Before I decided to save enough money to buy both a VITA and a 3DS, I had thought of only owning one or the other. After all, the price for both handheld consoles isn’t a joke. I could, literally, buy hundreds of books with that amount of dough! Sure, I do love to play video games especially if they have an awesome story and lovable sets of characters (graphics rank just below a decent soundtrack for me, after all, buying a game based solely on how awesome its graphics is is akin to buying a book or an album just because for the cover) but my love for reading outranks that.
Anyways, like I’ve said, I never did intend to buy both of them and so soon after their release too (it only took a week or so (if memory serves) after their North American versions came out before I bought ’em). I decided to get a 3DS after learning about the Professor Layton VS Ace Attorney game that was slated to come out and the Legend of Ocarina remake/port and I wasn’t planning on getting a VITA so soon up. Sure, I have heard about the Uncharted game and, being a fan of said video game series, I knew I was going to buy a VITA eventually…when the prices drop (if they ever do). But then came ATLUS and the news that Persona 4 was going to get an upgraded port/remake. You can imagine how I reacted to that!
For those who don’t know, Persona 4 for me is like the Final Fantasy VII of the PSX. It’s a classic. It’s one of the best JRPG games that I had ever played and thoroughly enjoyed. I know a number of people wouldn’t like how I had just added Persona 4 right there at the top of the pantheon of great gaming but, hey, that’s just how I really feel about the game. To be honest, P4 was the first Shin Megami Tensei game that I ever played and the reason I played it was because I got curious about it. I became an instant fan of the series the moment I played that game. Heck, I became an Athlus Faithful because of it. After that, I searched far and wide for a copy of Persona 3: FES (and found it at a discount store, lucky me!) and aimed to finish it. When P3P came out for the PSP, I got that too (despite having finished FES). The only games from the series that I didn’t get to play were the original ones–Persona 1 and 2–just because I’ve heard that, once you play P3 and P4, you won’t be able to go back to playing the earlier ones.
So, yeah…at the first possible instance that I could, I bought a VITA (along with that freakishly expensive memory card and a copy of Uncharted) and patiently played while waiting for further announcements from the almighty ATLUS. Trailer after trailer they got my anticipation and excitement for the game building. I’m sure fans of the series who heard about the new content and bonuses held on ATLUS’ words and were just as impatient as I was for news of whether they were going to bring it over stateside. Of course, I thought to myself that I would get the game regardless (if ATLUS does localize it or not) and would just try to remember all the Japanese I had learned way back in order to play or play it from memory. Thankfully, ATLUS did localize it and I didn’t need to go through all that trouble. The moment they announced the pre-orders, I immediately logged on to my Amazon account and pre-ordered my copy. And I have no regrets about it (even though it took a really, really, really long time for Amazon to ship my damn copy).
Now, 90+ hours later (which really isn’t that long compared to the time hardcore gamers had put into this game having received their copies earlier than I did, lucky bastards) I am still enjoying the game and laughing at the jokes and bad puns (I’m looking at you, Teddie) that the game throws at me. True, I almost threw my VITA in frustration at having been defeated by a particular November boss several times for being under-leveled (something that I am blaming on that equally frustrating ‘Hardcore Risette Fan’ trophy), but it wasn’t something a little grinding couldn’t solve and I did, eventually, wiped the floor with the boss’ face and laughed while doing so (“Take that you weird-looking Shadow!!”).
What can I say about this enhanced version of an already amazing game other than it being even more amazing? Well, here’s a quick run-down (yes, “quick”, after that freakishly long introduction) on the game that I personally think is a system-seller.
Persona 4: Golden doesn’t really have any difference with the original PS2 version of the game in-terms of story. Sure, there are added scenarios but those only serve to explore the characters even more and allow the players to get to know the members of the Investigation Team more.
Anyways, Persona 4’s story centers around the Protagonist (named “Yu Narukami” in the anime and the sequel Persona 4: Arena and whom I will refer to as such since that is also what I named him) who’s staying with his uncle and cousin in the small, rural town of Inaba for a year thanks to his parents going on a business trip, never expecting what his short stay would propel him into forming ever-lasting friendships and solving a serial murder case.
You see, not long after Yu arrives in Inaba, a murder occurs where a famous reporter was found hanging dead by a television antenna. Days later, another victim was found–a senior from the same high school that Yu now goes to–who, ironically, was the one who found the body from the previous murder. Like the one before her, Saki Konishi (that’s the name of the upperclassman) was found dead after the fog cleared up, hanging upside-down on a telephone pole.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Yu finds himself in the middle of these murders as his classmate was suddenly kidnapped and he, along with Yosuke Hanamura and Chie Satonaka, vowed to save her from what they believed to be an act done by the very same culprit who committed the first two murders.
Now, you might be wondering, what could these highschoolers possibly do? Aren’t there any policemen or detectives there that could solve the case?
