Review by mistermikeymike
"Intrigueing game but blatant flaws as well"
Persona 4 was originally released for PS2 over 5 years ago. Persona 4 Golden is Atlus's port to the PSVita. While retaining the game itself it has also added features including a new dungeon and several hours of game time. However, many of the biggest flaws from persona 4 remain and were ported over.
Persona 4 Golden is a mix of a dating sim and a dungeon crawler. What you as the player do in the real world affects your ability to fuse personas and by extension fight in the TV world.
The game revolves around personas, (which not so surprising is what the game is titled after) which one could argue is the equivalent of equipment in other games. If you've ever played pokemon, then that's the best analogy I can give you. In battle, you can switch between personas to use a different skill set/resistances and take advantage of your opponents weaknesses. And you can even capture personas from fighting random encounters.
However personas obtained randomly are significantly weaker than ones that are made by yourself through fusion. When you fuse a persona you are able to inherit skills from the parent personas as well as bonus experience which amounts to several levels. Bonus experience made for a persona is based on your social link level. However most personas are discarded after a few levels and there is a lack of sentimental value compared to pokemon.
Now in order to level up your social links, you basically play a dating sim. You play as a second year transfer student in the small quiet town of Inaba. Throughout the game you spend a majority of your days boosting your social links. You boost them by choosing to spend the day with a friend and you watch a cutscene and learn more about them. Social links are the basis of the game.
The story starts off with you moving to a small town in Japan named Inaba. You live the life as a second year transfer student from the big city right as two mysterious murders take place. Throughout the game you chase the killer and it is your duty to stop him from killing again. As a typical video game story Persona 4 tries to draw you in from the start. And it does. But that's where the poor story writing comes through. Playing a murder mystery you would think clues, hints, foreshadowing and the like would find its way into the game right? WRONG. This game only holds the title of mystery because you don't know who the killer is. There are no clues. There are no hints. And when you find out who the killer is, there is no "moment of truth" feeling. Frankly the killer feels chosen at random. Their motive leaves you wondering who wrote the game. Saying anymore would probably spoil the story. And it's not like the ending is the only poorly written part. The meat of the story? Just more kidnappings that do not further the plot at all. And the kidnappings have the plot relevance of a random encounter. If they were removed the game would not change at all.
If you're expecting a game that keeps you up at night wondering who the killer is, then this is not your game. The story does not suck you in. It's drawn out and poorly written. You aren't going to be thinking about the story much afterwards
The reason I gave the story an 8/10 is simple. Being a dating sim you spend a lot of time with your friends and peers. The time spent with each person tells a touching story (though sometimes annoying) that strengthens your bond with the character both in game and in real life. You start to grow and like the cast. The stories are short; 10 custscenes for each character. But during that time you really start to understand what makes each person tick. My personal favourite is Dojimas. It's a prime example of how even a side character can make you feel for them. Through the game you talk to a variety of people from grieving widows to typical high school girls. It is these side stories, and little interactions with the people around you that make the story so great. Much of the emotion that is devoid of the main story comes from here as well.
The game is drawn in anime style and it's hard to argue that the graphics are poor because the style does not require a large amount of detail. That said, I personally feel like the art could have been better simply because a lot of the art looks very plain. Of course I'm not a particularly big fan of anime (actually I hate anime) and my familiarity with it extends only to the most popular ones that I watched as a kid. Characters in this game described as beautiful, did not look beautiful. And the average girl was a step down from that. Of course the anime is only a small part and the models and the world itself is beautifully done and among the best you can get from a PSVita game
Boasting 50% more voice acting from Persona 4, Persona 4 Golden is pretty amazing in the voice acting department. Voices were synchronized well and most genuinely fit the character with the exception of a couple. Chie and Teddie, two characters from the original Persona 4, have new voice actors. Teddies voice actor is generally embraced by the community while Chie's is controversial at best. Seeing as this is my review I'm going to flat out say that I disliked it and thought it sounded bratty and did not fit the character.
