Persona 4 Golden Review

A wealth of new content and gameplay additions make a modern role-playing classic better than ever in Persona 4 Golden.

A top-tier role-playing game is generally a finely crafted concoction of several ingredients: an interesting setting, an engaging story, enjoyable characters and interactions, and gameplay that makes your interaction with all of the aforementioned elements feel meaningful and worthwhile. When all of these individual factors are developed to high standards, the result is an RPG of exceptional quality--and that is exactly what Persona 4 Golden is.

New story scenes make the 90-some hours you're likely to spend in Persona 4's world all the more memorable.

This re-release of 2008's excellent PlayStation 2 game takes place in modern-day Japan. The protagonist is a high school student from a big city whose parents have been sent away on business. They send him to live for a year with his uncle--a police investigator--and his young cousin in a small countryside town. Almost immediately upon the hero's arrival, strange things begin to happen in this otherwise dull little hamlet: a string of people turn up dead, and rumor spreads of a supernatural television broadcast that shows bizarre programming. The hero and a crew of his newfound classmates soon discover a horrible secret: there's a separate world within the televisions that twists human desires and hidden feelings in potentially lethal ways, and it's somehow tied to the serial killings. It's up to the group of friends to harness the supernatural power of personas, put a stop to the sinister killing spree, and decipher the secrets behind the TV world.

The contemporary, real-world-inspired setting of Persona 4 is already an excellent conceit in the heavily fantasy- and sci-fi-driven world of RPGs. But it's far from the only element that sets the game apart from the crop. Unlike most RPGs, Persona 4 operates on something of a time limit. From the day you arrive in the country village of Inaba until the day the school year ends, you advance through the game on a calendar. Dates and deadlines are very important; not only do you have important events in school and in your personal life to deal with, but you also discover that the serial killings follow a specific time pattern. You need to explore and rescue potential victims from the TV world before they are killed--a task that usually takes several days to complete.

The all-new fully voiced quiz-show challenge is but a portion of Persona 4 Golden's bountiful extras.

It would be easy if you could just spend all your days fighting, but Persona 4 also puts heavy emphasis on interacting with other characters in the game. Every day presents many opportunities for various noncombative activities, be it school clubs, hobbies at home, working part-time jobs for extra spending money, or just hanging out with pals needing friendly support. Spending time on these activities benefits you in various ways: some boost your abilities, some earn you items and money, and still others increase your connections with other characters.

Some choices can even offer multiple benefits. By far the most lucrative are the connections with non-player characters, called "social links." By forming friendships and support networks with various characters, you create powerful personas to use during combat. (Some social links, such as those with your party members, also offer additional combat benefits and skills.) Thus, choosing how to spend your limited time each day becomes an additional challenge with its own risks and rewards. If you feel indecisive, an in-game feature lets you connect to an online database to see how other players chose to spend that day.

Though social links pose an engaging puzzle, they woudn't be nearly as interesting if the NPCs involved weren't engaging, memorable characters. This is one of the ways Persona 4 shines, since interacting with the game's cast is enjoyable and rewarding in itself. The characters you meet over the course of the game are relatable and believable, as are the struggles they go through. The bonds you wind up forming with characters make the various interludes scattered throughout the game (such as class trips and group vacations) even more enjoyable as breaks from a sometimes very heavy story. The quality of the game's writing and localization is an additional triumph, skillfully delivering both laugh-out-loud moments and heart-wrenching plot twists.

You can also equip new outfits for combat, ranging from the stylish to the ridiculous.

The story and socialization elements are only one portion of the game, however. You spend a lot of time exploring the TV world, as well. As the game progresses, the TV world expands to include numerous dungeons and monsters created from the dark, repressed thoughts of potential victims that have been cast inside. As the leader of your school friends' makeshift "investigation team," you and your pals explore these randomly generated dungeons, scouring them for treasures and occasionally solving puzzles while searching for the abducted victims. Combat is traditional turn-based RPG fighting with a twist: both you and your foes can earn extra turns by exploiting each other's elemental weakness, a mechanic that fuels some devious strategies and devastating attacks. (It's worth noting that Persona 4 Golden is slightly easier than the original game, so veterans looking for a challenge may want to pick a harder difficulty setting when starting a new game.)

The concept of "personas"--supernatural representations of one's projected self--comes into play during combat. Personas come with a set of strengths, weaknesses, and combat skills, which can change and evolve as the personas level up. While your party members each have a set persona throughout the game, your lead character has the unique ability to transform into many different personas during combat. This allows for additional combat strategy, giving you a way to select personas ideal for exploiting enemy weaknesses while also working to protect your own party. The main character's personas also gain experience and level up independently of his base level, usually being equal to or lower than his own.

