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Persona 4 The Golden Review

Billed as one of the best games of 2012 and the perfect ending to a decent PS Vita's first full year, it has taken us at ShopTo a while to get started on this review, what with the passing of the norovirus being celebrated with far too much intoxicating "medicine". So for those waiting our opinion on this revamped title from Atlus we apologise, but it has been a thrill reviewing this game from start to finish, though sadly you do have to wait a little longer for its release over here in the UK and Europe.

Persona 4 Golden is an interesting mix of action and roleplaying, taking on the life simulation aspects of many games that do not really translate well over here, but it still has all of the familiar trappings of a Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) so already there is a specific market looking at this game and to be honest, if you like these sort of games it's a definite purchase; but what about all the other Vita owners who are still adamant there are no new games to play on their expensive portable console? Well, having a number four in the title will put many off grabbing this but in reality this is pretty much stand-alone title, with no previous experience required to get enjoyment from this game; in fact it is more likely to open your eyes to the previous titles readily available on the PlayStation store.

The story itself starts off like a classic Japanese horror with ideas along the lines of One Missed Call and the Ring, with your hero moving into the quiet town of Inaba as the parents are working away for a while so you are being looked after by an uncle and his young daughter. As the new boy at school the hero is all a bit nervous and awkward but you quickly make the first steps towards being accepted and making friends and before you know it you are hanging out with a small group, hearing gossip and egging each other on about watching a mysterious late night TV show called the Midnight Channel, a strange programme that only appears on rainy nights. What's even weirder is that since your arrival, a strange fog keeps on appearing over the town that when it lifts leaves a dead body from a previously missing person hanging from a rooftop television antenna, spooky stuff. With one of your own friends disappearing you then discover that you are able to traverse through the Midnight Channel into a strange "TV World" on the other side; so your hero and a few friends team up to venture into the world beyond the Midnight Channel, armed with a golf club and meeting a strange creature called Teddie to save their friend and hopefully solve this mystery.

My own personal experience with JRPGs is that the majority of gameplay tends to be the same, surrounded by an insane story that most of the time gets lost in translation and shows the vast differences between our cultures involving overly cute characters in bizarre situations. That's not the case with Persona 4 Golden, with the game being split between the realistic and the fantastical. The real world of Inaba is where you will spend a lot of your time, with most days being split into four segments, morning, school, after school and evening. For the majority of the day you will be attending school lessons, making friends and catching up on gossip, a sort of life simulation; interacting with the locals and just trying to get through the day, with the after school "free time" allowing you to visit the TV World, gain some hard earned cash or study. With the day split into four and a whole year to solve the mystery you would think that you have all the time in the world, but just like life, it flies by at a quick pace, no sooner do you begin your new term that you're start sitting mid-term exams, participating in extra-curricular school activities like joining clubs, hanging out with friends and family, dating, getting and holding a job plus all that revising; just as you start to think it's easy to progress, random events like eating a bad pickle can ruin all your well laid plans.

Though there is the main quest of finding out what is happening on the Midnight Channel and saving whoever gets trapped there are also plenty of side quests to partake in, with many items being earned to assist in the TV World to even striking more unlikely friendships like the local town fox who, once befriended will join you in the TV world to offer its healing powers. When you do eventually start making regular visits through the TV, the fighting in Persona 4 Golden totally nails it, offering a standard turn based attack system but giving players a huge choice of how to participate, either controlling your hero and setting tactics to playing as each individual team member. Playing as just the hero for the majority really kept the action flowing well, with other characters supporting each other, picking each other up after knock backs and healing. Each of the friends that join you on your adventures will have their own personal Persona, levelling up and earning more unique powers, but they can use only one that stays with them through the game, letting you focus more on your own progression. Your hero has the unique ability to switch Persona, utilising each of their powers and strengths to turn the tide of battle. The classic JRPG action is all turn based attacks and guards, using physical or elemental based skills via your Persona, figuring out weaknesses and trying to knock back enemies to gain extra bonus attacks. All of the powers and items are very easy to use, each one giving brief descriptions of what they do, something many games seem to ignore.

