Though Shin Megami Tensei is technically the flagship RPG franchise over at Atlus, its spin-off Persona collection has made enormous strides find mainstream attraction in recent times. Whereas Persona 5 could have carried out many of the heavy lifting, Persona 4 Golden (P4G)—the improved re-release of the PS2 traditional—was additionally an instrumental half in getting the collection on the map. A part of the good thing about being launched on the tragically doomed PS Vita meant that it was that a lot simpler to face out from the slim crowd of video games on the platform, and P4G was shortly lauded as one of many few must-have buys for the platform. After stronger-than-expected gross sales from its shock Steam launch in 2020, P4G has now discovered its approach to the Swap and we’re happy to report that it’s nonetheless a completely pleasant RPG.
P4G locations you within the position of a city-dwelling silent protagonist who strikes to the agricultural city of Inaba to dwell together with his uncle and cousin for a yr whereas his dad and mom work overseas. Whereas your character appears to regulate properly to his new life, issues are tense round city as there’s a serial killer on the unfastened who’s constantly evading the police. Your character and his newfound pals then shortly get wrapped up within the thriller after they uncover the Midnight Channel, a mysterious ‘different world’ that may be accessed by crawling by means of a TV display. The killer is utilizing the Midnight Channel and its plentiful inhabitants of Shadows to homicide his victims, however you quickly understand that you would be able to battle Shadows utilizing your Personas and free the victims earlier than it is too late. You and your mates thus got down to save the killer’s victims whereas additionally stringing collectively clues to attempt to deduce who the killer is.
Regardless of the quite intense premise, P4G’s narrative feels notably lighthearted, which makes its darker moments all of the extra of a intestine punch. There are some very actual, emotional occasions to be skilled on this story, and far of their weight is because of the elevated give attention to character growth. Although earlier Persona video games definitely featured sturdy characters, it appears like P4G locations way more significance on fleshing out every member of the ‘Investigation Staff’ with particular person arcs whereas additionally taking the time to focus on extra small, mundane moments between them. These little moments add up and elevate the solid from feeling like ‘celebration members’ and extra like pals and folks with actual depth to them. This larger give attention to relationships and character growth makes the plot that rather more gripping.
Gameplay follows the usual Persona system of blending collectively social sim parts with conventional JRPG gameplay, and it’s executed right here brilliantly. Although your character could also be a badass supernatural warrior, they’re additionally a highschool pupil first. The calls for of finding out and socialising do not go away simply because the killer kidnaps one other sufferer. Thus, you spend most of your weeks attending college, collaborating in golf equipment, hanging out with pals, and dealing part-time jobs. Typically, these actions will increase numerous social stats in traits like intelligence or diligence, permitting you to raised relate to the assorted folks in your character’s life.
That is particularly vital provided that many characters characteristic Social Hyperlinks that vastly improve each the story and gameplay. Every character’s Social Hyperlink will progress an optionally available sub-narrative centered round them, and progressing to every new step of their story will grant you advantages find and fusing Personas that you just use for dungeon exploration. Plus, progressing Social Hyperlinks for celebration members will trigger them to develop into simpler in battle with issues like further assaults or extra highly effective variations of their Personas. It’s not potential to max out each character’s Social Hyperlink in a single playthrough with out sticking to a ruthlessly strict schedule, so you must in the end decide and select which characters you wish to get closest to.
It is a bigger mechanic of managing the life sim aspect of the sport, as your character has a restricted period of time to spend on any given exercise every day. Most days you’re caught in class until the afternoon, so that you solely have time for one exercise earlier than evening comes. It’s as much as you whether or not you spend your time exploring the newest dungeon, hanging out with a buddy, or finding out for the upcoming exams, however your actions will at all times have penalties additional down the road. Neglect furthering some Social Hyperlinks, and also you’ll have a more durable time shoring up a pointy group of Personas to struggle with. Skip out on finding out and also you won’t be capable to kind a selected Social Hyperlink till you’ve hit the books sufficient. Ignore exploring the dungeon too lengthy, and also you may run out of time earlier than the subsequent sufferer dies. There are normally no mistaken solutions about what it’s best to do subsequent, however there’s at all times a give-and-take to no matter you select to do.
Fortunately, there’s an internet possibility that may assist provide you with some steerage on what is perhaps the best choice. When your character will get some free time, you’ll be able to connect with the Vox Populi on-line characteristic to get tips about what different gamers selected to do with that day of their playthrough or what Personas they selected to fuse. You’re normally given a handful of solutions right here, however this no less than pushes you in the suitable path with out holding your hand; it’s like supplying you with the advantages of a written or video web information with out taking away the autonomy and magic of experiencing the sport your self.
