The real question on everyone’s mind is: Does Persona 4 Golden do enough to expand on its predecessors or is it just a repackaged PS2 game?
When I first heard about Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 the only thing that really caught my attention was the name (it is quite a mouthful!) but as I found out more about it, it started appealing to me more and more. I realized that it was a game that distinguished itself from the other RPGs, a bold step away from the orcs and the avatars that make up many of the of the RPGs that are on the market today. It looked like a role playing game that I could add to my pile of favorites. Although it would probably be at the bottom when competing with such loved classics like Sonic The Dark Chronicles, Shenmue, Mass Effect, Mario and Luigi and Yakuza etc. but alas I was wrong and it became my second best game that I have ever played! So when I heard about Persona 4 Golden I came to the assumption it was the sequel to one of the greatest games ever made and believe me this time I was very excited. So I got whatever money I had together and bought the game, that was when I realized it was primarily the same game as the PlayStation 2 version! So I asked myself was It worth the money?
For me the answer is an overwhelming yes! I place Persona 4 very highly in my top games of all-time list (it is second only to Shenmue). In a nutshell (and this is mainly for the benefit of those who haven’t played the original) Persona 4 Golden is an RPG that follows the style of the other persona games, but is not a continuation of the previous games like Shenmue 2 or Yakuza 2, but an individual game in its own right. In this game you play the part of Yu, a high school student with the ability to wield personas (think of them as Pokémon). He moves from a large city to the sleepy town of Iniba and soon after your arrival a mystery ensues that requires you to enter a bizarre “other world” by using a television as a portal, to catch a murderer that has being doing his handy work on Iniba. He does this by throwing his victims into this other world to be devoured by their inner selves. You must use your ability to wield personas to catch the killer and bring him to justice, of course you cannot attempt this gargantuan challenge by yourself and that is when Yosuke comes, in the first to join the crew. One by one you assemble the cast of make shift heroes, all bringing their own unique personalities to save Iniba as well as inject some light hearted hilarity to the proceedings! For those of you familiar with Persona 4 on the PlayStation 2 you will realize that the games storylines are identical so you’re probably asking why I should buy again this game? Well here are my reasons I believe you should take the trip back to Iniba.
The first point I have to mention is they made Persona 4 portable. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of people wouldn’t consider this a strong point. but if anyone has played the game for any duration of time they will compare it to Pokémon. And that is because in many respects the games are similar to each other, like for example the personas that level up by completing battles and gaining experience points, like the critical hits, the boss battles to mark certain points in the game (obviously in Pokémon there are eight) etc. The real point of comparing the two isn't just an observation and it really isn’t to criticize (in fact Pokémon Silver is rated third in my best games of all-time list) but if you think about it, putting Pokémon on the big screen didn't fare very well for it, games like Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon XD and Pokémon Gale of Darkness although were good, they failed to get the same recognition or rating by the critics that their portable predecessors did. In my opinion Pokémon was built to be portable and possibly so was Persona 4, so that is my first point to make about the game also it brings with it the obvious benefits that playing on a portable console has like for example now it can be played on the train to work or on breaks etc. This will be useful when you are addicted to it (and yes you will be addicted to it!) it is easily at hand to satisfy your cravings!
The second positive thing I have to say about Persona 4 Golden is the anime. For those of you that don't know, they created an anime based on the game, the anime in itself isn't amazing (I know I watch a lot of anime!). But in the new game they tell a lot of the story through anime cut scenes. This is a huge plus for me because I found the typical Pokémon style subtitled conversations in the game (another similarity) gets old very quickly and that's because the game is very long and therefore so is the story, so this corrects for me what is one of the major turn offs in the original game and therefore is a plus side. Also it is still an anime series therefore it makes the game more worthy of its sticker price than the original Persona 4 did. Another pro for me are the enhanced graphics, after playing it on PlayStation Vita, I can’t imagine playing it any other way. The graphic's look extremely sharp, crisp and just all together better than they did on the PlayStation 2. But do not assume that this is only a HD remaster like DMC HD Triple Pack, Dragon Ball Z Budokai re-mastered etc. in Persona 4 Golden they have also added new content.
So what did they add? Well they added months to it! Not literal months, but Persona 4 in-game months. The game is played on a timescale, a one year timescale ranging from the time you arrive in Iniba to the time you depart. However in the original game they skip months of this time by doing the typical 5 months later you see in comic books etc. with no explanation of what happened in-between. In Persona 4 Golden they corrected this problem allowing you to live out the rest of your time in Iniba strengthening bonds and seeing the story line to its conclusion properly. Other than the extra months, the devs also added more relationships into the mix than the previous game. Relationships are essentially the strength of the bonds you share with the other characters in the game on a scale ranging from one to ten. The higher your bond with the character the greater level your persona initially starts off with e.g. Yukiko was the bond of lover therefore any persona created that belongs to the arcana lover will start at a considerably higher level than if the bond was weak. It also improves your chances in battle by making your team perform tasks that they will not do initially for example, they will take a life ending attack for you when the bond reaches level 10!
Another reason I believe that you should return to Iniba is to re-complete the game. The original Persona 4 had multiple endings, one where you apprehended the killer and took him to justice by fighting a great battle and taking your personas to their ultimate conclusion. Another one went something like this: the killer gets away and you disappear back to the city you came from whilst your friends see you of at the train station. I personally did not want to end the game that way! Sure I could have played the game again and get the desired ending, but I did not want to play a 50 hour game twice consecutively. So Persona 4 Golden made sure I got the ending I wanted, even if it was after a crazy long time.
However as a rule no game is perfect and Persona 4 Golden is no exception to the rules as even great games like this still have chinks in their armor. Like for example the new voice over they gave to Chie, this is not to say that it is a bad voice over but it is slightly irritating at first because it is unfamiliar and I personally preferred the original voice , I know this is a minor complaint I mean it’s nothing on the scale of changing like a major characters voice in the Simpson’s for example, but it still takes some getting used too. My second complaint is that it is still the same game primarily and don't get me wrong this is also one of its greatest assets because of the quality of the original game, but what I meant was that I WANT A SEQUEL. I have waited long enough for Persona "5" and I want it now!
Bottom line: I don’t believe this is a simple HD repackaged PS2 game. Sure the graphics are cooler and better looking, but they also added new things to the game which make it totally fresh to play and experience once again. But the best part of this version is the portability, you get to play one of the best RPG games ever while you are on the toilet, how f*cking cool is that?! If you are a fan of the genre and if you have a PS Vita, buy Persona 4 Golden!
Persona 4 Golden was reviewed on a PS Vita using a retail copy of the game. Persona 4 Golden is now available now for PS Vita.