When you do start to visit the TV World, you will find it a very strange place, inhabited by Teddie, a rotund and strange teddy bear and the evil shadows that lurk in the dungeons. The world is directly influenced by whoever has been thrown in and kidnapped, with the shadows then populating the rooms and corridors, waiting to pounce. The dungeon areas give you a bit more freedom than the real world of Inaba, with time apparently stopping in the real world, allowing you to take your time and explore the many randomly generated corridors, finding more Persona, fighting a huge range of freaky looking enemies and of course finding the most recent kidnapped townsperson before they end up as a morbid roof decoration back in Inaba.

The Persona themselves are triggered by using a tarot card that is collected, unlocking the power that resides within you; starting with a very weak Persona, you will quickly collect more from Shuffle Time drops that occasionally appear after defeating enemies. Then during battles you are able to switch to whatever other Persona you have equipped, utilising their skills and levelling them up to earn more powers and strength. Though there are two main worlds in Person 4 Golden, there is a third that you occasionally visit, The Velvet Room. Located in the back of a limo that travels in the space between awake and dreams, the passengers in this strange limo offer you guidance and also the chance to purchase collected Persona and the option to fuse two or three Persona so you can create all new and more powerful Persona. It is at the Velvet Room that all of the life simulation side quests come to fruition, with social links with specific characters then granting extra powers to specific Persona and whilst you are able to ignore the majority of these, it is really beneficial to try and make as many friends and also try and keep them happy to maximise your potential to create some very original and powerful Persona.

Persona 4 Golden is a title that will be passed on by many due to the title and the threat of yet another JRPG but it is so much more. Not having played the original PlayStation 2 version I was unsure what to expect and the relatively slow paced intro did not help, not rushing in and taking a slow pace with no real combat taking place within the first couple of hours, edging ever slowly towards the first few battles, unlocking your own Persona power and then venturing into the TV World. Thankfully this is helped along with some great script and vocal talents as unlike other JRPG's, the humour works as it feels more western in style, translating really well with the expanded vocal tracks and is also very adult in the way it deals with some issues rarely tackled by computer games, what with the general plot of the game having characters required to have the strength of heart to face oneself and the shadows themselves, taking on bastardized versions their inner thoughts, twisting them into the monsters that populate the TV World.

I will say, the way the game is laid out is perfect for the Vita and it's portable nature, giving you plenty of opportunities to save your progress, even in the large dungeon runs you are able to drop out and either go back home for a rest and restock your items or swap Persona at the Velvet Room if you feel your current set is lacking. Also with the Vita version comes plenty of new items and additions to the original game, firstly the graphics have been given a total overhaul and from gameplay to the anime cut scenes the game looks great. This filters through to the music that helps set the perfect tone and even the hours of additional character speech included, Persona 4 Golden really goes that extra step over many other reissues. Persona 4 Golden also uses some of the Vita touch screen and online options but not really in the classic way we would expect. During battles in the dungeon if you find you are struggling you can always "Ask for Help", receiving a power boost from other online players. Tapping the top left of the screen will bring up Vox Populi, a screen full of what the rest of the world has done at this point and possibly offering you some guidance. Tapping the right will bring up a TV Overlay screen, allowing you to pick from a variety of TV shows that are unlocked during your progress, from replaying cut scenes, listening to the game soundtrack to watching tutorials, live music events and even trailers and clips of previous Persona games.

Split between a dungeon crawling RPG and a life simulation game, each ties into each other really well, turning Persona 4 Golden quickly into a rare title that you just can't seem to put down, with the story slowly building over the days and months, it can and will take hours to get there, but it's so worth it.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

(Version Tested: PS Vita)

- Looks great on the Vita screen
- Loads of in-game speech
- Even non-JRPG fans will enjoy this