When the enemies are knocked down, it's time to go to town.

Since eventually personas learn all of the skills they possibly can and taper off in stat growth, you need to explore the system of fusing personas to form new, more-powerful personas in combat. This allows skills from the personas used in the fusion to be passed along, and some well-planned skill inheritance combinations can result in a potent new combat persona. Social links also boost created personas with additional experience bonuses, allowing you to create much higher-level personas typically beyond your reach. Skillfully creating a persona array to use in battle can often mean the difference between victory and defeat.

These various elements improve an already-fantastic RPG experience. But what makes Persona 4 Golden an even more impressive package is how much extra content has been packed into the game over its original release. For starters, creating new personas via fusion is much easier, because the game lets you pick skills to transfer (rather than randomly transferring skills). You can also give personas specific abilities through the use of rare items called "skill cards"--a callback to some of the earlier Persona games.

Your party members are also capable of performing additional abilities during combat: depending on how high your social links are with your teammates, they can randomly cure minor status ailments and perform support attacks--even if they aren't in the currently active party. Certain combinations of party members can also perform special follow-up skills after all-out attacks to deal extra damage to already weakened foes. The Shuffle Time card minigame after certain battles has been completely redone, allowing for less random chance and more worthwhile bonuses. A network feature in dungeons rounds out the combat enhancements, allowing you to request help from other P4G players connected to PSN to deliver aid in the form of health and skill point recovery.

Nothing is not normal about this scene.

The improvements go well beyond combat. Two new social links--including a brand-new female character named Marie--are available to foster, and additional locations and opportunities for building other links abound. You can buy seeds and tend to a garden at home, using the crops yielded as helpful items in the dungeons. You also earn a scooter during the game, which you can use to travel to the beach and a larger city for activities, shopping, and questing. More options are available to you during the evenings, including hanging out with friends and a new job opportunity working at a hostess bar. Finally, many activities from the previous game, such as reading or working at home in the evenings to improve various stats, have been streamlined to be easier to use and more beneficial.

But these aren't even the biggest additions to the game. In the original release of P4, there was a point where a significant time skip occurred, moving the game's calendar several months ahead. In Persona 4 Golden, much of this time period is made available to you to play through, allowing you to further build social links and engage with the characters and setting well beyond what you could before. Some new story events are available during this time, and a completely new dungeon also opens up (provided you've completed some prerequisites). The new story additions also allow for some vastly different endings.

On top of everything are separately accessible in-game TV channels that offer a variety of programming. Once you unlock them, you can freely access archives of the various animation sequences seen in the game, design artwork, and promotional materials and music. There's even a lesson on the Jungian psychology theories that form the basis of the game's story, along with an interactive quiz-show series that tests your knowledge of everything related to Persona 4.

Stay in school, kids.

As great as Persona 4 Golden is, there are a few minor issues. The game still takes a while to get going: expect to experience about two hours of plot setup and character introductions before you're turned loose to enjoy the game at your own pace. The visual upgrade also feels a little lacking: P4G's PlayStation 2 roots show in its fairly basic-looking character models and environments and sometimes-blurry textures. The game looks like an HD remaster rather than a full remake, leaving you feeling like it doesn't take advantage of the platform's graphical capabilities as well as it should.

When it comes down to it, however, any complaints that can be lobbied at Persona 4 Golden feel insignificant when weighed against the quality of the rest of the game. Persona 4 remains one of the most engaging, thoughtful, and enjoyable RPGs of recent years, having already earned its status as a genre classic upon its original release. Persona 4 Golden's well-thought-out and well-implemented augmentations serve to make an already fantastic game even better, resulting in a superlative game experience that belongs in any Vita game library.

The Good
Distinctive mix of resource management and role playing
Memorable characters and fantastic dialogue
Makes a substantial number of improvements to the interface and combat
Lots of new locations and events give great incentive for old fans to return
Thoughtful, engaging mystery story keeps you enthralled
The Bad
Takes a few hours to get going
9
Superb
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27 comments
zantetsuken1983
zantetsuken1983

yep just buy it, do not think just buy it lol. I first played persona 3 portable 3 and was hooked since them i cant get enough of these games. 

baelrathlian
baelrathlian

I am curious.  I have the collectors version for the PS2 the one that came with the music disk.  Is persona 4 Golden just the same game on the PS3?  I know they added a few more social interactions and some new FMV but what else?  I am thinking of getting Golden on the PS3 but did not want to get a game I already have.

miabanda
miabanda

I love this.  I'm a 36 year old female and have been gaming since I was 9.  This is great- I love the fact that it's an RPG and a simulation game.  The aspects of both are phenomenal.  I was laughing at the story and the characters the entire time.

