite feature, the TV Listing. This is basically the extras section of the game. Here you can access all of the cut scenes that you have unlocked so far in the game, listen to the music , watch TV commercials for the Persona games, a quiz show, live concerts and if you play between midnight and 1am something beary unusual will happen. Atlus took a lot of time and care in adding more content to an already great game.  

Vox Populi and SOS- In addition to the Vita additions to P4 Golden, two new features standout, Vox Populi and the SOS system. What makes these two features standout is they act as a sort of a remote multiplayer. Vox Populi lets you see what other players have done during that point of time in the game. So if you have no idea what you should do, press on the blue icon on the top left of the screen and tweet clouds will appear with others have done at that point. As for the SOS system, when exploring inside the TV dungeons, there is a little red SOS icon on the top left. Press it and an alert will be sent out to other players. Once they get the SOS they can send extra health and magic over to you to use. The more people respond the more health and magic you get. This is a great help especially when going against long and drawn out boss battles.

 

Shadows

I couldn’t really find one thing about P4 Golden that I didn’t like. I could say that it would have been nice to have dual audio support, or that the battle system should have left the way it was in the original. But if I did, that would be nit picking to the extreme since I loved the English dub and that I didn’t mind the new gameplay fixes. Atlus did a great job of what made the game great In the first place and just added even more things to make it ever greater. I can see why, out of all of the Persona games and even out of all of the games in the Megami Tensei series, Persona 4 is a fan favorite.

Persona 4 Golden took the relatable characters, the awesome soundtrack, wonderful visuals and added in Vita exclusive content to make what can be considered the best game on the Vita period. This is a game that everyone will like: JRPGs fans, WRPGs fans, anime fans, school drama novella fans and anyone who appreciates a good story and is not afraid to explore a new genre. If you haven’t played Persona 5 yet, but want to get in on the Persona goodness, get Persona 4 Golden. This game is a must have in anyone’s Vita collection.

10/10

 

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