Game Title: Persona 4 Golden
Platform: PS Vita
Release: November 20, 2012
Genre: Role Playing Game
Persona 4 Golden is an enhanced port of the PS 2 game formatted for the Playstation Vita. The port adds a few extra things such as Trophies and a minor online component. Persona 4 Golden is a stand-alone title in the Persona franchise, meaning you do not need to have experienced any of the previous titles to understand what is going on in the game.
Some of you might notice that I have turn based combat listed under both Pro and Con sections. Let me explain this. For old school gamers, turn based combat is a blessing. Today's RPGs tend to focus more on Action Based Combat. Derisively known as "button mashing". However, for other gamers, usually the younger crowd, turn based combat is a turn off. Some gamers prefer a more fast paced combat system and don't care to "wait" for their turn to thwap the bad guy.
The game starts off with an incredible, gorgeous cut scene for a diet soda of all things. It doesn’t take long before you’re introduced to your Uncle, your cousin and Inaba. You are from the city, sent to live with your Uncle in the countryside, for a year while your parents are working out of town. No sooner than our young hero gets to town, a strange murder takes place. The first murder victim is an actress. A 2nd murder takes place a few days later. This time the victim goes to your school. When a 3rd girl goes missing, you and your new friends begin investigating what happened.
You’re introduced really early to the idea of the Midnight Channel. A tv channel that has some strange programming on it. You accidently discover you have the ability to enter the television and you and your friends embark on an engaging murder mystery. Not only do you need to save each victim, but you need to find out who is behind everything, and the answers will surprise you.
In P4: Golden, dungeon exploring and combat take a back seat to the story, and the social links that you will build as the game progresses. The dungeons are more of a means to advance the story than the story being a way to advance the combat.
Unlike most RPGs, Persona 4 operates on a timed schedule. You have a limited time frame to work with, not just for the whole game, but each victim as well. You have roughly 10 months to figure out who the culprit is. You have roughly 1 month (game time) to save each victim. Depending on some of your choices the game can end in December. If you figure out the culprit by then you can access the True Path ending which adds more content to the game. Again with your choices in the game, you can work on fighting the real culprit.
In Persona 3, dungeon exploration was one giant dungeon with several floors. In Persona 4 there are multiple dungeons, each on tailored to the individual you are chasing or trying to rescue. There are 2 types of treasure chests, regular (which are small) and golden chests. The gold chests require keys or lock wheat (a special item) to unlock. You can find weapons, accessories or armor from the gold chests and general recovery items such as hp or sp items. You will also obtain drops from the shadows you fight. These items can be sold to the old man at the weapon store. He will use these drops to create new weapons, accessories and armor.
Combat is turn based and you can control all of your party members or allow the AI to control everyone else but the main character. In Persona 4, each character has access to a Persona, an inner spirit of sorts. The main character has access to over 100 Persona. These Personas each have their own strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Only the main character can switch which Persona he has equipped. Your friends only have access to 1 each, but if you complete their social links the Persona will evolve. Come January, you can evolve their Personas one more time for their ultimate form and ability (but only if you have maxed out their social link.) Each Persona is tied to a specific Arcana. There are 22 Arcana types.
Persona 3 first introduced us to the concept of Social Links. Persona 4 continues this and adds a bit more to it this time. There are 22 Social Links in all, including all of your teammates. Each Social Link is tied to an Arcana type. For example, Yukiko Amagi’s social link is the Priestess.
As you strengthen these bonds the Personas you fuse from that Social Link will gain Experience bonuses. You can get up to 5 bonus levels when fusing Persona of specific arcana. Take for example Isis. This Persona is level 79 Empress. If your Empress Social Link is maxed (rank 10) then you can net 5 levels in XP bonuses. Also once you’ve maxed out a Social Link, that person will give you a key item that will allow you to fuse a rare Persona, the “ultimate” Persona of that particular arcana.
There are other activities that you can engage in as well. After a certain point in the story, you’ll be able to plant seedlings. These seedlings will grow into useful items. If you plant the wheat seedling for example you will be able to harvest 2 Lock Wheat, which will unlock the Golden chests that you find in each dungeon. You can also go fishing. The fish can be consumed to restore Hit Points or Skill Points. You can also go the beach or into town to watch a movie or drink coffee. (Drinking coffee consumes an afternoon and you can obtain rare skill cards from equipped Persona.
Persona 4 Golden offers gamers a lot to see, do and experience. The music is outstanding. The cut scenes are top notch. The voice acting is a little weak. I didn’t particularly care for the voice of Chie. But that is a minor pet peeve. The replay value is quite high, especially if you plan to go for the Platinum Trophy.
Persona 4 Golden is definitely a must buy for most RPG fans.
Thanks for the review. Persona 4 will most likely be the first game I'm going to buy for my upcoming Vita. A question though if you don't mind. Exactly how poor is the AI of your teammates (if you choose not to control them) during combat? I prefer controlling one character at a time. Are there any inherent advantages in controlling your whole party besides being rewarded with more combat options?
The AI isn't too 'bad' per se but I've found that your teammates aren't likely to heal you if you are under 50%. The AI won't use items, or it didn't in my brief experience with the AI. They don't always use the right abilities either. Say a monster is weak to lightning. The party member who has Zio might use melee attack instead of Zio. Seems to run 50/50 on using the right abilities. To me that's makes the AI a very poor option.
In my experience, controlling your party directly allows you to take full advantage in combat. If you need to heal you can do so. If you're low on SP, you can use items, rather than wasting the attack. You don't get any extra xp, items or money for directly controlling your party, it's just a wiser option. At least if you plan to play on the 2 hardest settings. If you play on very Easy it's probably not even an issue.