Well, there is a police force in Inaba and Yu’s uncle, Dojima, also happens to be a detective. The thing is, the culprit uses the TV to kill his victims (and no, Kanji, the culprit doesn’t use it to beat them to death) and Yu and his friends are the only ones who have the same power to exit and enter the TV World as the culprit, thereby making them the only people who can put a stop to the murders and rescue those that were thrown inside the TV.
Apart from the kidnappings and murders, Yu and the Investigation Team also want to figure out the connection of the Midnight Channel–a television program that only appears on rainy nights and is said to show people their soulmate–to the murders and the TV World. To top it all off, Yu still has to go to school and try not to flunk out. So, yeah, our protagonist really have his hands full.
Though the story is interesting, there are a few things that could leave the player confused (especially if the gamer chose not to replay the game). There are a couple of things left unanswered, which I will not post here since that would be a total spoiler and stuff that didn’t make sense and seemed rush. Still, despite the flaws in the story, Persona 4: Golden still has one of the most memorable video game stories I had ever encountered and they manage to mix in splices of life, mystery solving, adventure, and humor into the story.
It’s not really there at the same level as, let’s say, Uncharted for the Vita or as Ragnarok Odyssey. It’s doesn’t even have the same vibe as Gravity Rush. But, despite not being at that stage where you can say that the game was graphically impressive being life-like an all (though I am not saying that the aforementioned games are like that, they’re not), it still does manage to stay true to how it was in the original (“Vanilla” is what fans call it) and looks smoother on the VITA screen than how I vaguely recall the original looked.
The anime cutscenes (and there is, somewhat, an abundance of it) helps boost this game’s graphics rating (in my opinion) and allows you get into the game even more.
Ah, the music in this game is just catchy. For a game that revolves around a serial murder, you would’ve thought that it would have dark-themed music playing in the background but, apart from a couple of scenes here and there, that’s hardly the case.
Up-beat, fun, quirky songs (and even one that’s retro-ish) accompany the player’s journey to find the truth behind the serial murders that are plaguing the small town of Inaba. It doesn’t get annoying either (except for that one dungeon) and you’re bound to end up humming along or singing the lyrics to the song playing while you’re out exploring the town or erasing the existence of Shadows.
The voice acting is also amazingly well-done (as expected. This is a Persona game after all) and really captures the characters’ personalities well. True, ATLUS didn’t get to retain the original cast from the Vanilla version, but I honestly think that those who filled the shoes of Chie and Teddie’s VAs did a great job. I actually liked the new voices.
Sadly, ATLUS doesn’t seem all that interested in releasing the OST for the game any time soon.
I remember a debate that came up back when P3P (Persona 3 Portable) hit the market: Which version is better? FES or P3P? Though some sided that it was FES because of the ability to play “The Answer” to find out what happens a month (I think it was a month, correct me if I am wrong) after the end of the game, others argued that P3P was better because it added a whole other experience where you can play as a female protagonist (the original only had the male protagonist: Arisato Minato). In the end, however, they all ended up in an agreement that both versions had their pros and cons.
That cannot be said, however, with P4G since it is, without a doubt, better than the Vanilla version. Not only can you now equip the characters with different costumes (to which you can even talk to them and they would react about), but there’s also an added third tier of Personas for the entire Investigation Team (save for Yu, *grumble*). You can also travel at night (with restrictions ala Persona 3) and can ride a motorcycle which can take you to two new destination. There are also the new co-op attacks that could be triggered as well as motorcycle attacks where those who are not in your party can come to your aid.
If that’s not yet enough, Rise can also now help you in battle (provided you have been spending time with her and her Social Link). There’s also that spanking new dungeon, extended scenes, added events, a new extended ending, an epilogue, and a new additional ending (apart from the bad and good endings) that you can unlock. Not to mention that there’s two, brand new Social Links and new difficulties that are exclusive to the Golden.
The Golden also has the TV Overlay and the various channels you can surf on your VITA (pre-programmed, of course) that includes clips from the Live Shows, Lectures about Personas and Shadows and all that, a Quiz Show, a slideshow that shows off the various artworks related to Persona, a channel where you can replay the cutscenes you’ve already seen, a music player channel that allows you to listen to the Persona 4 Golden OST, and a channel that showcases the trailers for the other Persona games.
With how much added content in this remake to an already highly rated PS2 classic, it’s no wonder P4G is getting all the acclaim and positive feedback from critics who gave this game the high rating and praise that it deserves. Like them, I am once again impressed by ATLUS and Persona 4.
If you have a VITA, then I suggest you get a copy of this gem. The money I spent just to get my hands on a copy of this game was, in my opinion, well-spent. Now, if only localization and gaming companies follow ATLUS’ example and think more about their fans (I’m talking about you Bandai-Namco!), then maybe we’d have more high-quality games in the US market.