Many called Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 the greatest JRPG of all time back in 2008 when it first came into light on the PlayStation 2. And although some Final Fantasy fanboys may beg to differ, I totally agree. So enter 2013’s HD all bells and whistles update, Persona 4 Golden. Is it still the best? Does it translate well enough to a handheld?
Persona 4 Golden is part high school social simulator and part dungeon crawler. The protagonist moves to a small countryside town from the big city to live with his uncle and cousin. Starts a brand new school, makes some new friends and becomes a part time detective after a local television presenter is murdered. After trying out an urban legend ‘the Midnight Channel’, the real adventure begins with you and your new pals being sucked into the ‘TV World’. Here you gain super powers in the form of personas and set out on a turn-based battle adventure to save the town from a crazed killer literally pushing the townsfolk towards their doom.
First thing to note is this game is HUGE. I mean REALLY HUGE. There is a whole high school drama to play out, multi-floored dungeons to explore, social links to keep up, part time jobs to do, over 150 personas to collect and properly managing your time after to school to get the best possible for your character. Dang, that’s a lot of stuff to remember. And at 80 hours on my first playthrough, that’s a lot of bang for anyone’s buck.
Just like Final Fantasy, you don’t need to have played one of the previous Persona games to enjoy it. Each game is a brand new story and set of characters. The main chunk of the gameplay is a social simulator. It has you making friends, playing sports, getting a part time job, sorting your school life out, hanging out at the mall, cinema and going to town. It’ll have you chasing girls, building up your characteristics such as knowledge and courage, becoming a school superstar soccer/basketball player and building 23 different social links with friends, family and bandana wearing fox(!?).
Now for the ever so slightly smaller part of the game. The dungeons. These multi-story wacky worlds inside of the TV are where you spend an hour or so at a time using your skills and items you build up during the rest of the game. Filled with monsters for you to slay, the turn based battle systems offer some depth, especially when combined with the large library of personas at your disposal. You control the hero while the rest of the party fend for themselves (guided by your set up).
Post battle you will sometimes get an opportunity to pick up a card or two from a random selection. These can include new personas, instant level ups, hp/sp restores and keys to open special treasure chests. With your newly collected personas, you can take them to the mysterious Velvet Room. Here you can create new personas by combining them. You will also exchange ‘battle cards’ in order to teach your little helpers new moves a la Pokemon. This ends up making the gameplay much deeper then you expect.
Apart from the aesthetic upgrade, not much has changed since the 2008 PS2 release. One character and an online messaging system doesn’t seem like much when you compare it to recent HD re-releases, but trust me, this is one of the best experiences you can get, not just on the Vita, but on any system. This game truly is golden. One of the Vitas few gems. Go buy it.
Game purchased by reviewer.