The music was amazing as a whole. Music isn't something you can just describe because everyone's tastes are different. Persona 4 however, will appeal to a majority of players due to its rather safe song selection. There are however, a few vocal tracks sung in J-pop style. One of them being the battle theme. If you don't like J-pop you might want to mute the game because though few in number, they are frequent in appearance.
Persona 4 honestly feels like a series of short videos rather than a JRPG. Everyday you are given a choice on how to spend your afternoon and night. You can either choose to spend the day exploring a dungeon and fighting monsters OR you can spend the day boosting your social link.
Let's start with the combat. It sucks. The balance is poor. And by poor I mean it's terrible. One example I'll give is mediarahan; a spell that heals your entire party to full for a measly 30SP. Considering that 30SP is probably a tenth of your SP bar it's not exactly a big hit. Now what's wrong with that spell? Well simply put mediarahan makes it so that if bosses are going to be a challenge you they have to have the power to 1hit your entire party. And they do! But if they don't you just spam mediarahan while never being at risk the entire battle. And it's not like the AI is particularly good. One boss will literally spend all his turns just cancelling one debuff you put on him. Yeah. Seriously. You use one character to debuff the boss while the other three attack. The boss removes your debuff and wastes his turn. Talk about a joke. As if things could be any worse, the difficulty progression sucks too. The toughest boss in the game is probably found right in the beginning. Sporting an attack that can 90-100% your entire party. And you don't even have mediarahan to counter it. His only saving grace is that he is completely optional and you can completely outlevel him to kill him later.
I should explain how the combat system works. If you've ever played a jrpg like final fantasy then you should be familiar with this game. You are given 4 party members to take on enemies. As the main character you can change your skillset by using different personas. Party members are not given such an opportunity. The skill catalogue is not particularly interesting and does not make for particularly engaging gameplay. Spells can be broken into 3 categories. Attack, Buffs, Recovery. Attack spells exist in each and every element however as the game progresses bosses no longer have elemental strengths/weaknesses so you're left just tossing out your strongest spell you have like most other RPGs. Buffs are limited to teamwise attack, defense, and agility buffs and single target ones. Debuffs only apply to a single target. Not particularly interesting but rather unbalanced due to their 100% accuracy on bosses.
Attacks that critically hit OR hit the enemies weakness will grant you an extra turn on that character. Bosses get the same and will sometimes try to exploit your weaknesses. It seems like a pretty cool concept except instead of spamming one attack, you go through trial and error and then spam. And most of the bosses don't even have a weakness.
Now maybe the world is a lot better right? Not really. Dungeons are randomly generated. That means every floor looks the same. And feels the same. Randomly generated means no hidden loot, no exploring and hoping to find something of interest, no secret passages, no nothing.
Now the dating sim part of the game isn't really a game. But hey, it's definitely my favourite. This part ties into the story. Basically what happens is, if you choose to spend your day with a person you watch an optional cutscene. Each person has their own short story and the more time you spend with each person the higher your social links are. They cap out at level 10 which will give each persona a hefty level boost (often more than enough to learn all their skills). But other than a few dialogue choices, it's not very interactive. It's like picking a level-up option from a menu.
Now as bad as the gameplay is the game is kind of addicting. Which is primarily because of the story.
REPLAY VALUE 4/10
What does a game full of randomly generated loot and cutscenes offer you once you've experienced it once? Not a whole lot. New Game+ is alright but hardly worth the effort. Your money and persona library carry over (as well as a few other things). Now you can summon personas from your persona library which would be the equivalent of having a level 100 to start the game in a game. Needless to say, things melt.
There is bonus content for NG+ but it's hardly worth the effort. I mean who's going to spend 60+ hours just so they can fight an optional "super boss" who isn't even that "super"
Definitely worth the experience in my honest opinion. There are obvious gameplay flaws but you won't notice them until you're too far into the game to care. The short stories will also suck you in. If you're into anime this is definitely down your alley. And even if you're not it was a touching game.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 02/07/13
Game Release: Persona 4 Golden (US, 11/20/12)
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