Back in 2008 I was riding high on Persona fever, shouting its praises, buying copies for my coworkers, and just spreading the love in general. After Atlus stated that there would only be one version of Persona 4 I was rather surprised to see a Vita port announced last year. Naturally I was excited when asked to preview the final build before it releases later on this November and after a few hours of gameplay I've determined that I am pretty much better off leaving my Vita permanently plugged in to the wall. Persona 4 Golden looks like it's just more of same good stuff that I fell in love with when the original game was released, only now there's a whole slew of new paths for me to take as I search for the truth.
Persona 4 Golden doesn't have much deviation from the story of the original game. Players step in to the high school shoes of a nameless hero visiting his uncle and cousin in rural Inaba. From the get-go things are out of whack in Inaba, there's a serial killer running around, a channel that shows up on TV when it rains, strange dreams about a place called the Velvet Room, and a world inside the television. The murder mystery of Inaba sets of a Scooby-Doo gang inspired chain of events, and by the time the game ends players will be waiting with bated breath to find out who the killer really is.
By day players will attend school, study, work odd jobs, explore the town, and make friends to form Social Links. As players improve their relationship with these Social Links they in turn can enhance the player's ability to create Personas. These Persona are used in combat and offer their owner supernatural abilities and grant the user the power to defeat the shadows that inhabit the TV world the players explore. The day to day minutiae of Persona 4 Golden is just as engaging now as it was when Persona 4 was released in 2008, only now there are a lot more options available to really diversify the high school grind. The trips to the TV world haven't really changed that much, and still remain as random dungeons that players can explore at their leisure, until the rain rolls in, then it's a mad dash to find the latest victim that's been thrown in to the TV.
Persona growth has also undergone a few changes thanks to the addition of Marie, a new member of the Velvet Room. Along with Igor and Margaret she offers up help to players by allowing them to purchase skill cards to grant Personas some new skills. Players can also find a few new additions to the Persona roster that also go with some new social links that are exclusive to Persona 4 Golden. Personas will also grow faster thanks to the post-battle 'Shuffle Time' mini-game that can augment the Persona skills or even boost them in levels.
Visually Persona 4 Golden is absolutely lovely thanks to the Vita's OLED screen. The sharp visuals and the insanely clever UI make this game hard to beat in terms of graphical fidelity. The models have received a bit of an upgrade over the PS2 visuals and the addition of some post processing effects make the visuals stand out and create some really scenic moments. The music remains stellar, Shoji Meguro's penchant for rock and brass sounds fit the game perfectly, and the new battle theme is a welcome addition to hear, I got a bit of an earful of 'Reach Out To The Truth' thanks to Persona 4 Arena, so it's nice to hear something new. The voice acting has undergone a bit of a revision with new actors for a few key individuals. Chie's new voice actress is especially noticeable and she's going to be one players either love or hate. Personally she's growing on me, after initially being turned off by her heavy-handed energetic attitude.
I'm a couple dozen of hours in to Persona 4 Golden and it's already looking like a fantastic game. The new additions to the game fit perfectly and this feels like a great upgrade and is totally what the Vita needs, a solid JRPG that can appeal to a wide array of gamers. We're just a few days away from the game's release, and we'll have a full review coming soon.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
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