In 2008, two years into the PS3’s lifespan, Atlus released the critically-acclaimed JRPG Persona 4 for the PlayStation 2. Receiving rave reviews from critics, Persona 4 suffered somewhat from being released in an era where many gamers have moved beyond the PS2. The game got a second lease on life in 2012 when Persona 4 Golden was released for the PlayStation Vita, but unfortunately, the Vita wasn’t as popular. Now, after the great success of Persona 5, Persona 4 Golden has the opportunity to reach a wider audience, as the classic game is finally available for PC.
The PC version of Persona 4 Golden doesn’t feature any major new content not found in the Vita release, but it does have some definite improvements. The most obvious are the visuals, which are better than ever. Some backgrounds and textures haven’t aged well, but the characters really shine and overall, everything looks as good as one would expect from an older game. It also features the option to choose between English and Japanese voice acting, which was not available in the original Persona 4 Golden release.
Upgraded visuals and the ability to choose between English and Japanese voice acting make this the most complete version of Persona 4 to date. As this is the Golden version of the game, it also includes content added to the PS Vita release, consisting of a new character, expanded cut-scenes, extra Personas to collect, and much more.
Persona 4 Golden on PC is the best way to experience the classic JRPG, so anyone who hasn’t had a chance to play it should definitely check it out. However, these improvements aren’t all that significant in the grand scheme of things, and so those who have already invested significant time in the PS2 and PS Vita versions of the game may not find the PC port very compelling. . Also, those who have already played Persona 5 may find that some aspects of Persona 4 are not as refined as its predecessor.
The Persona games are notorious for starting out slow, and Persona 4 Golden is admittedly one of the worst. It takes two and a half to three hours for players to reach the first dungeon. Persona 5 is a bit faster paced, so those who started with that game may struggle to get into Persona 4 Golden at first. However, those who stick with Persona 4 Golden will be rewarded for their efforts, as the game eventually becomes impossible to stop.
Persona 4 Golden hits its stride when players are given freedom each day. Players can fill their days completing various activities and building their relationships, with benefits that translate to combat and actually advancing the main story. Working to improve the “Social Links” between the main character and the rest of the cast will give players a significant advantage in battle, and so it’s worth pursuing this side content. However, players have a limited amount of time to work each day, so it is necessary to plan ahead.
Video games with time limits can be stressful for some, and that’s true for Persona 4 Golden. Without diving too deep into the details, the basic plot is that people are lost in a TV dimension, and if they are not rescued within a week, they die and a gamer appears on the screen. Players have a limited amount of time to fully explore the associated missing person’s dungeon and defeat the boss at the end of it to advance the story.
It has to be said that the randomly-generated dungeons make the time limit gimmick look pretty cheap. Persona 5 has a mix of handcrafted and randomly-generated dungeons, so it feels like a step backwards to only have one type in Persona 4. However, since it’s an older game in the series, some drawbacks like expected
While the dungeon design may feel a bit dated to Persona 5 players, one thing that has aged a lot is Persona 4’s combat system. Persona 4’s turn-based combat requires more strategy than similar games, requiring players to think through their actions if they want to succeed in tougher matches. Players have to figure out the best types of moves to use against each enemy in order to knock them down, leaving them vulnerable to secondary attacks. They also have to decide when to spend a turn guarding to avoid major damage or knock themselves down. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Persona 4’s combat system.
What gives Persona 4’s combat real depth are the titular Personas. While it’s a far cry from something like Pokemon, Persona 4 Golden still has a monster-catching element, with players sometimes receiving new Personas by defeating “shadows” in battle. These Personas can earn XP and learn new moves that can significantly change how one handles any given battle in the game. Soon, players will have a large number of skills at their disposal, all of which need to be considered when in a match.
For some, this can be a bit overwhelming, especially since players also have to manage multiple party members and their equipment on top of all the Personas. Fortunately, Persona 4 Golden lets players assign AI to their teammates and adjust their tactics to suit their needs. Players can always take a more hands-on approach and control their teammates’ every action if they want, and it’s great that both options are there.
Combat in Persona 4 Golden is also engaging because of how enjoyable it is. Players get the usual loot they’ve come to expect from winning JRPG battles like money and XP, but they also get the chance to participate in short post-battle mini-games for added bonuses. This can include things like cards that fully restore HP, XP boosts, stat increases, dungeon maps, and more.
The gameplay of Persona 4 Golden is great, but what really makes the game addictive is its story. Persona 4 Golden is set in the small town of Inaba, and follows a group of high school students who gain the ability to travel to another dimension through their televisions. The kids use this ability to save people from being killed by magical shadows, while also trying to solve the murders that happen around town. Despite how ridiculous the overall premise is, the writing is sharp and the game keeps introducing surprising new story revelations to keep players hooked. Persona 4 Golden successfully blends the page-turning suspense of a mystery novel with the unique aesthetic of a JRPG.
Carrying this story is Persona 4’s massive cast of well-written characters who come across as real people. They don’t speak or act like generic JRPG characters; they all have their own unique, multilayered personalities and don’t fall into any of the archetypes. Persona 4’s protagonist is really the only character that isn’t fleshed out or interesting enough, but that’s because they’re a silent proxy for the player.
Persona 4’s cast and strong writing help keep the game interesting for a long time, which is a huge feat considering the game can last 100 hours or more depending on how much side content is included of players. Many games struggle to justify being long, and seem to throw time-wasting tedium at the player to artificially prolong the experience. Although it’s a slow burn, there’s absolutely no time wasted in Persona 4 Golden, and it remains truly engrossing until the very end.
Persona 4 Golden is a massive JRPG that’s better than ever on PC. Those who have already played the PS2 or PS Vita versions of the game may not find the HD visuals reason enough to double dip, but the game is highly recommended to new players. Anyone who wants more Personas after getting their fill of Persona 5 Royal should definitely try Persona 4 Golden on PC.
Persona 4 Golden is now available for PC and PS Vita. Today Technology was provided a PC code for this review.