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The original Persona 4 game that released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2008 is probably one of the best games I've ever played. Definitely one of the most memorable, and easily one of my top favorites of all-time. I'm sure many other fellow gamers feel the same way. I highly believe that once you play it, you'll fall in love with it or at least have a good understanding on why it's so highly praised. Since it came pretty late into the PS2's life, with the PS3 already being out for a while, it probably has been overlooked by many. Fortunately, Atlus has given new life to Persona 4 in a new release for a new handheld.
Persona 4 Golden is a new Vita game based off of the Persona 4 game for PS2. Unlike Atlus's other Persona remakes on the PSP, Persona 4 Golden isn't a straight-up port like Persona and Persona 2. It also doesn't see many drastic subtractions due to hardware limitations, as seen in Persona 3 Portable. Persona 4 Golden for the Vita is still the same Persona 4, but with huge additions and many positive changes that not only make Persona 4 better, but may probably make the entire series better.
If you're unfamiliar with Persona 4, the story puts you into the role of the main hero, whom you get to name however you please. You are a high school student transferring to the small town on Inaba to stay with your uncle for a year, due to your parent's jobs. Not long after your arrival, the small town gets shaken up by a disturbing murder that gets followed up by another murder in the same way. At the same time, you're just catching wind of a mysterious myth called the Midnight Channel, which appears at midnight whenever it rains. All these mysterious events occur all the same time and you get roped into some big adventure. All of which you get to play out during your one year time in Inaba.
If you've played Persona 4 before, much of it is still the same. You're playing the whole year out and get to choose how each day is played out, majority of the time. On days where no specific event is to occur, you'll get the chance to move about Inaba and to explore the many stores and places available. While Persona 4 had a good amount of things available for you to do, Persona 4 Golden introduces more places to check out and more things to do to spend your day.
Daily events are split into two categories. There are the social aspects and then there's the dungeon part. When choosing to undergo social events to spend your day, you'll have many options to choose from. As you progress through the game, you'll meet up with many different characters and get many opportunities to grow your relationship with them. These are called Social Links. The more time you spend with a character, the higher level your Social Link with them will be. Other things to do in town will have an affect on your character traits, like courage and understanding. Improving these traits will give you more Social Link opportunities and also leveling up those links a bit easier by giving you more options of dialogue.
If you choose to not spend your day out in the town, you'll most likely be jumping into the TV world. This is where most of the action happens in the game, as this is where actual combat takes place. You'll be entering randomly-generated floors of a dungeon with your party members fighting an enemy called shadows. You'll move around looking for chests to open and stairs to get to the next floor, with a boss waiting at the highest floor. You'll encounter many shadows along the way, which will trigger battles.
Combat in Persona 4 Golden is your traditional turn-based system. The main objective to winning each battle is by uncovering what weaknesses your enemy has by attacking them directly or using your Personas. By attacking an enemy with their weakness, you'll earn yourself another chance to attack in order to rack up more damage. It's a simple setup and easy to understand. But it can also go bad really quick as your team will also have its share of weaknesses that the enemy can exploit.
By default, you'll only have direct control of your main character, while actions of your party members will be played out by an AI. For the most part, the AI is pretty reliable. They'll attack an enemy's weak point if they can and heal anyone in need of it. But they can also make some questionable calls as well. Fortunately, you can assume direct control of your teammates and call all the shots yourself.
While you can equip your party with weapons and armor to make them better, it's the Personas that will prove the most useful. The main character is special, as he can have more than one Persona with him and can change which Persona is used in battle. This introduces a whole other element of the game, which is the ability to raise and fuse Personas. You can find extra Persona in dungeons, which you can level up for them to learn new abilities. Or you can fuse them to make new Personas. Each Persona is tied to an Arcana type, which is tied to one of your Social Links. If you fuse a Persona with an Arcana with a high level Social Link, that newly fused Persona will receive a huge boost in power. So the social aspects tie into the battle aspects, which can make portions of the game a lot less difficult depending on how well you spend your time.
All these core mechanics remain the same from how they were in Persona 4. However, the big thing about Persona 4 Golden is about what got changed and what got added. Before, when fusing Personas, the abilities that got inherited into the new Persona were random. This has changed in P4 Golden, as you can now select which abilities you want to have inherited. The shuffle chance mini-game that would sometimes occur at the end of battles has received a huge change as well. It's no longer a reaction game, where you'll need to time your button press to get the card you want. In P4 Golden, you'll get a random set of cards and you can choose what card out of that pile you want. It's a bit deeper than that as there will be cards that will allow you to select more cards from the pile. By choosing carefully, you can actually pick up all the cards, earning you a Sweep Bonus. With a Sweep Bonus, you'll have more opportunities to earn another Sweep Bonus from the next pile of cards you encounter. Getting multiple Sweep Bonuses in a row is not only satisfying, it can also give you more chances of earning some extra benefits. These cards range from new Personas, to special bonuses like earning double EXP or half EXP from your battle, earning more money, to even restoring health and SP. There is also more difficulty options available that allow for a more challenging experience in combat or a more smoother one to just enjoy the story. These system changes make the game less tedious and helps make the flow of the game more smoother.
