Persona 4 Golden
In the little rural town of Inaba murder is afoot. Mysterious deaths, lacking possible explanations in the how and why are somehow tied to an unnatural fog that’s begun to seep in. Rumors are stirring up, both of the murders themselves and the Midnight Channel that switches itself on when it rains and the television is off, at the stroke of midnight. But, there’s bigger concerns: you have to go to high school. And work a part time job to earn some extra money. And make friends. And join the basketball team. And the drama club. And you might as well pick up a book and read it late at night, before you go to bed.
Persona 4 returns in this port of the PS2 original, complete with minor and negligible additions to the experience. The most interesting additions come in the form of two new characters, both with their own relationship storylines to pursue. More enemies and new personas to create make for nifty bonus material. It’s the quasi multiplayer that’s there, but it doesn’t add much to the game.
While in a dungeon you can send out a distress signal and respond to distress signals sent by others. If someone comes to your aid, by clicking on their SOS button, you’ll receive a slight increase to your health reserves when you next enter battle. Outside of dungeons there is a feature in which you can see the top five things people did that day. Not the most exciting addition, but it does help give a little advice as to the assortment of choices you can make.
If you haven’t played Persona 4, or any Persona game, have no fear of being left in the dark. You are the hero, and you utilize summoned personas to fight alongside you. No previous knowledge is necessary to understand the storyline. It’s a long and beefy one, measured by the day, over the course of a year. There’s a stronger emphasis on the actual role playing than most, having you spend a large part of it living the day-to-day life of a young boy.
And whether you’re spending free time with other characters, studying in the library and working a second job, everything builds towards making you a stronger person. For every social link you strengthen you’ll find yourself able to craft better personas to use in battle. The time spent studying or reading books endow bonuses to your character stats, meaning that performing part time jobs will likely result in more money. Everything is expensive.
And every once in awhile, spliced in between bouts of character and story development, there are dungeons to crawl through. This is Persona 4‘s weakest link; though that’s not saying they’re bad. Just tedious. While the actual locations differ they’re merely graphical overlays disguising a different set of randomly generated hallways. Enemies bar your path but these fights are avoidable, if you so choose.
When you fight, it boils down to testing out spells on your enemies to discover their weakness. Every foe, and hero, is weak to something. Smack an enemy with something they’re weak to and you’ll gain an extra turn, and vice versa. It’s all about acquiring control over the battle. Fights can be won or lost depending on the attention you give towards the strengths and weaknesses of both the personas you wield and the enemies you confront.
These enemies are just as random as locations they populate. There’s that JRPG methodology of simply changing the color of a creature and calling it new, but largely this game throws an eclectic assortment of foes at you. The bestiary ranges from hands that resemble Thing from the Addams Family, to dinner tables complete with tableware floating above their black sheets. There’s no logic or reason behind it, despite the fact that you battle in themed locales. Although I suppose if the enemies within the sauna had to be based closer on its purpose, the game might be little too steamy for Western audiences.
And while technically sound, even with its enhancements Persona 4 Golden is still a port of a PS2 game. There was only so much the system can do, so if you’re expecting something that will utilize the potential of the Vita, you won’t find that here. It’s the story and the characters that populate it that make this a standout experience. Persona 4 Golden is a long game, complete with an engrossing story that, even at it’s great length, make you want to see it through to the end, one day at a time.