Review by blitz_0623
Persona 4 Golden - Gold for the Vita and JRPG genre
Four years ago, Atlus released Persona 4 for the Playstation 2 console. It wound being one of the console's best JRPGs and best titles overall. Four years later, Persona 4 is back and better than ever with an enhanced port, or remake if you will. Persona 4 Golden (P4G) is a PS Vita exclusive game that takes in its console version, and basically makes everything about it better. What was bad is now good, and what was good is now even better.
If you're someone looking for a good JRPG or even just RPG, this is the game you've been looking for. Let's be honest, JRPGs have taken a dip this generation. The most popular franchise, Final Fantasy, hasn't exactly lived up to its expectations when you compare FFXIII and XIII-2 to previous FF games. Unlike the PS2 era, there are barely any good JRPGs out there. Most either stay in Japan, or are just not good enough for people. P4G hopes to change all this. It may be based off an old PS2 game, but there are enough additions and improvements that warrant a game purchase or even a Playstation Vita purchase.
Story - 9
Let me begin with the story - an element severely lacking in JRPGs. Not only does P4G have one of the most unique stories out of any JRPG, it also has one of the best. Without giving too much, the storyline involves a murder case that starts as soon as the Main Character (MC) arrives in a small rural town called Inaba. Your task is to solve this case with your highschool classmates without anyone's help, including the police. In fact, like some games, the police will even get in your way. Other than Crime, Mystery and Thriller being the main theme, P4G also contains almost every other story element you can think of - Comedy, Romance, Drama, Action, etc. This is what makes the game very diverse and deep. As you progress in the game, you will encounter all of these elements that, when put together, create a tremendously polished story. Do not be surprised if you get hooked on to it within a matter of hours. And it only keeps getting more interesting.
What also sets it apart from most JRPGs is how realistic it is - another element not very common in JRPGs. Every character has his/her own personality. It is very possible that you will get attached to some of them because of how amazing their personalities are. These aren't your usual JRPG Lolita's and characters with a "strong sense of justice and wants to help everyone he sees". No, each character is likened to your usual highschool classmate, your dad, sibling, etc. And the best part about all this, is you get to build a relationship with each and every one of them (will be talked about in gameplay).
Graphics - 8
It doesn't look as good as Final Fantasy games, but the graphics complement the game very well. It has a nice anime touch, and the character portraits are nicely done. P4G actually looks better than P4 for the PS2. I'm not exactly sure of the resolutions, but P4G contains some HD quality graphics on character portraits and Personae. It's not really a big deal, but it adds to the flavor of the game. The dungeons also look fantastic. They haven't changed a whole lot from the original game, but they're an accurate description of what the game is trying to convey to the player.
Sound - 10
Another weak JRPG attribute P4G does extremely well - voice acting. Voice actors (VAs) did a tremendously good job. I cannot stress this enough since most JRPGs out there have horrible forced voice acting. Not this game. The voice acting is what makes the game the realistic game I was describing earlier. It is as if you're actually listening to real people, or watching a movie. There is, however, one problem, and this is completely subjective. P4G doesn't use the same voice actors from P4. Teddie and Chie both have new voice actors and while I don't have a problem with Teddie's, Chie's has taken some time to get used. Actually, I don't think I'll ever get used to Chie's new voice. It's not bad, but the original voice was just better.
Enough of voice acting. Let's talk about the fantastic soundtrack. P4G has a very memorable OST, memorable enough that it will definitely stick to your head if you've played the game for hours. The music is not purely instrumental. In fact, most of what you will hear are songs, most of which if you listen carefully to the lyrics (or read them somewhere on the internet) are about the game itself. And just like how the graphics and voice acting complement the game, the music adds excitement and fun to every battle. You may find yourself itching to battle just to hear the battle music. P4G contains 2 kinds of regular battle music. The first is triggered normally, while the second is triggered with a Player-Advantage (hitting a Shadow from behind - will be talked about soon). The original P4 only had the second. The Boss music is just as good, and so is each dungeon's theme.
Gameplay - 10
Let me just get this out of the way. P4G will take a lot of your time. By a lot I mean 60+ hours of your time, at minimum. The game is progresses like a calendar. It starts sometime in April, and ends sometime in Mach. For every month (save for January and February), you will be doing all kinds of things any regular person would every day (okay, not really any regular person). Yes you heard that right - you will play through April 21, 22, 23, all the way up to March. Some days will be 2 minutes long, some days can take hours depending on how you play. This basically explains the length of the game.
