Persona 4 Golden has been around for almost fifteen years, with few people unaware of its existence. Deemed to be one of the best in the Persona series, many even consider this one of the greatest JRPGs on the market.
Now it’s been released on one of the world’s best-selling consoles, it’s time to ask the question, has it aged well, and does it still have the potential to be the greatest JRPG around?
Let me explain a little about it to those who haven’t played or even seen Persona 4 Golden. This is a JRPG where you follow the life of a teenage boy (of which you can name, but that’s as far as the personalisation goes) throughout his school life in the rural town of Inaba – his new home. Sounds pleasant, right? Well, things quickly go south as there appears to be a serial killer reaping havoc on the town with a string of twisted murders that the authorities have been unable to solve. This is where our protagonist comes in to accomplish all that the grown-ups couldn’t.
Gameplay relies on a constantly moving calendar, allowing you to fill blocks of time in several ways once you have finished up your school day. Relaxing with a cup of coffee at the local cafe, reading a book, gardening, or even fishing are among the many tasks you can keep yourself busy with. The cool thing is all of these activities help to boost your character’s stats, so nothing you do in-game feels like a waste.
An essential aspect of Persona 4 Golden is developing your social links with classmates, and you can do this by using your free time to hang out with them. Developing these relationships will not only allow you to learn more about your new friends, but they’re more likely to unlock a new ability or skill for them, which is incredibly helpful in battle.
Much like others in the series, Persona 4 Golden’s gameplay is divided into two sections: a social simulator/visual novel as previously discussed, and an RPG dungeon-crawler, where you battle enemies and level up your character and skills.
During some areas of the game, you will be required to enter a distorted alternate dimension that is accessed through various TVs, and it’s here that we get to experience the game’s turn-based combat and its Persona system. See, you can collect multiple ‘Personas’ and equip them to gain various stats and skills from them. What’s more? You can even fuse two Personas together in the game’s Velvet Room to combine their abilities and stats, making them – and in return, you – even stronger. Doing this is exceptionally vital for defeating some of the game’s later bosses, as they pose quite a challenge.
As for the combat itself, it’s pretty fun, and if you have played other games in the series, you will know exactly what to expect here, with the primary goal being to choose the correct attacks to deal the most damage to an enemy, using its elemental weaknesses to your advantage. The dungeons are procedurally generated, so you never know what to expect, with each one connecting to the victim held hostage there.
One of my favourite features of the game is the Vox Pupili online feature that allows you to get hints and tips about what is strategically best to do next. It does this based on other players’ playthroughs and what decisions the majority made at this particular point. It will give you a few options on what’s best to do next in the day or even what Personas to fuse, making progression in the game easy.
Persona 4 Golden is almost fifteen years old, so unfortunately, it is starting to show its age through its outdated visuals, which are demonstrated mainly through its 3D character models, which are somewhat blurred and unpleasant to look at. Although the game boasts ‘improved graphics’, it’s hard to see the difference from the original. I must say, though, the anime portraits of the characters still retain their charm, and the menus are aesthetically pleasing, also.
Equally, the game’s music is unchanged – for better or for worse. At first, the soundtrack is bouncy and fitting, but it very quickly becomes annoying and repetitive, causing me to consider muting it all together at times.
So, let’s talk about some of the changes that Persona 4 Golden has implemented in this newly released version. There is now a difficulty selection option, which can be changed to make the game easier or more complex, depending on your preference, as well as new and improved quick save functionality, meaning you can quickly drop in and drop out of the game without fear of losing any progress. You can also switch between English and Japanese voiceovers to suit your liking, which is fantastic.
Overall, Persona 4 Golden remains a JRPG staple that expertly blends two brilliant genres together. Its weird and wacky story, as well as a cast of equally weird and wacky characters, help to keep you hooked, and although the visuals are a little outdated, the fantastic gameplay makes this a small price to pay.
Persona 4 Golden £17.99
Persona 4 Golden is an incredible RPG that is both wacky and intense. The twist in the different genres helps to keep you engrossed, and the story will keep you playing hours after the sun has gone down. This is the Persona game to play.