This review is penned with a heavy heart knowing that I’m not likely to revisit the world of Persona 4 after writing this. But after 100+ hours, four playthroughs, and numerous cheers and jeers I feel as if my experience with this game has been complete. Sadly, Persona 4 Golden was my first experience with the franchise, though Atlus was smart to not punish newcomers to the series, but rather reward returning customers with inside jokes and fan-service. I can confidently say that after playing the game, I’m looking forward to going back and exploring other installments of the Persona series in hopes that they might be even a shadow of a comparison to what P4G has been.
The game itself is an unapologetic JRPG, but it doesn’t just stop there; through a series of tightly wound storylines and seamless combat Atlus has crafted a loveletter to all RPG fans out there. Though what truly sets the game apart is the way that it tailors itself and the way the story unfolds to each individual player. Depending on the choices that you make and how you choose to spend your time, the characters that you meet and as a result of that, your own individual experience can be completely altered. Through and through it is unlike any other game released this generation. However, this makes sense when you realize that this indeed is a game from a different era. Persona 4 originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2008 to critical acclaim, and four-years later is now rereleased on PS Vita.
In an age where single-player games are going the way of the dinosaur, there was heavy skepticism when it was announced that Persona 4 Golden would have certain multiplayer social elements implemented. It seems as if the developers took a page from the playbook of other Japanese games (ie Demon’s Souls, Catherine) when crafting a social experience into the world of a single-player game. At any point during gameplay you can poll the audience to see what actions they took to further the story, or alternatively ask them for aid in battle. This is an ingenious approach to utilizing the connectively available on the PS Vita as opposed to the PS2 without sacrificing the immersion that the game has to offer. Additionally, since the gameplay is so open-ended, this allows a semblance of guidance and structure without taking the player directly by the hand and telling them how to play the game.
In Persona 4, time is somewhat of a currency since there are only a certain number of actions you can proceed to take in the year’s span in which the storyline unfolds. At any given moment there are a myriad of choices to be made as to how the player wants to progress through the world and with whom you want to deepen relationships. Since every decision is a conscious choice in how to spend your time, you become very invested in the characters and world around you to the point that deep emotional relationships are forged. There are around twenty different character storylines that can be deepened and pursued, each of which will pull at the heartstrings from time to time.
Persona has always been a niche franchise because of its staunch RPG roots, however the social topics that are addressed in the plot and various character storyarchs allow this game to have a voice to each and every person. Current PS Vita owners have no excuse not to own this game, and people on the fence about purchasing a Vita just got the reason they needed to make the investment. If you even have the vaguest interest in RPGs, do yourself a favor and pick up what quite possibly is the best game to be released in 2012 on any platform.
100s of hours of replayable content await you in the most satisfying gaming experience in years.