The PlayStation Vita hasn’t seen much of success here in the UK when it comes to sales or popularity but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some absolute gems available for the system at the moment. One of those gems is the fantastic Persona 4 Goldenwhich takes everything people loved about the PlayStation 2 original, improves it in almost every way as well as throwing in a heightened difficulty for more experienced players. Its rather daunting difficulty might scare away potential newcomers to the genre but there is no reason not to try out what is arguably one of the best games in the genre and shows further that Atlus are one of the best developers in the industry.
You begin by naming your character as you transfer to a small and somewhat obscure rural high school. From here you begin to make friends, join clubs and study for your exams. Thankfully this isn’t as boring as it sounds since you’ll soon be pushed head first into a paranormal murder mystery where you are granted the power of ‘Persona’ that is essentially the inner manifestation of the feelings you have finally accepted.
This power is used to take part in the simple yet constantly challenging battle system. The battle system can become repetitive in longer play sessions but it constantly keeps you on your toes as even the smallest of enemies can absolutely annihilate your party if you aren’t careful. This can lead to some frustrating yet undeniably satisfying segments of grinding where you will no doubt find yourself retracing old dungeons to level up your party and obtain cool new items and with the prospect of a new female character after completion you could easily sink countless hours into this title (like I already have).
Persona 4 Golden presents itself beautifully and takes full advantage of the Vita‘s visual capabilities. The visual style from the original remains largely untouched despite some subtle improvements and an evident HD upscale. The art style is mature, gothic and varied throughout as new enemy types and designs are introduced with each new dungeon you explore which keeps you invested in more than just the gameplay side of things. It’s a shame that the English voice acting is decent but often mediocre with some characters. A Japanese language option would have been an excellent addition for the package but its absence doesn’t hurt the game but could have improved it.
The social aspect of Persona 4 Golden will see you participating in classes, making new friends and perhaps even finding love towards the end, and these all give you certain benefits in battle. The fact that you have to incentive to take part in them makes them all the more enjoyable. It’s a shame that because of the sheer number of options you won’t see them all in a single play-through unless you carefully manage completely separate save files with the same character. Some of these social aspects can be a little overwhelming and prioritizing those over dungeon exploring can often lead to a frustrating game over which can lose you a week of progress (in game that is). But so long as your party remains at a decent level at all times you won’t have a problem, just be warned that this RPG doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to challenging you.
Persona 4 Golden may be a port but it still feels new and refreshing on the Vita a few years since its original release. It’s one of the best games available for the system and works wonderfully as a portable experience. It does very little to alter the original but in all honesty there was very little to correct. The new additions add to the experience without withdrawing attention from its already excellent formula of classic turn based combat and social interaction. If you aren’t familiar with the Persona universe this is the perfect jumping off point.