It's The Japanese Scooby Doo Gang!
HIGH Engaging plot, fantastic combat and amazing soundtrack.
LOW When the game comes to an end, repeated dungeon environments.
WTF Reminds me of a harem anime I watched once.
What Matt Kaplan said in his review about learning there's no way to do an objective writeup is quite correct. The key, however, is to not to write a review with blinders on; all games have flaws and Persona 4 Golden is no different. Sure, certain aspects can be overlooked when the positives outweigh the negatives, but issues start to rise when crossing into fanboy territory.
As context for this review, then, I think it's worth mentioning that I've never played a Persona or Shin Megami Tensei title until P4G. I purchased it at the request of many, many fellow gamers—all of whom told me it would impress beyond my expectations. With all the recommendations, how could I say no? P4G has now become my favorite JRPG title, and I'd even say it's secured a spot on my top 10 of all time. For me, this was a tremendous feat for any game to accomplish, and I tip my hat to Atlus.
For those unaware of P4G's story or for those that need a refresher (no spoilers here!), the main protagonist arrives at a rural town called Inaba to live at his uncle's place for a year. Trouble soon follows, and with the help of several high school friends who suddenly gain powers through "Personas", they form a self-titled Investigation Team to solve the bizarre murders going on.
The hero is relatively silent throughout the game, save for a few grunts here and there, and a few dialogue choices at specific moments. However, the large cast of characters is colorful, and they support the already-strong plot. Persona 4's story caught my attention quickly, and took me through a wide range of emotions—I often smiled from ear to ear, had several laughs, enjoyed the adrenaline rush of tense battles, and even shed a tear or two along the way.
In fact, I feel a bit weird for saying it, but I felt like the in-game year was an actual year from the moment I started to the game's bittersweet ending. I know only a few real-time months passed while I was playing, but far as I'm concerned, I got to watch how the characters changed over time; each one dealing with their own dark side while still working towards the overall mystery.
Of course, one of the most important aspects for any JRPG to nail properly is the combat system, and in my opinion, the combat in P4G is basically flawless. Most JRPG titles require grinding to progress, but even as a fan of the genre myself, I don't enjoy hours of it—I find too much to be tedious and bothersome. Imagine my surprise that even after more than fifty hours into the game, I actively sought out extra foes. P4G somehow took one of my least favorite JRPG aspects and made it… enjoyable.
This superb combat is fairly simple. For instance, a particular enemy could be weak to electricity, so by using a Persona with electric magic, the foe will enter a downed state. If all enemies are knocked down by exploiting said weaknesses, players can launch a devastating group attack, and unleashing the full party on weakened foes never gets old.
Personas can also be fused together to create even stronger Personas, and it holds a rich sort of excitement because it isn't just clicking buttons to create—there's all sorts of complexity to it. I even found myself constantly checking the weather for additional stat boosts or deductions!
One of the biggest additions exclusive to P4G is Marie, a character introduced specifically for this title, and her social link is the crucial path players are highly recommended to finish. Not only does she add more depth to the original story, but she also brings players one step closer to achieving the true ending. Honestly? I'm extremely pleased she was added—Marie is a joy and often provided comic relief, even when she didn't mean to. Other new content includes extra dungeons, additional Personas, new outfits, a garden that can be used to grow items, and more anime cut-scenes. There's even an online element brought in, in which players can help others during hard times.
Persona 4 Golden may be two years old and I'm sure JRPG fans snatched this up long before I came to the show, but for those out there still holding out, don't wait any longer! Speaking not as a JRPG fan who embraces the genre without hesitation, but as someone who came to the game absolutely fresh, Persona 4 Golden is an excellent addition to my Vita collection, and an easy title to recommend.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PS Vita. Approximately 84 hours and 32 minutes were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
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