It only makes sense that Atlus would want to release its older Persona titles on modern consoles after seeing the massive success with the re-release of Persona 5 Royal last year. So, Persona 4 Golden needs no introduction as the fourth entry in the spin off Shin Megami Tensei series. The game was actually ported over to PC back in 2020, but now is finally accessible on all platforms for fans to enjoy. It was lauded as one of the best JRPGs ever back in the day and after playing through it on the PlayStation 5, I can clearly see why. Let’s get right to it.
You are silent protagonist Yu Narukami (or whatever you choose to name him) as he starts his life anew in a rural and sleepy Japanese town called Inaba. The countryside setting definitely serves as a change of pace compared to the bustling streets and subways of Shibuya in Persona 5. Life starts off pretty normal at first as you’re living the life of a typical student, going to class and making tons of new friends. But Inaba is no ordinary town, and you soon find yourself getting wrapped up in a string of mysterious murders that start to occur. It’s now up to you and your Scooby Doo crew to get to the bottom of it. Oh yeah, you also start having dreams about a mysterious place called the Velvet Room where you meet series icon Igor, and suddenly obtain the ability to step inside your TV. Yep, you heard that last one right.
What really makes Persona 4 Golden shine is its incredible cast of colorful characters that you get to know and love as you develop your bonds with them throughout the game. Every character brings a distinct flavor to the table, whether that is the adorable anthropomorphic bear Teddie or the delinquent Kanji. Don’t worry, there are romance options too, if you’re into that. Everyone’s story is worth telling and diving into so the player will want to immediately get to work building those social links. Maintaining and developing relationships allows you to fuse and create better Personas that then allow you to have a smoother time during difficult combat encounters. Atlus has flawlessly intertwined seemingly mundane everyday activities such as hanging out with friends or working a part time job into their already well-thought-out turn-based combat system.
There’s just something so satisfying about the gameplay loop of Persona games and 4 Golden is no different, with its equal parts slice of life portions and dungeon exploration bits. The slice of life aspect mostly pertains to the aforementioned social links and developing relationships with your friends through meaningful interactions and activities. On the other hand, the dungeons and level design are probably where Persona 4 shows its age the most. Sure they’re all randomly generated and look visually unique, but they ultimately suffer from uninspired design and feature layouts filled with monotonous corridors and hallways. That’s okay though because it's the Personas and combat system where the game truly glistens.
You can’t have a Persona game without talking about Personas and combat. If you’re familiar with any turn-based battle system, you’ll feel right at home here. The signature “one more” system returns and allows you to follow up with more attacks should you capitalize on enemy weaknesses. Addictive Persona fusion offers a wide avenue of customization through selective skills transferring between different Personas. There is, however, no demon negotiation mechanic to recruit Personas. Instead, the Shuffle Time mechanic introduced in Persona 3 is used here. Persona 4 Golden also features nifty on-the-fly difficulty customizations including tweaking damage taken, damage given, experience gained, money gained, and the number of retries offered. Aside from this excellent accessibility feature, the game also offers a whopping five difficulty options, ranging from very easy to very hard. Whether you just want to focus on the narrative or you’re a hardcore fan of combat, this game has got you covered.
For those unfamiliar, the vanilla Persona 4 came out as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 all the way back in 2008 as a PlayStation 2 console exclusive. It wasn’t until 2012 that the enhanced definitive Golden edition released only on the PlayStation Vita. Well, now it’s 2023 and Atlus has finally brought this critically acclaimed role playing game to all modern consoles: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Of course, as with all enhanced Persona editions, Golden brings a slew of changes and additions atop the original Persona 4. These include new difficulty levels, endings, music tracks, voice overs, social links, personas, dungeons, among other quality of life tweaks. This makes Persona 4 Golden the best way to enjoy the game, although this also makes the vanilla version a long lost collector’s item.
So what’s the difference between this modern re-release of Persona 4 Golden and the original on the Vita? Well, the re-release includes everything that the Vita offered, along with updated graphics, multiple language support, and a new “Suspend Save” (quick save) functionality. Note that this quick save feature doesn’t get unlocked until you get further into the game, so don’t feel alarmed when you don’t see it immediately. There’s also a feature that allows you to look back on social interactions and change your response to see how events might play out. Nothing much, but definitely a nice quality of life addition. Thanks to increased localization, more people from around the globe can enjoy this entry in the Persona series. Atlus has also done this with the re-release of Persona 3 Portable and Persona 5 Royal, along with ending their seemingly long history of PlayStation exclusivity on their Persona titles. Vita games at launch were priced at $50, but this re-release is humbly priced at $19.99 and can even be bought at a discount if bundled with Persona 3 Portable (although it’s a mere 50 cents savings). If you haven’t had the chance to jump into this title, then this is definitely the best time to do so.
I want to put special emphasis on the soundtrack and how dazzling it is. The opening movie with the stylish cast of characters being introduced one by one and the vivid colors popping out of your TV screen are awesome, but what makes them even better is my favorite track in the entire game: Shadow World. I’m listening to it on repeat as I’m writing this review and probably as you’re reading it too. Some other banger songs are A Sky Full Of Stars, I'll Face Myself, and Never More. Did you know that the rapper Logic actually sampled songs from this soundtrack? Take a listen to his song Welcome to Forever and see if you can hear the piano melody of Never More in it. Brilliant. Atlus has always excelled at making bopping soundtracks when it comes to their games, but I truly believe Shoji Meguro went above and beyond with this particular title. Simply put, the entire musical ensemble is deserving of a chef's kiss, with the catchy and upbeat rhythms of the more lighthearted sections and the unique and exemplary battle themes that I never grow tired of listening to.
Sadly, there’s no native PlayStation 5 version, while Xbox consoles get a native Series S|X version that can run the game on crisper resolutions and up to 120 frames per second. Nintendo Switch versions also get the added portability factor, so it seems the PS4 version got the short end of the stick. Nonetheless, the PlayStation 4 version of Persona 4 Golden holds up pretty darn well. The game obviously shows its age with its chibi-styled characters and low-poly assets, but the enhanced texture work on the graphics definitely make the game look better than it did on the PlayStation Vita. This relic of a game can be enjoyed flawlessly in the modern day thanks to buttery smooth 60 frames per second performance along with ultra fast load times on the PS5 via backwards compatibility.
Don’t worry about how old or outdated Persona 4 Golden might seem because it holds up very well to this day when compared to other modern takes on the genre. Atlus has done a mighty fine job with this excellent JRPG and now is the time to experience it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.