Ive been on a serious PlayStation Vita kick the last month or so. Ive had Persona 4 Golden for a few years now and have been meaning to sit down and give it a serious go one of these days but it just kept getting pushed back. I find I don’t have the time I once use to when it comes to smashing hours into a game. Even when that game is portable. But this time around I made a serious conscious effort to finally play through Persona 4 Golden. I consider Persona 3 to be one of the best JRPs I have ever played. Im not sure how well it still holds up now but from my memory of playing through it in high school it was one of the most genuine JRPG experiences I ever had. Who would have thought mixing dating sims, Pokemon and a collectible card game with a traditional dungeon crawler would yield such results.
Persona 4 Golden is no exception. It is a further refined version of the play style and systems made popular in Persona 3. I haven’t played Persona 5 yet but due to how well that games doing I would suspect its been refined even further there. Persona 4 Golden starts off with your voiceless, nameless (Yu Narukami the in game story name if you want to use it) character moving to Inaba a small country side town of Japan. You live with your uncle Dojima and little cousin Nanako. Soon after arriving you find yourself intertwined with a world inside the TVs and a series of murders you and your high school Investigation team have to solve. The characters are all so dynamic and genuine. You can’t help but feel a friendship grow between them. During my first play through I would think on certain days oh I haven’t seen so and so in a while I should go hangout with them, not because of some advantage I might gain later but because I like the character and want to see what they are up to.
As the game progresses you will build “social links” with others who inhabit the town. These social links are directly connected to a persona type. I look at it like types of Pokemon. You have Fire, Dragon, Psychic and so on in Pokemon and in Persona you have types like Magician, Justice, Chariot. A lot of which are based off tarot cards. The more you use these persona in battle the more they will level, again like Pokemon. The stronger your social links are with the corresponding person that represents that personas type the stronger your persona will be and the more powerful the personas you make of that corresponding type in the future will be. It’s safe to say the out of combat social link aspects are the most important part of the game overall. It’s also the most interesting part for me personally. I genuinely feel connected to the characters I formed strong bonds with through the game. When I finished my first play through I felt a sinking feeling in my chest thinking about how its over and I won’t see them again from my perspective.
Which is partly why I’m playing through it again on New Game Plus (NG+). Got to catch all those Pokemon right, I mean Personas. NG+ is an option you unlock after your first play through. On your first play through you will encounter options you wont be able to use due to insufficient Courage or Knowledge and such. These are things you will raise through the game as you do certain things. They can be maxed out and it would be best to max them out before the end of your first play through. Which you can do very easily on your first play through by simply keeping an eye on it and doing the corresponding tasks to raise them. Another thing that carries over with NG+ is your Persona Compendium which is basically your list of Persona you have created or found over your first play through. Some other things also carry over but I would say these are the most important and standout aspects you get to take with you. Also something very useful with NG+ is the option to change your difficulty in game. On your first play through you will be locked into the difficulty you choose when you start the game so choose wisely. I went with Normal and found it fairly challenging myself. Im now replaying it on Very Easy and well its very easy. This is meant to be a Trophy run for me so I’m ok with that but I think the best middle ground for me would have been “Easy”. If I were to pick it up again just for fun in like 10 years that’s the difficulty I would pick.
Speaking of trophies. You cannot get all the trophies in your first play though. You can get a lot of them but you will be missing some that are ment for a following play through. Which is partly why NG+ exists. Its a genuinely great feature for a game like this. I don’t have many cons for this game but one I will bring up is when it came to the overall investigation of the murders I found every person I was suspicious of ended up being a key part of story. Best way I can put it without spoiling anything is I called it every step of the way and I’m talking about the True Ending here where there’s a lot going on. In the games defense I am a big fan of mystery in general. Sherlock Holmes is one of my heroes so naturally when dealing with a murder investigation in a game I’m trying to break it down very aggressively. Also a bit of a humble brag here but I am also a licensed private investigator here in Canada so I’m a bit more suspicious than most people would be simply playing through this game. It’s also why I love Naoto Shirogane so much. So thats one issue with the game which again is more an issue with me than the game itself.
Another small issue I have is after you max out a social link you really loose the incentive to see that person again. It feels a lot like I got what I needed from you now buzz off. Which feels really bad from the standpoint of someone you got to know well enough to max out their social link. Even something as simple as experience points following a maxed out social link to the corresponding persona type would have been a good enough incentive. I wonder if they made a change to this in Persona 5.
Persona 4 Golden is a 10/10 all day every day. This game is a reason to buy a PlayStation Vita if you haven’t got one already. If this is the only game you ever get for the Vita than it would be money well spent. I cant seem to get myself to put it down. Ive even gone as far as having a 2 different dreams about the game. Im already planing out my fall schedule so I can finally play Persona 5. Keep an eye out for that review.