Persona 4: The Golden Review
If you’re an Atlus fan, you know what to expect; if you’re a Persona fan, you know exactly what to expect; if you’re any kind of otaku or animé fan whatsoever, you have a good idea of what this game has to offer; by this time, the core audience that Atlus is aiming for with Persona 4: The Golden has already been hooked on what the Persona series has to offer. With the updates to the previous entries, this one was only bound to get a expansion treatment as well; there was a lot of expectations. This game did not set out to break new ground but rather refine the core experience and add more depth to an already high-quality game.
However, there are some of you whose first exposure to this series begins with this game and the high praise it appears to be getting, so let me sum it up, thusly: “Japan! JAPAN! JAPAN!! JAPAN!!! JESUS CHRIST, JAPAN!!!” Let me rephrase: this is a Japanese dungeon-crawling role-playing game wrapped up in a combat animé wrapped up in a high-school romance animé. You kind of see where I’m going with this – while this game is incredible and should turn anyone on to these themes and see some of the seriously otaku-oriented fanservice, some of the dialogue and atmosphere would turn off a lot of newcomers.
If you’re new to the series I beg you keep an open mind: it’s totally worth it. Even my fianceé – who, I might add, has had very little exposure to everything referenced in this game – was able to appreciate and buy into a lot of the humor and jabs made.
Atlus really had to pull out the stops when expanding this game: all previous remakes and expansions in this series have been high quality and have added a lot to the experience. You got a lot with Persona 3: FES and even the previous entries have gotten one hell of a nice coat of paint over an already great experience. Everyone was expecting a lot from this but with a game that had already refined the general Persona feeling to the point that it felt nothing more could be added: at least, as far as I was concerned.
However, Atlus certainly delivered. Did they ever. Like Persona 3: FES before this, I would say that this is such a good expansion that I have to say I would not recommend getting the original for any other reason than you not owning a Playstation Vita. This game has literally altered just about everything about the game in some way and added some really cool stuff: there’s additional social links, Personae, voices, music, gameplay options, enemy and Persona stats, cutscene additions and changes, battle features, and many more; I could go on for quite a while talking about them all. This is, literally, the definitive version of the game.
I’m going to take this a step further and say that this is one of the greatest expansions in gaming history, according to my books and I’ll tell you exactly why: this game doesn’t do like most expansions, adding content that feels stapled-on that doesn’t do a whole lot to add to the replay value. Most expansions feel like you could get the most from your expansion from playing through once more and then putting it down afterward, the one exception to this being real-time strategy games where you can staple on units and, inherently, that adds more to the game than one would think. This game takes this idea ten-thousand steps further and adds content that actually adds depth and reward to an already deep game with tons of replay value. This game literally reshapes your core experience without changing it, something that takes a very steady and delicate methodology; one does not need to change the wheel to get somewhere further but rather add to what drives it, allowing you to experience things differently, even if the changes are subtle, there’s enough of them to make a huge difference.
That was quite a long-winded tale about how this game makes the experience better but now I tell you why and how: everything you do, everything you see, everything you touch, everyone you interact with, feels touched upon and added to by the expansion. Right from the start of your game or your New Game + until the moment you get the ending you’ve worked towards, you can feel it: the game is different but not in a massive way. There’s a lot of small, subtle changes to the game:
- Two new social links: Marie, who is a new character, and Adachi. Marie not only adds the Aeon Personae to the Compendium, she also adds a brand new branch to the endgame should you bring her Social Link to its highest level, where Adachi actually adds an entirely new ending choice should you get his highest Social Link level.
- New voice-overs, new music, changed and new cutscenes, new difficulty levels, and new dialogue. This doesn’t really change the core experience but really adds to the entertainment value of the product, really giving the game a lot more oomph when it comes to the more aesthetic presentation-level aspects.
- New events: you can go out during the evening with certain limitations, you can visit different locations with the help of all new travel by scooter, two new trips, one in the fall and one in the winter, and multiple different various events. This adds a whole ton to the social aspect of the game, giving you more options in developing your Personae and Social Links.
- New Personae: this is pretty self-explanatory but one thing should be noted here – that each party member has a second evolution to their Persona, now, which means better stats and additional dialogue for each of your party members.
- Battle differences: enemies have been balanced and altered slightly, Shuffle Time has been changed slightly, Rise can join in on All-Out Attacks, all characters outside of the battle can now randomly use “Cavalry Attacks”, new “Tag Team Attacks” when certain combinations of characters are in your party, among some others.
- A new TV Listings and Vox Populi feature set: TV Listings serves as a set of bonus content that acts like a Special Features portion of the game while the Vox Populi works in dungeons to slightly help you in battle and help you make decisions with your time outside of dungeons.
- The big daddy of all additions: a brand new dungeon that’s linked to Marie’s Aeon Arcana and he character, directly, branching out the endgame plot and extending gameplay by quite a bit. The dungeon adds a large amount of difficulty for any player who’s experiencing it for the first time as it drains your SP in half after every battle and replaces your equipment and items entirely in a way that can’t be revoked until you leave the dungeon – oh, by the way, you have only one day in game time to complete it.
This game was already AAA material in its original form. It was a kickass game on its own and, even though an expansion was due given Atlus’ track record with the series, it didn’t really need this but it was done and Atlus didn’t pull any punches: they put on a clinic about how expansions should be done and how they’ll be compared from here until forever. I seriously had a hard time putting down the original until I was confident I’d done just about everything I could do and now… now… let’s just say I could probably put double the time into this game just to see everything I could possibly see.
One of the greatest genre-bending role-playing games in gaming gets one of the best expansions in gaming… that’s just the bottom line.
This is everything any expansion should wish to be in comparison to the original. Everything about this just plainly rocks.
Like the original, sometimes way too Japanese-oriented for some.