Whenever you select to enter the subsequent dungeon, issues unfold as you’d count on from a turn-based RPG. You discover labyrinthine environments laden with enemies to struggle and treasures to hunt, culminating in a tricky boss struggle on the finish to cap issues off. Although dungeons are nonetheless procedurally generated like in P3P, their implementation right here feels way more nice because of the heightened give attention to tailoring every one to the story. Each dungeon is thematically linked to the sufferer contained inside, which provides every one its personal id, they usually by no means overstay their welcome. Dungeons are solely a couple of dozen flooring or much less right here, which signifies that they finish nearly precisely as you begin feeling just like the flooring are mixing collectively.
Fight follows the identical One Extra turn-based system that Persona followers have come to like, which pushes gamers to be strategic in how they dismantle enemy groups. The objective of most encounters is to establish enemy elemental weaknesses and use the proper assaults to take advantage of them, however there’s an extra layer to be thought-about with useful resource administration. There are only a few methods to replenish SP, which is what you utilize for many particular assaults so you must think about how a solid will have an effect on not simply your present battle, but additionally your basic run on the dungeon for that day. You possibly can’t moderately discover larger flooring if a few your characters’ SP reserves are tapped out, so ensuring that you just moderately tempo your self is vital to make sure you attain the boss shortly sufficient and with characters who’re well-equipped to deal with the struggle.
Between dungeon runs or if you’re out and about after college, you’ll typically go to the Velvet Room to forge a greater group of Personas for your self. Whereas all of your celebration members in fight solely have entry to at least one Persona, your character is a ‘Wild Card’ who can host a number of Personas without delay. Every Persona comes with its personal distinctive combination of stats, elemental affinities, and abilities, and one of the simplest ways to get probably the most highly effective ones comes from fusing them within the Velvet Room. Doing so will trigger you to lose the Personas you used as fodder, however that is typically a good commerce given that you just’re normally buying and selling up for one thing higher. That is very true when you’ve been conscious about maintaining your Social Hyperlinks, as these will grant massive expertise and stat boosts to many new Personas that make them much more highly effective proper out of the gate.
Fortunately, one enchancment made for the ‘Golden’ launch of Persona 4 was the flexibility to manually select which abilities the brand new Persona would inherit from these being fused. There are some restrictions in place, however this permits you a lot larger management over shaping your group and vastly reduces the headache of leaving this vital facet of group constructing to likelihood. Guide talent inheritance isn’t the one enchancment being delivered to P4G both, there are all kinds of latest tweaks to this model each massive and small. Adjustments like having the ability to do extra actions at evening assist to open up extra choices for managing your time successfully, whereas new Social Hyperlinks, Personas, and an additional late-game dungeon, add heaps extra to do and see in comparison with the unique PS2 launch. Not like its predecessor’s ‘closing’ variations which had been every incomplete in their very own methods, P4G is definitely the definitive approach to expertise Persona 4.
Visually, P4G exhibits its age a bit because of the simplistic fashions utilized for many characters and enemies, however there’s nonetheless loads to like concerning the offbeat and sometimes weird artwork design of many enemies. Alternatively, the character portraits in dialogue look extremely clear and shiny in distinction to the considerably muted 3D visuals. And whereas Persona 5 is definitely probably the most fashionable entry within the collection, P4G nonetheless manages to indicate some attribute aptitude with over-the-top assault animations and easy menu transitions. P4G will not be precisely a looker by as we speak’s requirements, nevertheless it’s completely acceptable for a fast and soiled port of a Vita recreation. Plus, all of it runs with none noticeable body price hitches or decision drops.
To match the final tone, the soundtrack encompasses a potent combination of pop and rock tracks that assist to set the bouncy environment and maintain issues mild. Although there are some tracks that get a little bit irritating from sheer repetition—seventy or so hours is a lengthy time to take a seat with some music—the sheer catchiness is tough to withstand.
Over ten years later, Persona 4 Golden stays a completely satisfying and engrossing RPG that, for probably the most half, has stood the check of time. Though its visuals is perhaps a bit dated, the gameplay and story introduced right here do greater than sufficient to justify the acquisition, whereas all of the tweaks and additions that got here with this ‘Golden’ version spherical out many of the rougher edges from the preliminary PS2 launch. If you happen to’re trying to give the Persona collection a shot, Persona 5 Royal is an efficient place to begin, however P4G is a wonderful entry within the collection and one which we might suggest you decide up when you’ll be able to.