Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 was one of the best dungeon-crawlers ever on the PlayStation 2, with its fast and fluid combat and deep gameplay ensuring it was a favourite among gamers. Of course, things have changed dramatically since then. Now, gameplay has been refined, visuals have improved and consumers expect more bang for their buck. I can only imagine how hard it would be to market and convince people that a five yeard old game would be worth buying. Thankfully, Persona 4: Golden for the PSVita, an enhanced port of the PS2 classic, is more than capable of rising to any challenge.
Persona 4: Golden is one of the better titles available for the PSVita. From the moment the game opens you can tell that a great deal of effort has been spent on making sure the port was justified. The sound is crisp, the visuals are wonderful and the online features are simple, but appreciated. Furthermore, the longer you spend with the game, the more obvious these enhancements become, with some moments really taking my breath away. On the whole, the visuals certainly don’t hurt the package, but there are some slight inconsistencies. In some areas, textures may appear washed out and bland letting down the visuals just a tad. The camera is fixed most of the time, which is a bummer and the screen size is probably just a little too small for a game of this scale.
The sound, although suiting the game well, won’t really turn heads. The music and sound effects can be repetitive, but they do set a nice pace for game and the battles and I found myself bopping along to the in-game soundtrack on the odd occasion. The voice work is very well done, but after a while it can become grating. I appreciated the effort that each actor put into their role, but sometimes I wished they had just turned it down a notch.
What about the actual gameplay? Well, this is where the game both excels and, unfortunately, annoys. The game kicks off rather slowly. It will take a good three hours before the game hands the keys of the car over the player. During this time, you’ll probably be wondering what the hell all the fuss is about and you watch scene after scene of boring dialogue and take part in small tutorials. However, you really need to stick with it as this slow-burn start is setting you up for one hell of an adventure. In time, you’ll be crawling through dungeons, taking down monsters, increasing Social Links, collecting Personas, and a whole lot more. There is also the steep learning curve, which will either make or break the experience for some.
Persona 4: Golden features a mix of RPG and simulation and is set over the course of a typical Japanese school year. Assuming the role of a teenage boy, you will need to make new friends, get a job and earn money and participate in after-school activities. Each day is broken down into segments (morning, afternoon, evening, etc.) and what you do during that time is up to you. However, you need to keep an eye on the weather for each coming day. You see, you will be spending quite a bit of time in the “TV World”, which is where the dungeon-crawling aspect of the game comes into play. As you progress, people start getting kidnapped and you need to rescue them. When the rain comes and heavy fogs sets in the real world, you can bet your ass that someone is about to bite the bullet in the TV World. From this point on, you will need to tackle randomly-generated dungeons, which are divided into floors and crawling with monsters known as Shadows. Combat is typical turn-based stuff but is a little faster-paced than your average JRPG thanks to special attacks like an All Out Attack, which causes your party to rush at an downed enemy and the ability to switch tactics for each member of your party on the fly.
Party member can also summon Persona’s during battle, each with their own strength and weaknesses. Your Personas will grow with you as you gain experience from battle and you can force them to grown even stronger through a completed Social Link and other means that are discovered as you play through the game. Learning and managing Persona’s is your key to success in the game, but I found it hard to take in all of the information. After a while I got the hang of growing Social Links, allocating Skills and fusing Persona’s, but this was after much frustration and trial and error.
Regardless of faults, Persona 4: Golden is still one of the best games for the PSVita, and as such comes highly recommended. The game can be incredibly challenging and rewarding, especially later on in the game when enemies start to get a little tougher and more options open up to the player.