The Shin Megami Tensei meta series is about as hardcore as it can possibly get. While many JRPG developers tried to follow the path of Final Fantasy and make their games increasingly accessible, Atlus more or less stuck to their guns in delivering hardcore experiences. This has given them Valve level fan support and has enabled them to make some truly unique games. One of these games is Persona 4, which is probably at this point the best known SMT game in existence, spawning an excellent fighting game, and an anime adaptation as well as a host of merchandise. The game was released to excellent reviews back on the Playstation 2 and immediately gained a major cult following. With all of the love Persona 4 has been getting, it was just a matter of time before it gained some form of rerelease, and that time has finally come with the Vita release of Persona 4: The Golden. An enhanced port, P4G doesn’t bring a whole lot of new stuff to the table, but it does manage to be the definitive version of Persona 4 unlike Persona 3 Portable, the handheld version of Persona 3.
|Guess what colour will be highlighted throughout the game?|
When Persona 3 was ported onto the PSP, many people assumed that Persona 4 was going to follow suit. This was not the case. In fact, the developer specifically said that he would not be porting a game onto handhelds again because he strongly disliked having to cut features. Of course, it wasn’t too long after that when P4G was announced. The reason for the major shift is the major power difference between the PSP and the Vita. With the Vita, the entire game could be ported onto the system without any compromise. In fact, the game could be improved. This holds true. The game’s graphics don’t take a hit and there isn’t any digital novel-like world navigation in P4G like there was in P3P. Many of the in-game menus have been improved to the point that the game’s presentation is barely recognizable as last generation. Without any additions, the portability aspect of P4G would make it a major contender as the definitive version of the game, but everything has been upscaled. The game makes proper use of the Vita’s beautiful OLED screen and, combined with the presentational upgrades, this makes the game look considerably better on the Vita than it did on the PS2.
|No amount of presentation will really help this though.|
The story of Persona 4 is a little easier to explain to outsiders than any of the other Persona games, but it still doesn’t lack for depth. Basically, your character is a transfer student to the rural Japanese town of Inaba. Upon getting there, a bizarre series of murders breaks out in the small town. The police are baffled, and it is up to you and your friends to discover the truth behind the murders. The story is a supernatural mystery plot and it works very well. However, the real stars of the show, story-wise, are the characters and character interactions. Unlike the wacky off the wall cast of Persona 3, Persona 4 has a more down to earth cast, although just as reliant on certain archetypes. Sure Chie is a stereotypical tomboy and Yukiko is the sheltered clueless girl, but there is much more to these characters than simply the stereotype. The story really focuses on these characters, their emotions and their motivations. P4G actually adds quite a bit to the story in this regard. There are more events, more dialogue and a new non-playable character to meet and possibly romance. These changes aren’t ground breaking and don’t shed any new light on the characters, but they still add to the overall character interactions found in the game, and that is a big plus.
|Great interactions like poking Naoto’s tits.|
The gameplay of Persona 4 is divided into two segments. The first segment is the sim part of the game. Your character will go to school, hang out with friends, go to work at a part time job and so forth. The day to day running of your character’s life is up to you and it has real consequences for the gameplay. As you get closer to the various people in your life, you upgrade your social link status which lets you get stronger Persona for the dungeon portion of the game. It doesn’t offer many story consequences, but there is a serious push for you to use your time wisely in order to get every gameplay advantage you can. No new gamer will max everything on their first playthrough, which means time management is very important. P4G adds a new character called Marie and some new options to spend your time, mostly involving the addition of scooters to the storyline. Marie isn’t actually that interesting a character, I’m afraid, but the additions as well as the minor tweaks to things such as test answers are all welcome.
|If there’s one thing video games need it’s more tsundere characters and more amnesiacs.|
The second major gameplay segment of Persona 4 is the dungeon crawler aspect. Your team will be able to choose to enter a series of dungeons as the story opens them up. In these dungeons, you’ll encounter various monsters with differing weaknesses and resistances. The battles are turn based and hitting an enemy weakness will give your character another turn, making it advisable to play smart. On top of this, you’ll be able to collect and fuse the titular Persona, which are basically Pokemon in that they all have unique abilities and resistances. Unlike Pokemon, Personas are based off of world mythological figures such as Thor or Samael, so there is a lot more substance behind them. These Personas are how you fight monsters in the game and they are why the sim aspect of the game is so important. P4G adds the least amount here. There is a secret dungeon unlocked as well as very few new Personas, but the core experience is mainly the same. There are new scooter assist attacks, but they are largely ornamental. One good addition is that you can now collect costumes and change character costumes at will. This is great and there are some very fun and interesting costumes that can be collected through the world, and Atlus gave us a new equipment slot just for costumes so you aren’t trading stat bonuses for looks.
|That’s right. Now you can sleaze up your characters AND have high stats. Kanji’s speedo shows that the sleaze goes both ways (/pun) so gender equality for the win here, I guess.|
There are a couple of online additions to the game, but they are hardly worth mentioning. The SOS system allows players to put out an SOS to other players who are playing online. By responding to an SOS, you are healing the other player. It is a nice touch, but it largely becomes useless as you get further into the game and you’ve learned better SP management. The other addition is the Vox Populi, which polls online users as to what choices they made during the day. It is a neat little feature and similar to Catherine’s polls, but it is hardly necessary. Despite the fact that neither of these features are necessary, they are both interesting additions and are certainly welcome in the game.
|You would think that drive by shootings would be more effective. You would be wrong.|
The additions to Persona 4: The Golden don’t change the game in any way that would make it unrecognizable to people who have played it before. There are balance fixes here and there and new story segments, but the core experience is largely unchanged. The big advantage is that none of the changes make the game worse in any way. At the highest point, they are warmly welcomed and at the lowest they are unnecessary. Persona 4: The Golden offers one of the best JRPG experiences you can have and proves that, when properly executed, the genre has a lot going for it. This game is at the top of the pile for JRPGs and is one of the best games ever made period. It is also one of the most compelling reasons to own a Vita right now.
– Addicting, strategic gameplay