- A very slow intro

Edited On 01 Feb, 2013

( 21 )
PrometheusFan 2 years ago
Good review, but personally I'd have added a couple of pros in the superb combat system and ridiculous amount of bonus content included via the 'TV listings' menu... with another con as well in the form of the slight 'ghosting' on the main character when running in non-dungeon gameplay. Best game I played last year though for sure. Great value for money.
A2GMAN 2 years ago
this would probably be a game that will be rare to find. same as ni no kuni. so i cant wait for the games release.
da_kerr 2 years ago
Whilst I accept the first few hours can be very slow, this is definitely a day one purchase for me. Nice to see some quality titles hitting the Vita so people will start taking note of it. Plus, by the people who made Catherine? Count me in! :D
Its true it takes about 2 hours for your first proper battle so thats a bit of a grind, but the same can be said for Ni No Kuni.
Datastatic 2 years ago
Alot of Japanese games are like this I find. Like Disgaea and such like. If the story keeps you in, you don't notice it though.
DynamiteWhyte 2 years ago
I only started Ni No Kuni last night, but I think it was about 40 odd minutes before the battles started... which admittedly still isn't exactly throwing you in at the deep end, but that's JRPGs for you. Disgaea though? I remember that as putting you into the combat pretty quickly, but it's been a while for me.
PrometheusFan 2 years ago
Gummy 2 years ago
It's tempting to get Vita for this game. Really enjoyed Persona 4 a lot. And disagree about the intro. Personally, I didn't find it to drag at all. Recommend it if you have a Vita and you fancy getting into Persona. There's quite a few extra scenes in The Golden.
Rumour has it that because of the low Vita sales this may well be getting ported onto the PS3.
Robichoico 2 years ago
First I've heard of such a rumour. And Persona 4 Golden has actually been a big seller, especially in Japan, despite the low Vita install base.
PrometheusFan 2 years ago
Datastatic 2 years ago
I reviewed this, your review is better.
J-D 2 years ago
trust me everyone, this game is amazing, its unlike anything you've ever played before, it felt more like a memory of school life rather than just another "game". Yes it take a long time to get into but please please give it a chance.
To be fair its not unlike Persona 3, and 2 and 1 and very similar to Sakura Wars.
Datastatic 2 years ago
never played any of those, i wanna try p3 tho
J-D 2 years ago
Robichoico 2 years ago
I find this to be the best game on the Vita while also finding it to be very over-rated. It's fun and all but just feels like it takes forever for anything to be done. At least the conversations are fun unlike some others (I'm looking at you Kingdom Hearts: Days) JRPG wise it's probably the best one out last year.. (unless you include Pokemon as a JRPG) but that's not saying much either. However compare it to Xenoblade or Ni No Kuni and it can't help but lag behind by quite a bit
Robichoico 2 years ago
I find this to be the best game on the Vita while also finding it to be very over-rated. It's fun and all but just feels like it takes forever for anything to be done. At least the conversations are fun unlike some others (I'm looking at you Kingdom Hearts: Days) JRPG wise it's probably the best one out last year.. (unless you include Pokemon as a JRPG) but that's not saying much either.
shiny miller 2 years ago
Now this is the sort of game that has me tempted to get a Vita. Not ports of 3rd shooters or spin-offs from Uncharted or Call of Duty. Sounds completely unique (I realise the irony of saying that when it's the 4th in a series).
And the fact that it's pretty much a port XD But don't let that fool you. It's not slapping HD on the title or overhauled graphics. It's got some extra characters and scenes in.
Robichoico 2 years ago
It uses the same graphical assets but the game goes far deeper than being a mere port. There's no part of the game that wasn't improved or added to in some way for the Golden version and the amount of new content alone adds up to more content than most standalone games offer in their entirety. It's hardly a Starfox 3D/Zelda 3D level of 'bare minimum' effort handheld transferring here.
PrometheusFan 2 years ago
Salvo 2 years ago
It seems to me that there are quite many people who got into the Shin Megami Tensei franchise with this game, because everyone sounds so blown away by it (as they should be if they never played smt before) while the golden looks to me like a new Persona 3 with much better graphics and different story - don't get me wrong though, there's nothing wrong with that since the gameplay of P3 is indeed wonderful. It just makes me think that the golden is the game that made Persona so widely known and acclaimed. This is definitely on my list of must-haves.
fusearts 2 years ago
Looks fantastic. A system seller for me I think. Its so different from the generic RPGs around at the moment. Shame its not a completely new game, but this can keep us going unti the fifth instalment.
CookieMcCrumble 2 years ago
I so looking forward to getting this, I still have the ps2 version but have been watching this since revealed and I need it. My vita will never get put down.

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