Better Late Than Never | Persona 4 Golden Review
My love for Chie from Persona 4 aside, I’d like to introduce you all to a little revitalization of my old Game Corner articles called Better Late Than Never, where I’ll be reviewing games quite differently than other published reviews and often times a bit later than other reviews. This week we’ll be looking at Persona 4 Golden for the Playstation Vita.
Persona 4 Golden for the Playstation Vita is an updated re-release of Persona 4, which saw initial release in the U.S. on the Playstation 2 on December 9th, 2008. Persona 4 saw much more popularity than its predecessor, Persona 3, and really any other Persona title or Shin Megami Tensei title, as the Persona games are loosely tied to and even subtitled as here in the United States. Persona 4 saw a canonical sequel recently for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in the form of the fighting game Persona 4 Arena and even took the form of an anime that summarized the events of Persona 4 called Persona 4: The Animation.
Persona 4 Golden isn’t simply a re-release for the Playstation Vita of a classic Playstation 2 title, however, as the game adds over 30 hours of new dialogue, whole new story sequences, new parts of the region to explore, new Personas to summon, a new character, new animated sequences, altered battle mechanics, a loss of the Shin Megami Tensei title, updated visuals, and a pseudo-multiplayer mode. Many other reviews for the title that I’ve read seem to focus on the wholly new content and completely exclude the tweaked battle mechanics, completely different post-battle screen, the additions to the main menu, and really getting into the multiplayer mode.
Persona 4 Golden‘s battle system seems to flow far more quickly than the original title or the previous Persona titles, allowing for battles to feel much more fluid. There are new combo moves, namely one that I saw over and over again involved Yukiko and Chie combining Personas for a fusion attack, and an aesthetic costume system has been put in place so that you can dress your team up however you choose without losing the better armor or weapons. Again, like the original Persona 4 release, however, the tactics for your teammates defaults to the AI controlling their turns, with the player having to manually change the tactics in order to assign their own orders each turn.
The post-battle result screen has been completely gutted and revamped with this re-release. Fans of the series, specifically the last two entries, know that after completing battle the player has the chance to take part in a sort of “follow the card you want with your eyes and reap the rewards” type carnival game in order to earn new Personas, doubled and tripled experience points, and additional rewards in the form of money and weapons, however Golden shakes this up a bit. No longer do you have a second or two to few the cards before they’re hidden and you have to “pick a card, any card!”, now all of the reward cards are visible at all times and the focus is on maximizing how many reward cards you will pick up at once. If you can manage to collect all of the possible reward cards in one sitting, by tactfully choosing the correct cards, you will receive a “Sweep Bonus” which will guarantee you get a shuffle bonus at the end of the next encounter, give you more card pulling chances during the next shuffle bonus, and even add additional and greater cards to your next shuffle bonus.
In my opinion, this completely changes the pacing of the game. I suddenly wasn’t grinding battles for Persona collecting like I had before, I was chaining ten and twenty sweep bonuses in a row and cleaning house on each floor until the boss fight, and this was on normal difficulty. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the game does get harder as things progress, but it’s very different.
The main menu for Persona 4 is far more robust this time around. The typical “New Game” and “Continue” options exist, as well as a configuration menu, but most interesting is the new ”TV Listing” menu. Through this special channel the player has the option to listen to BGM arrangements from the main game, remixes, and special tracks that unlock as the game progresses, as well as the option to watch special lecture series videos from the teachers from the game’s school. Animated cutscenes and special tip videos exist to be unlocked as well. Overall, this is a nice new feature, and while it doesn’t add much to the experience that I was anticipating, it’s a nice new addition that helps make the game feel more robust than it already did.
And finally, one of the areas where I saw most reviewers breeze their way through was with the new “multiplayer” component. I put multiplayer in quotations because Golden doesn’t feature a traditional multiplayer, but instead one that seems heavily influenced by systems like that of Demon’s Souls, which I am referencing instead of its sequel because Atlus actually published Demon’s Souls here in the United States.
This passive multiplayer involves players “cheering on” those who find themselves in danger, using new on-screen buttons that are touch sensitive, which provide the vulnerable players with health and SP bonuses to assist in battle. This feature seems like it would break the core game, but the bonuses offered by assisting players are very marginal and only through the assistance of a massive number of players could someone truly regain enough health to even make a big difference. More intriguing to me was the use of a system first introduced in Persona Team‘s very own current-gen title Catherine. When players take control of the protagonist and have the option to choose what to do with the rest of their in-game day they can hit a small on-screen button, much like the dungeon assist multiplay, and this button will display the decisions that other players made on that day. I found this particularly helpful in making a quick decision if several activities piqued my interest. How this information fares compared to 100% social link guide decisions and accomplishing everything the game has to offer has yet to really take a hold on my playthrough, but it is a very nice feature to see what other players have decided.
You’re probably asking yourself why this article didn’t really seem to be anything like an actual review, well, that’s because with Better Late Than Never I want to take the time to fully explore a title and talk about those things that didn’t make it into the more mainstream reviews. And, honestly, if you’d rather have a straightforward Persona 4 Golden review, you’d probably be better off just reading a review on Persona 4 for the Playstation 2. It’s a great title, and with all of the added content it really is the best title for the Playstation Vita thus far, but if Japanese roleplaying games aren’t your thing, you may need to look elsewhere, as this title is fantastically Japanese from the culture depicted to the names and creatures. And to answer the question here and now: THIS is the weirdest Persona in the game.