The game is split into 2 parts - dungeon crawling and character building. For each day (ie April 21, April 22, etc), you will have the option of doing 2 things - one After School and the other during Evening. You can only go dungeon crawling After School, and it will take up your Evening time as well. Let's talk about dungeon crawling first.
Dungeons are where you power up your characters. Each dungeon has several floors in it, with the last floor containing the boss of that dungeon. Shadows live in dungeons, and are what you encounter on a regular basis. Each floor also has treasure chests to loot. Battling Shadows is part of what makes the game so much fun. There are 2 ways to hit a Shadow - using your character's weapon, or his/her Persona. The Main Character is able to hold multiple Personae (kind of like having a lot of Pokemon!). Strategy comes in when you take into account weaknesses. Most Shadows and Personae have an element that it is weak to. Learning to use this to your advantage greatly aids you in battles. Be careful, as Shadows are also capable of hitting you with your weakness.
So how do you get stronger? When you level up, only your HP and SP increases. Your attack, agility, etc are all based on what Persona you are currently holding. Not to worry, Personae also have a level associated with them. And as I mentioned, your party members only have one persona (meaning if they level up, so do their persona and so do their attack, agility, etc.). The MC, being able to hold multiple Personae (and switch between them during battle) is capable of 'fusing' Personae. Let me explain. Whenever you beat a Shadow, there is a chance called Shuffle Time (ST) that could trigger. In the old P4, Shuffle Time only contains Persona cards that you get. Not in P4G. P4G adds various gameplay elements, however, you are still able to get a Persona from the new ST (think of it like capturing a new Pokemon). As your level increases, your mind (as the game calls it) can hold more Personae, eventually capping at 12. From the Personae on your mind, you can go to a special room and fuse 2, 3 or more of them together and create a more powerful Personae. You can only create a Persona as high as your level. Every time you fuse a new Persona, you can pass a limited number of skills from the Personae you are using to make it. There are hundreds of skills in the game, and before you know it, you will hard-pressed on deciding what skills to transfer over! This is another part of what makes the game fun - testing out your new Personae.
Adding to the Fusion game play are what we call Social Links. The MC has a social link to characters in the game. The deeper the relationship with a character, the higher the level of the Social Link, maxing out at Level 10. How do you level up? This is the other part of the game. The first was dungeon crawling, and the second is character building. Every After School or Evening, if you are not dungeon crawling, you can 'spend time' with a character and build your relationship with him/her. Some of the women can even be your girlfriends. What's the point of leveling this up besides having girlfriends? Social Links are important whenever you fuse a new Persona. Every Persona is associated with an Arcana (or class if you will). These Arcana are the same with your Social Links. Let's say you have a Social Link with someone of the Magician Arcana. Whenever you fuse a new Persona that belongs in the Magician Arcana, it will be granted bonus experience based on the level of that Social Link!
Sound too complicated? Yes, but once you get to try it out, you will find it unbelievably addicting. Experimenting will definitely help and before you know it, you will be hooked onto creating the perfect Persona. P4G even makes the Fusion interface more efficient and detailed. For those curious, visit a FAQ guide to see the improvements in the Fusion interface.
New to P4G is the inclusion of the SOS system. When connected to the internet, you are able to ask help or help other people in the same part of the game as you are (more specifically the same dungeon). It can be really helpful for people that are finding it difficult to trek the dungeon.
Replayability - 9
There are a lot of incentives to replay the game in New Game Plus (NG+). Let me tell you right now, if you don't follow a well thought-out guide, you will NOT be able to max out every Social Link in the game. Maxing out a Social Link has a lot of benefits and you will want to experience maxing out most of them, especially your teammates' social links. Trust me on this one. NG+ carries over the expected things which will allow you to have more free time during the game and thus have more time to max out your relationships with characters. There are also content in the game that can only be accessed via NG+.
An incredibly well-told story, great graphics, catchy music, and unique gameplay all make for one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever find in a game. Persona 4 Golden is easily the Playstation Vita's best title as of November 20, 2012. If you need a reason to get a Vita, this is it. If you already own a Vita, then there is absolutely no reason not to own this gem.
+ Fun and engaging Battle System
+ Very rewarding relationship building and Persona fusions
+ Well-written story and dialogue
+ Beautiful presentation
- Game can be too long for some people
- Slightly high learning curve, can take a while to get used to
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Persona 4 Golden (US, 11/20/12)
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