Other changes include more places for you to explore in Inaba and new characters to have a Social Link with. One of those new Social Links is an actual new character named Marie. A mysterious girl who works inside the Velvet Room. A girl with no memory of her past and no real knowledge of things in the outside world. She's a sassy girl, but I found her story to be very interesting. Another new Social Link is with the young detective, Adachi, and that alone is sure to get Persona 4 fans interested. The new locations you get to explore take you to places like the shrine (which before was only accessed through a Social Link or Event), to exploring the town at night which has its own interesting things, and you can even travel to the nearby town of Okina through the newly added scooter option. You'll even have a small garden to take care of. You had more than enough options to spend your time in Persona 4, and you get even more options available in Persona 4 Golden.
Even better for returning fans is the new addition of story events. My favorite part of Persona 4 was the story and experiencing all the interesting moments you encounter with your fellow Persona users. So adding in more of those moments helps past the time and allows you to enjoy the world of Persona 4 even more. There are also other extras like a quiz show that features the characters of Persona 4. Even an extra that will show you live music performances that were shown at the Persona concerts in Japan. This game is just filled to the brim with Persona related content that veteran fans and even new fans will enjoy.
The characters are enjoyable to see because of how relatable they are. Losing a friend, understanding a friend more, feeling the pressures of family traditions, questioning your sexuality, denying your sexuality, unsure of exactly who you are. These are the types of things troubling these characters and there are many other circumstances that we all can relate to in one way or another. And that's what really brings this game to life. Undergoing hardships with them and choosing how you want to progress through the game. Not interacting much with a character will leave you in the dark about them, and missing a lot.
One last neat addition expands the world of Perona 4 to an online audience. It's more a social thing than actual gameplay. With online enabled, you'll have an option to view the choices of other players. When you begin a day, there will be a little bubble in the corner you can tap. Once tapped, your screen will fill up and show you the top 5 choices that other players have chosen to spend their day. You'll get to see if they spent it with someone, spent it at someplace, went into the TV, or just went home. It's a neat thing to check out and can help you decide how to spend your day or night if you're at a lost. The one other online feature occurs in dungeons. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, you can send out a SOS. By tapping a button on the screen, you'll send out a SOS. What this does is alert other players and they can choose to answer your SOS. Based on how many players respond to your SOS, you'll receive a health and SP boost to your characters going into your next battle. It doesn't cost anything to send out or to respond to an SOS. You can even customize a message that will show up for other players when you respond to their SOS. It doesn't interrupt the gameplay in any way, but you can turn these options off if you choose to.
While the overall look of Persona 4 looks the same, the visuals in Persona 4 Golden are much improved over the original PS2 game. Everything looks much sharper, the colors are bright, it just looks really great on the Vita screen. Music is also the same, but there are also some new tunes added into the mix. Fans of the original Persona 4 will also notice that there have been changes in the voice actors for Chie and Teddie. Those who have been keep tracking of this game should already know of this. While it did take some getting use to, if you've been hearing them a lot in Persona 4 Arena or even the Persona 4 Anime, you should be used to them by now. It also helps that the new voice actors do a pretty good job with their respective characters. It is unfortunate that the original cast wasn't kept intact, but that doesn't harm the overall quality of the voice performances in this game, which is still top notch.
This is a JRPG and like most in the genre, these games last a long while. You can easily spend more than 100 hours on just one playthrough, and even then you won't experience everything in the game. Which really encourages going through the game again via New Game Plus, where you'll keep some things from your previous playthrough that will make some early parts of the game easier, and also open up other options for you to spend your time. With 15+ social links to interact with, it's difficult to attempt to max them all out in a single playthrough. So multiple playthroughs are needed in order to fully experience everything that there is in Persona 4 Golden.
Persona 4 was a great RPG game on the PS2. Persona 4 Golden takes that great game and makes it even better on the Vita. The changes in some of the system mechanics allow for a much more smoother and less frustrating experience. New additions give players more options to do in the game and new story events further expand the world. Fans of Persona 4 will really enjoy these new things. While Persona 4 Golden has a lot of things in it for fans of the game, newly interested gamers will enjoy Persona 4 Golden as well. Don't let the 4 discourage you. Persona 4 Golden is a great game to begin your dive into the Persona series and the Shin Megami Tensei franchise.
If you have a Vita, Persona 4 Golden is a game you should get. If you don't have a Vita, Persona 4 Golden is a reason why you should get a Vita. One of the best RPGs ever gets bigger and better on Vita. I can praise and talk about this game for a very long time and I'll never grow tired of it. If you play video games to get lost in a world and to experience something memorable, Persona 4 Golden is a game that does that. Easily one of the best out there on the Playstation Vita, so do yourself a favor and check out this golden experience.