It IS, however, 17+, and I would NOT recommend it to junior gamers.  This is a game with references to sex, alcohol and violence.  I would not allow my children under 16 to play it.

I would recommend it if you are into RPGs and love a good comedy.  This is definitely silly!

SteamyPotatoes
SteamyPotatoes

Just picked this up on the digital store, was same price as retail, would have gone retail but it is nice to be able to keep my other game "soul sacrifice" + this on the system at the same time aswell as Stardust Delta :D, could do with a new SD card, currently have a 4GB, but I'm just getting started with such a great bit of kit.

Didn't think i would like this style of game but I'm really enjoying it, viva la vita, should keep me going for a while till some more killer games come out :)

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

I disliked turn based RPGs before this game, but I've come around now. So much fun. At first it's easy to get lost in the insane amount of things to do but you get a handle on it pretty quick and can't stop playing.

Nintyfan95
Nintyfan95

Another good Vita game, all they need to do now is drop the price. 

Sulima
Sulima

I have been playing games for a while now, but this was my first JRPG. I got it mostly because there was not much to play on the Vita that I had interest in, and this game got good reviews. Took a bit of time to take off, but it was a lot of fun. Absolutely amazing game. I could not put it down. Definitely a good reason to get the Vita if you are on the fence. Luckily, game allows for multiple saves, so I was able to replay from key moments to see all the 4 endings. From what I have read the additions to the Vita version are worth playing the game again. Highly recommended.

GabranthXIII
GabranthXIII

Finished it a while ago, great RPG. I can't wait for Persona 5...

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I have just purchased this game. Still on my desk in the shrink wrap. I have no played this series before. But this is supposed to be one of the PSvita's gems. I like RPG's And have become an Atlus fan. I played Baroque on the PS2. Loved it. Catherine on the PS3 which I really enjoyed. When I saw Persona 4 Golden is made by Atlus I bought it. Plus Gamestop had it for $29.99 which is 10 less then usual. I have to finish Gow J first. Then I shall play this.

zleeven
zleeven

number 1 reason to buy a ps vita 


clopes8878
clopes8878

this game should be definetly be on more platforms, its a very unique game, never thought I would enjoy this game so much its a shame its only on Vita 

alenth
alenth

Still enjoying the hell out of this game, this game is a true gem, persona 4 was a bit overlooked in america back in the 08 but i think is getting the attention it deserves, i hope atlus can bring more persona games with high quality as always.

blueboxdoctor
blueboxdoctor

I knew pretty much nothing about this game (read reviews but it was still vague) before picking it up today and all I can say is I'm glad I picked it up.  Still in the beginning part, but I'm liking the characters, background music, and it's nice to have an RPG not set in a fantasy world.

GG-EvdK
GG-EvdK

Never played/seen this game but since I own a Vita and everybody says this is golden (see what I did there?) I might pick this up.

Didnt quite understand this review though. All I read was when your Persona does a persona then persona fuses to get some persona skills.

Leck0rkuchen
Leck0rkuchen

I was really hyped for the Vita at start now I'm totally disappointed in the high price for the system, memory cards and games and the bad gamelibrary. But THIS one game made me want a Vita again, this has to be a systemseller.

pupp3t_mast3r
pupp3t_mast3r

I would so get a PSVita just for this game... That said I wish they would put work into a brand new game instead of just revamping the old titles, I don't think there's been a full console based Shin Megami Tensei game since the PS2 :(

juninhotorres
juninhotorres

I started playing P4 for PS2 but, before clearing it, I bought a PS3. I gor all excited about the new system and never finished it, which is a shame, cause this game is one of the RPGs I loved most playing. =[

I wish so badly (no hopes, though) they would publish a PS3 port, cause I don't see myself  getting a PSVita in the near future. =[

jorge_luis707
jorge_luis707

I didn't mind the slow start. It helps you get a taste of how important social links and time management are. Though its kind of depressing the best vita games are HD remakes (MGS was great) I'm looking forward to the Final Fantasy's, Kingdom Hearts, and other great series that I could play on the go and in HD.

LoneWolves123
LoneWolves123

Does anyone else remember when Atlus said there wouldn't be a "Fez" edition of Persona 4 (http://www.1up.com/news/atlus-persona-4-fes) ? Yeah...well that wasn't exactly true. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for developers standing behind their games and continuing to publish content for existing ones; I just wish they would have just released P4 on the Vita(not that I own one) and then offered a DLC with all of the new content. I'd LOVE to sink my teeth into Persona 4's new content...but not enough to buy a Vita.

