Most video game reviews are about suspense. The reviewers reel you in with a suggestive introductory paragraph; these often end with a rhetorical question about the game’s potential quality (or lack of). Some readers are so anxious to see the score they’ll scroll straight to the bottom of the page. Well, I’m going to just come out and say it — Persona 4 Golden is easily one of the best games ever created.
The Story - A rumor is going around school that by looking at a TV screen at midnight on a rainy night, the face of your soul mate will be revealed. But a grisly chain of murders seems to be connected to the rumor, and you must gather a team strong enough to brave the bizarre world inside the TV to solve this mystery.
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Title: Persona 4 Golden
Platforms: PS Vita
Release Date: 11/20/12[/toggle_box]
- A Staggering Amount of Content – This game has a staggering amount of content, so much that I’m not going to attempt to cover all of it in this review. I got the true ending, but I missed a few social links and secrets. My first playthrough was 47 hours – this is short by Persona 4 standards.
- Slice of Life – Persona 4 Golden is mainly a social simulator. You spend most of your time building relationships, attending school, and trying to solve the murder mystery. Time is of the utmost importance; if you want to get the most out of your experience proper time management is a must.
- Social Links – The social link system rewards you for getting to know your party members and certain characters. You advance someone’s social link every time you spend time with him or her. Each level brings you closer to them. This helps you create stronger personas and if you’re hanging with one of your party members they’ll become a greater ally in battle. Like they may take a mortal blow. Will any of your real life friends die for you? Yeah, now that’s hardcore.
- Persona! – Officially, it’s a JRPG so you’ll have to go in dungeons and fight monsters or shadows as they’re called here. The combat is turned based and you have a few options when it comes to attacking. You can switch personas; this gives things an almost Pokémon-esque feel. Shadows have things they’re weak and resistant to. So you’ll have to buff and debuff your party often, especially during boss fights. If you hate turned based combat Persona 4 Golden won’t turn you into a fan, but everyone else should find the combat system enjoyable.
- That Soundtrack, It’s Glorious – This has one of the best soundtracks to ever grace a video game. The music never becomes annoying, the boss theme and the winter theme are my two favorites.
- Tons of Voice Acting- I’ve never encountered a game with this much voice work. Some dub haters may find the characters’ irritating. Personally, I enjoyed the voice acting. Chie does sound a little off at times, though.
- Excellent Writing – You’ll often be asked to answer questions and some of your responses are absolutely hilarious. The main character is silent, but the lines are amusing nevertheless. The writing shines elsewhere too, most of the social links contain great narratives that help you understand what a characters is going through. That brings me to my next point…
- Character Development – You spend a year with the game’s cast and you get to watch them mature. Most of the character arcs are believable, and you’ll feel sad when it’s time to say goodbye.
- Fast Forward – The fast forward feature lets you speed up the dialogue. This will come in handy for anyone who has already finished the PS2 version. I wouldn’t recommend this feature for newcomers, though, you’ll miss out on some great moments.
- Difficulty Modes – There are five difficulty modes. They range from Very Easy to Very Hard. Once you beat the game you can tweak the difficulty settings on the fly. Want less EXP from battle? You can just go into the option and change how much EXP you’re awarded for beating a shadow. With the wide range of settings anyone can pick up Persona 4 golden. Very Easy is basically god mode. Die in a battle? Just hit ‘Retry’ and you’re revived with full health and the shadow you were fighting will still have the same health.
- Multiple Endings – There are multiple endings so be careful. The bad one is easy to get and the true one is easier to miss. You’re going to need some kind of a guide if you want to get the most out of your first playthrough, trust me.
- New Game Plus – You can carry over items, money, Compendium List, Status Parameters (courage, intelligence, diligence, and more), etc. when you start a new game.
- Extras – There are tons of extras, concert footage, a quiz mini-game, game trailers, artwork, and more.
- Social Link System is Broken – The social link system is flawed. Once you max out someone’s SL you don’t have to talk to him or her again, ever. The game tells you hanging out with them is a waste of time. It’s unrealistic; you don’t just become best friends with someone and then stop talking to them for three months. Social links should reverse more often, it only happened once during my playthrough. And it belonged to the game’s most obnoxious character. I didn’t care if I pissed her off, if anything the reverse social links should have been for people we’re supposed to like.
- Social Link System is Broken Part II – You have the option to date multiple girls, this is something that I abused. By the time the credits rolled I had amassed an epic harem. But I was never caught in my web of lies, all of my girlfriends would be in the same room and it would never turn ugly. Sure there’s Valentine’s Day, but you’re cheating ways have no real consequences. Give me a School Days twist or something!
- Inaba is a Small Place – You’ll spend most of your non-dungeon time in the flood plains, shopping district, Junes, school, at the beach, in the next town, and at home. None of these areas are huge; exploration isn’t one of Persona 4‘s strong points. It’s more about what you choose to do in these areas.
- Dungeon Crawling and Combat < Hanging Out With Friends – The dungeons are nothing to get excited over. They boil down to this, go from floor to floor, fight shadows, occasionally look for a key, and now battle this boss. You’ll rush through them just so you can get back to the real world. There’s only a handful, but you can replay most of them.
- A Painfully Slow Start – The first two hours felt like one big cutscene. Persona 4 Golden has one of the slowest starts in video game history. It doesn’t ruin things, but newcomers may become bored and give up.
This is one of the longest reviews I’ve written, and I know I’m missing something. Persona 4 Golden may be the best game I’ve played this year, but I don’t feel right crowning it GOTY since it originally came out back in 2008. Still, it’s a must buy for PS Vita owners. The cast is interesting, the gameplay is addicting, and the story will keep you guessing. After spending a year in Inaba, you’ll never want to go home.
[box_light]We believe that the score is the least important part of a review. It’s tough trying to assign a numerical value to an experience. Furthermore, is there really a difference between a 7.5 and an 8? Gamers place too much importance on arbitrary numbers. This is why our scores are hidden by default. Only look at them if you absolutely need a number between 1-10 to see if a game is worth your time. You can read our review guidelines here.[/box_light]
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Replay Value: 10
Masterpiece – A perfect score doesn’t mean a game is perfect, it means it gets our highest recommendation, and that it’s a “modern-day masterpiece”.[/toggle_box]