Title: Persona 4 Golden
Release Date: June 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Remembering the first time playing Persona 4 Golden gives a similar feeling to recalling memories with old friends. I remember the first time I met Yosuke, Teddie, and the others after moving to Inaba for a year. I remember all the part-time jobs, afterschool activities, and tests. It surreal almost to think that that was nearly eight years ago, and it’s still a game that I talk about with friends to this day.
It’s true, the Vita exclusivity might leave some series’ lovers in the dark, which is why this PC release of Persona 4 Golden makes so much sense. Packed with all the content I remember playing, it was easy for me to return to the game in search of new memories and rekindle old relationships that my life has been missing. Sadly, some elements of the game haven’t aged too well.
Persona 4 Golden begins as Yu Narukami, controlled by the player, arrives in the town of Inaba to spend a year with his uncle and cousin. After making his way around town, he is ready to begin his first day at his new school. The story really takes its time in these early moments as you meet each of your new best friends. Evidently, the quite Inaba is under distress after a strange murder takes place, and the police are left with little to no leads.
There’s a rumor going around at school that if you look into your TV on a rainy day at midnight, it will reveal your true love. However, this ends up revealing more about your fate then you’d imagine as you discover that not only can you enter your television set, but the images on the screen resemble the next victim to be murdered. You then make it your duty to do whatever you can to put a stop to the murders, and it just so happens your new friends can join you.
The gameloop of Persona 4 Golden revolves around living your everyday life around Inaba and defeating dungeons. Once someone is revealed on the midnight channel, you must manage your time to save them before they turn up dead in the real world. Those who are chosen for the midnight channel are typically new party members, but they each must first face some of the darkest sides of themselves. It becomes clear that facing parts of yourself that you deny plays a considerable role in the game’s overarching themes, and each character will encounter this in one way or another.
The story doesn’t sugarcoat the issues that these characters face. They are incredibly personal, but they only make you feel closer to this group as they open up to you. This is expanded upon further as you spend more time with them and manage your day-to-day schedule. However, this time spent doesn’t go unrewarded as it introduces a feature called Social Links, which are each represented by one of the Major Arcana. Each time you spend time with a character, your relationship with them will grow, which can raise the rank of the Social Link. Given that each Social Link is different, you are rewarded with level increases on Personas fused that match the Arcana as well as additional abilities for battle.
Social Links are found in all types of relationships, extending far beyond the main group of friends. Attending part-time jobs and joining clubs are also ways to rank up new Social Links as well as improve your characteristic. Persona 4 Golden also introduces Social Links with Marie and Tohru Adachi. It’s interesting how this updated version of the PS2 release included these characters into the group, but it all flows naturally during the narrative.
Outside of the sim-like elements and relationship building, Persona 4 Golden is a dungeon-crawler RPG. In order to save those who are trapped in the midnight channel, players will need to enter a different dimension known as the TV World. This is home to various dungeons and enemies known as shadows. I believe this is where Persona 4 Golden hasn’t aged well. The dungeons become significantly repetitive as each of them are almost identical theme swaps of each other. Sure, there are a few gimmicks present in a few of them, but they are relatively the same.
Persona 4 Golden’s battle system is also significantly grindy as players are expected to spend quite a bit of time fighting and leveling up in order to take down the end boss. This does add to the repetitive nature of the game, but the battle system only gets better as you progress. Players are expected to take advantage of enemy weaknesses using their Persona, which can unleash various elemental attacks. In the event that each enemy is knocked down, the group will perform an All-Out Attack for more damage and may even follow up with a special attack when two characters have their own bond.
To make battles easier, players can capture Personas from cards earned through battles. These Personas can then be fused and have their skills passed down to other Personas to only become stronger. The fusing system can be your best friend when facing off against fierce enemies, but the level of the Persona that you can create is tied to the level of the players, so that’s something to keep in mind.
The PC version of Persona 4 Golden does its best to make this 12-year-old game look as good as possible. It’s not honing a “Remastered” title, so expect minimal improvements to the overall graphics. Still, the game does include some customizable elements like adjusting the shadows and contrast. Luckily, outside of the bland dungeon designs, Persona 4 Golden is a good looking game, and this is now the best way to experience it. One other added feature is the option to use Japanese audio, which is missing from the Vita release. This made it feel like I was playing an entirely new game as I have become so used to the voices of Troy Baker and Erin Fitzgerald. It’s safe to say that I loved this added option.
The soundtrack of Persona 4 Golden is just as good as its ever been. The entire time I’ve been writing this review, I’ve been humming to the game’s various tracks. I know I touched on the voice audio before, but I should stress just how good the audio is in this game. It makes it so much easier to feel like an actual part of the group, and it allows each character to express their emotions fully.
Persona 4 Golden on PC is the best thing that could have happened to this game. Once held to Vita exclusivity, many new gamers can discover all the great moments that this adventure has to offer. Add in the inclusion of a few PC-only graphic enhancements and Japanese audio, and you now have the definitive version of this timeless RPG. I’m eager to talk with new fans of the game who discover the midnight channel for the first time as they create their own memories like I did so many years long ago.
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