Persona 4 is the title on the PlayStation Vita that had carried the system through most of it’s lifespan. And now it has been ported to PC, being the first Persona game ever on the platform. Despite the Vita’s price, and lack of games, Persona 4 had brought people to it and allowed this game to gather a larger community. This community had been hoping for a port for quite a while. So as soon as it was announced, the game was being bought immediately. At the time of this post, it has sold 500,000 copies on PC in a month.
Persona 4 Golden is a story driven turn based RPG. The story is vital to your playthrough so we will avoid spoiling too much of the game. But there are spoilers ahead, so if you would like to avoid those, skip to the conclusion.
What you need to know about Persona 4
Persona 4 was the first Persona game to have more fun with itself. So it isn’t afraid to have lighthearted fun. All Persona games up until this point, being an offshoot of the Shin Megami Tensei series, had been dark like it’s parent series. And Persona 4 cemented the series as it’s own unique brand, independent from SMT. That being said while the game is not as serious as its predecessors, the game’s story is still dark and has very serious moments.
The story is centered around the quiet rural town of Inaba, in which recently a fog starts constantly rolling in. Except when this fog clears, a dead body is found strung up in a high place. This sends the police into a tailspin because the town has been very quiet up. This was until the fog started rolling in, and the day you rolled into town as well.
Persona 4’s characters
So in Persona 4 you are newly transferred to Inaba from the city because your parents are out of the country. You are now living with your uncle for the rest of the school year. But since you got here, strange murders have been occurring in the fog. And a key component to figuring out the murders and the fog is your Social links. Social links are your connections to others and how strong your friendship is with them. These unlock more story based around that character, new skills, and even special perks with them.
Like one of your friends is Yukiko, she is popular and well loved around the school. After she joins your team, you are able to spend time with her. This will raise your Social link with her, this unlocks her special abilities. These moves are things like “Divine Grace”, which boosts her healing by 50%. Pair this with her party wide heal makes it a powerful recovery option.
And through these constant interactions, you see her struggle with the Inn that her family owns. Wondering if she even wants this responsibility and if she can handle it. This gives deeper insight into her character, her maturity, and really drew me in.
And while I will keep from describing every character in detail, I will say that this is where Persona 4 Golden shines. Especially compared to every other Persona game, the characters are the best and most interesting in the series. Making each character feel like family and giving you deeper insight into their personality and their darkest thoughts.
Playing the Game
Persona 4 Golden is a turn based RPG so if you are familiar with the genre, you know what to expect. In a battle your team and the enemies will take turns trying to best one another. You fight until either side is completely wiped out, using items and abilities to replenish your health or harm the opponent. Each monster has a weakness and so do you and your teammates, and hitting that weakness does more damage than other options. But there are a couple of things that make Persona 4 stand out in the genre.
When a weakness is exploited, the person hit with it will be knocked down. This means they are exposed for a period of time, Setting them up to be hit with the dizzy status effect if attacked with their weakness again, which stuns them for one of their turns. This is a core mechanic in Persona 4 and the other games in the series. Making the battles about probing for a weakness, and then when you find one, capitalizing on it.
Another unique aspect of Persona compared to other turn based games is the ability for the main character to change in the middle of battle. Every character has a Persona, which is a demon that represents an aspect of themselves. The main character is unique in the fact that they alone can change their Persona, and do it whenever needed. While one persona is weak to ice, you could switch to one that is strong against ice. This means when you figure out what the monster attacks you with, you can prevent being knocked down!
More than just fighting
But Persona is about a little more than fighting demons with your friends. Your character is still in high school, meaning you have to juggle school on top of friendships, earning money, and solving the murders. This creates challenge to the game, making you establish some time management skills to get as much done in as little time as possible.
And in order to do certain things more effectively, you have stats to upgrade outside of combat. There are 5 of these Social stats in Persona 4: Knowledge, Courage, Expression, Diligence, and Understanding. You upgrade these through various things like studying, reading, and working. With these stats at certain ranks you can get better jobs, use new dialogue options, and achieve certain goals easier. Certain characters like Nanako, your Uncle’s daughter, require a better Expression rank to improve her social link.
So there is a lot to balance in the game, this gives it more of a challenge that isn’t just grinding for your next level to fight demons. Additionally you grind out Social stats to navigate your day to day and get special bonuses for it like getting good grades so you get some extra cash.
So what do I have to say about Persona 4 Golden? I enjoy this game immensely, there is a lot about this game that I love. The characters, the Personas you summon, the enemies you fight, the overarching story, and even the difficulty. The game can be as hard or easy as you want because of the custom difficulties you can make.
One of my favorite things is a good mystery, and this game delivers on that heavily. And while there isn’t a system for figuring out the killer built in, I enjoyed speculating and making rough guesses with my friends in real life. There is so much to love about this game, so much so that this could go for pages. But there are things that I feel aren’t great.
For example the dungeon crawling, its just running down repetitive hallway after hallway. Every map is roughly the exact same, with a new skin over it. But this is an older game, and is something they fixed in Persona 5, so take it with a grain of salt.
And I would have liked to see more chances to use your social stats in dialogue. While they are useful from time to time, they are not necessary. And the amount of times you can actually use them is very limited, and ultimately doesn’t change much.
But despite these issues, Persona 4 Golden is amazing and absolutely worth picking up. And especially being only $20 USD on Steam, the game is on the cheaper side and worth the play. So if you enjoy turn based RPG’s, go out and grab Persona 4 Golden today.