In recent months, the internet has been abuzz with news about Persona 5, the newest release in one of Atlus’s most popular and well-established video game franchises. As a way to prepare myself for the game’s release, I picked up a PS TV and a copy of Persona 4 Golden around Christmastime last year. I haven’t yet regretted that decision.
Persona 4 Golden is an expanded port of the original Persona 4 to the PS Vita and PS TV consoles. The game has all the content from it’s predecessor, as well as new story additions, reworked gameplay, and a few graphical upgrades. As the original P4 was a massive sales hit for Atlus, they knew they had to give more content for the fans to enjoy in its remaster. Thankfully, nothing really feels forced in, and a decent amount of the changes are optional for those who’d rather not try them out. Basically, you could play through Golden just like you would in the original P4 with nothing being too different. However, I found the new additions rather enjoyable.
Persona 4 revolves around a high school sophomore (who the player can name at the beginning of the story) who is spending a year away from his home city to live in the countryside town of Inaba with his relatives. As they begin to settle in, a series of strange murders starts to occur around the town, leading to them discovering a parallel world inside the TV sets of their local mall. As evidence begins to hint that the TV World is where the murders are taking place, the MC (main character) and his friends begin to investigate further. Along the way, they gain the ability to summon “Personas”, spirit beings that are born from their hearts. While the story and set-up are nothing special, it’s enough to get you into the spirit of the game and leave you wanting answers to the core mystery: who is committing these strange murders?
As usual, Atlus has done a great job of making the characters you interact with feel interesting and memorable. The voice actors that were cast do a lot to create this feeling, as almost all of them match their characters quite well. Some personal favorites of mine include Matthew Mercer (Kanji Tatsumi), Laura Bailey (Rise Kujikawa), Yuri Lowenthal (Yosuke Hanamura), Sam Riegel (Teddie), and Johnny Yong Bosch (the Main Protagonist and Tohru Adachi). Their performances make these characters feel a bit more real, with their own motivations, problems, and personalities. One of the main reasons I kept playing the game was because I cared so much about this cast, and I genuinely wanted to help them solve the mystery of the killer’s identity. There are some rather annoying characters in the game, but thankfully most of them don’t have fully-voiced dialogue, which made them more tolerable.
Persona 4 is divided into two main sections: dungeon-crawling JRPG gameplay in the TV world, and the “Social Link” system outside of it. The game encourages you to balance your time between these two parts, as it can be necessary to do things outside the TV world to aid your progress within it. From here, I’ll give a quick rundown of the two gameplay segments:
- TV World: Inside the TV World, you and your party of characters venture through labyrinth-like dungeons as you seek to rescue the murderer’s next victims. You only have a set amount of days to do this, so planning ahead is key. These dungeons have puzzles, hidden treasure, and enemies lurking around every corner to keep you on your toes throughout. In combat, you and your party use Personas to fight against “Shadows”, nightmarish creatures that each have their own attacks, strengths and weaknesses. That also applies to your Personas, so it’s wise to have a balanced party that can cover all enemy weaknesses. The strength and weakness system actually functions a lot like Pokemon, without the added bonus of capturing enemies. In addition, you can gain extra Personas for yourself as you move forward in the game, and you can switch between them in battle to utilize their different skills. It usually doesn’t take much time before you find a party setup that works for you.
- The “Real World”: Outside of the TV World, the game mainly involves the construction of “Social Links” with other characters. The game doesn’t force you to level up any particular Social Link, so you have a good amount of freedom to choose for yourself. However, it is advised that you hang out with your party members in the TV World portion of the game, as you can gain special bonuses for doing so. This area also has other features, such as the ability to increase your funds by taking a job, raising personality stats (Courage, Wisdom, etc.), and buying weapons and items for the TV World phase.
- Velvet Room: An area that can be accessed from both the TV World Hub and from the Central Shopping District in the real world. Here, you can do a variety of helpful things, such as fusing Personas to gain stronger allies, registering Personas and Skill Cards to purchase for later, sending hints to other players, and more. Unlike other in-game events, spending time in the Velvet Room doesn’t waste in-game time, so don’t rush when you’re there.
While all this may seem daunting at first, after a while it becomes easier to manage how you spend your in-game time. Even as a first-timer to the series, I was able to get used to the system in little time.
The last major thing to note about Persona 4 Golden is it’s extremely catchy soundtrack. The music for the game was primarily composed by Shoji Meguro, who’s worked on the series since its first installment. Most of the music in P4G is taken from the original Persona 4, and it maintains the jazzy and upbeat style of those tracks. There are a few new songs added, including Never More (which plays in the game’s true ending). Returning songs include Reach Out to the Truth, Time to Make History, I’ll Face Myself, and Pursuing My True Self. I sometimes found myself listening to these songs on loop, as all of them are rather soothing to listen to. While P4’s soundtrack pales in comparison to other series installments (such as Persona 3 and the recently-released Persona 5), it’s still extremely well-done.
In short, this game has been one of my favorites to play in recent years. The combination of novel gameplay, a fantastic soundtrack, and interesting characters make it very likely I’ll be playing it to the end more than once. If you have a PS TV or PS Vita, this is an absolute must-have.