Dschadir
Dschadir

When I first read about this game and saw the screenshots, I was like: "Not for me". A few days ago I was at my local gameshop (called The Gameshop :-) in The Hague, The Netherlands) I figured "what the hell" and picked it up anyway. What a great decision. The story makes you want to keep playing, although it's tough to keep going at first, because the first few hours, you're not really playing, but more watching an interactive cartoon. Then when the game does 'start' it's impossible to put down. Best Vita game of 2012.

whartand2
whartand2

I'm on my 3rd play through.  It's fun to try to complete all the social links you couldn't on the first 2.    

mtait01
mtait01

I had never played this game before but since I recently got a Vita and I heard about some positive reviews I decided to give it a go having never played a Persona game before... incredible game, I am about 15 hours in so far and I just can't get enough! Truly my favorite game for the Vita yet

Lord_Python1049
Lord_Python1049

It bugs me to death that this game is a vita exclusive.

naruto0187
naruto0187

I'm nearly done with my first playthrough. I played the PS2 version, too, and there are a lot of additional features here in P4G and it's really worth it. The first Persona game I ever played was P3P, and ever since, I got hooked on the series. Now, all that's left is to wait for the release of P5. Persona Series all the way!

Zepheral
Zepheral

Playing my second play through and still loving it. 

Heelflipit
Heelflipit

Just got it a couple of days ago. The only thing I don't like is the time constraints that you must abide to. I like playing at my own pace and not being forced to do a mission. But all in all it is a good game and there is no denying that.

Heelflipit
Heelflipit

Just got it a couple of days ago. The only thing I don't like is the time constraints that you must abide to. I like playing at my own pace and not being forced to do a mission. But all in all it is a good game and there is no denying that.

phoenixto
phoenixto

always heard good things about the series and now i see why.

only one thing to say

- just play it -

granola_goodnes
granola_goodnes

Man I want this game but I don't have a Vita.  I remember getting into the Persona series because of P3P, and that was an impulse purchase (one of the best I ever made).  I hate to admit it, but the fact that it was a JRPG that was rated M was what got me curious.

HorrorBN
HorrorBN

Reading this review, I really get that "but wait! There's more!" feeling.  every paragraph is a new suprise.

zeifel
zeifel

finals are just over for me, will be getting this tomorrow. my 1st Persona game though.sorry for being off-topic a little, but do you guys recommend Zero's Escape as well? I tried the demo, disappointed by the graphics but is the story/gameplay good enough to make up for it?

chiefgul
chiefgul

@miabanda 

36 years old male from greece ....you say "I'm a 36 year old female and have been gaming since I was 9"

will you marry me!!!!!

antunesaa
antunesaa

@clopes8878 Why is it a shame? If it was on the ps3 I wouldn't be able to play it because it is always taken by one of my kids.

Bhemont
Bhemont

 @Lord_Python1049 Not sure if worth getting vita just for this game, way to expensive, and there is no alternative ie; PS3 compatible or *cough* emu...*cough*

whartand2
whartand2

 @Heelflipit I can see your point but I think from a storyline standpoint,  It gives that sense of urgency (imagine a ticking time bomb).  It's close to impossible to complete all the secondary social links within the (less than) 1 academic year.  But all in all, it's what entices you to go back and make different decisions on the next play through.

whartand2
whartand2

 @zeifel If you like puzzle games then yes.  It's amazing.  Plus the game forces you to make decisions that will affect the ending (26 in all).  Another game that entices you to go back and play differently from your first.

 

marine0089
marine0089

 @zeifel Zero's Escape: VLR is a fantastic game and really worth getting. Note the EU version doesn't have the incredible English voice acting the US version has. I imported my version because of this. Can't put this game down. It pays to play the DS game 999 before if you haven't already seeing as VLR is a direct sequel.

 

I'm 23 hours into VLR and still haven't reached the correct ending. Once I finish it I'm going to pick this up for sure.

shadow655
shadow655

 @Bhemont If your a douchebag, then its not worth getting... So I don't think its for you, cough cough douchebag cough...

Zepheral
Zepheral

 @robbiejones A good weeks if you have no idea what your doing with little breaks.

 

Persona 4 Golden More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    Persona 4 Golden is a remastered version of PS2 classic Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4.
    9.3
    Average User RatingOut of 408 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Persona 4 Golden
    Developed by:
    ATLUS
    Published by:
    ATLUS, NIS America
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence