Published by NIS America
A new transfer student from Tokyo moves to the small town of Inaba to spend a year with his uncle and young cousin. Soon after, a series of murders occur that seem to be connected to the local rumour about “The Midnight Channel”. When you stare into a black TV at midnight on a rainy night you are supposed see your soul mate. But the people who appear on the midnight channel are turning up dead on foggy days. While investing the student and his new friends discover they have the power to enter through their TVs into a world of shadows and unlock the power of their personas.
Persona 4 Golden is a remake of a late released PS2 game. The original was released two years into the PS3’s life cycle so it’s easy to understand how many missed this gem the first time around. The remake does an excellent job of updating the game with bright new graphics, widescreen, and new dungeons and characters to interact with. The game starts with your character moving to Inaba from the big city for a year. You get to name your character whatever you like (The intro movie simply refers to him as “Hero”) but his official name is Yu Narukami , which I’m sure is some sort of pun. After making friends in school, Yu hears of the rumour about “The Midnight Channel”. Yu soon discovers that he has the power to enter another world through television sets. A dangerous world filled with “Shadows”, monsters that will attack anything they don’t like the look of. He and his friends discover that the victims are being thrown into the “TV world” as a means to kill them and vow to rescue any more victims and catch the killer. While in the TV world they also unlock the power of their Personas, which they use to fight while on the other side.
Your teammates will only have one Persona each for the duration of the game but Yu has the ability to have many Personas and it’s easiest to think of them to be much like Pokemon. The different Persona will have different strengths and weaknesses. One that is immune to fire attacks will be weak to ice and so on, so it is important to pick the right Persona for the job. You can earn Personas in battle but the way to get stronger Persona is to fuse two or more of them together to create new Personas. When fusing you are also given the option to add some of the older Personas moves in to the new one’s arsenal, allowing for a small amount of customization. The Persona created will also gain an experience boost based on you relationships with certain characters.
Relationships are everything in Persona 4 but you are limited in time. The game works on a day by day basis. As the protagonist is still in high school you need to attend school every day excluding Sundays and holidays. This leaves time to do only one thing after school and in the evening. There is so much to do, too. From forming and growing relationships, after school sports and clubs, part-time jobs, reading, studying, fishing, gardening, bug catching and so many more activities to develop Yu’s stats. There’s just no way to do it all and you’ll find yourself agonizing if you should go to soccer practice or hang out with Yosuke. But most importantly you need to keep an eye on the weather and the “Midnight Channel”.
When someone is kidnapped they show up on the midnight channel. Don’t worry the games makes a big deal of it so it is impossible to miss it but from that point you are on a deadline. You need to enter the TV world and rescue the victim before the next fog. It gets foggy after a couple of days of rain so it is very important to keep an eye on the weather forecast.
After being trapped in the TV, a new world will be created based around the victim’s fears and anxieties. This forms the basis for the games dungeons. Each dungeon is made up of around ten mostly randomly generated floors, with the victim and a boss waiting on the final floor. The randomly generated levels can feel like you are lost at times but a helpful and upgradable mini map fills in the areas you have already explored, keeping things on track. And once you discover a floor’s stairs you can fast travel to the next floor from any part on the map, making exploration a much better sounding prospect. The dungeons can be replayed after beating them too, with a new boss on the top floor if you need to grind for experience or money.
The combat is your normal JRPG affair with an extra layer of strategy added in. The enemies are visible on screen giving you the opportunity to attack from behind them for a free hit. The different “Shadows” will also have weakness to different attacks. If they are hit by an attack they are weak to it will knock them down, granting the player an extra move in which to attack. If all of the enemies get knocked down then your whole team can attack at once to inflict extra damage. You need to be careful as these same tactics work the other way too, with enemies granted extra attacks when hitting your teammate’s weaknesses. It’s important to pick the right Persona for the job because if Yu dies then it is game over making you start again from the beginning of that dungeon’s floor. It’s not too unusual for an enemy to latch on to your Persona’s weakness and knock you out, so take care.
The music is also worth giving a mention. Being mostly composed of Japanese pop-rock, which is something I wouldn’t usually like, but I seem to be suffering from some sort of musical Stockholm syndrome. Towards the end of the game I found myself humming along with the game while I walked through Inaba’s shopping district and listening to my favourite tracks on youtube when not playing.
Persona 4 Golden is an absolutely massive game too, taking about seventy hours to finish on you first play through. The game also encourages a second playthrough, adding in new bosses and dialog. Not to even mention the amount of relationships you just wouldn’t have had time to pursue the first time around.
While a JRPG at heart, Persona 4 Golden is different enough to be a game that even people who aren’t into JRPGs should try. If you have a Vita you owe it to yourself to play what I undoubtedly believe to be the best game on it.