Being a fan of role-playing games, I have always enjoyed their variety of storytelling. Some games can make you feel like you are in a fantastic world of dragons, castles and magic. Other games take you to worlds of androids, space exploration and intergalactic diplomacy. I love escapism, and I love it more when that escapism is put in the structure of a pen-and-paper RPG or video game. There are many types of RPGs I have played, and I appreciate the diversity of ideas and new visions.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Japanese RPGs, perhaps due to the fact that Dragon Warrior on the NES was the first video RPG that I ever played. I’ve consistently enjoyed the Persona series of JRPGs, and fan-favorite Atlus has once again brought to us a gaming gem that needs to be experienced by RPG fans: Persona 4 Golden for the Playstation Vita.
Persona 4 Golden for the PS Vita is a portable port of the original Playstation 2 version that came out in 2008. If you do not own a Vita now, you might want to think about getting one if the idea of a more than 100-hour JRPG set in modern Japan sounds cool to you.
The world of Persona 4 is set in a small town called Inaba, Japan. Your first order of business will be naming the lead character of the game, a silent protagonist who comes from the big city. When you arrive in Inaba, you get to stay with your uncle, a detective who works for the police. Over the next few days, mysterious murders start to occur, and the corpses are found hanging disturbingly from TV antennas or atop telephone poles. Your lead character attends school and begins to meet many new students. Some will become good friends and will take part in an epic horror story that breaks the traditional bonds of horror and mysteries. If Persona 4 were a book, it would be a page turner like no other; it is a tour de force of video game storytelling.
Once you have experienced some of the world and characters of Persona 4, the gameplay kicks in. Now, if this were any other game, two and a half hours of story at the very start of the game would be a major turn-off. However, the story is so well-told and the characters so awesome that it keeps you engaged even when you’re not battling shadows. Speaking of battles, Persona 4 has plenty. The system is turn-based and can be both deep and simple at the same time. The default game setting has you controlling only the lead hero, but you have the option to manually control the decisions of the other combatants as well.
Besides using your characters’ equipped weapons, the main way that you fight is by using the Personas. The Personas are entities that exist within the subconscious of all human beings. Personas are said to be your true self and a great source of power. You will use your persona to do magical attacks, heal you and your friends, and deal out various status effects.
There are many layers of gameplay in Persona 4 besides just fighting creatures. The overall structure to the game and story takes place within a calendar. Time is always advancing and decisions must be made on a daily basis. You attend school during the day and advance the storyline while making dialog decisions and strengthening your Social-Links. Social-Links are story elements that strengthen your bond with other students or characters. These bonds will also give you many kinds of advantages in battle depending on what kind of Persona you are you using at the moment.
I think that one of the greatest strengths of Persona 4 is the localization. Firstly, the writing in this is game is incredible in that the world and characters feel very real, and much of that reality is masterfully created by the voice actors. The voice acting is some the very best that you’ll find in a video game; I felt that I knew the characters and would actually feel and care for them. The people that brought these characters to life did a fantastic job, and I look forward to their future endeavors.
Needless to say, Persona 4 Golden is a must buy for Vita owners. Large amounts of gameplay are wrapped in the shroud of an incredibly deep story. It touches on death, murder, other dimensions, moral ambiguity, suicide, celebrities, media exploits and even corporate greed via major department stores; this game has it all. I feel that Persona 4 Golden is a very fitting title; this game truly is golden.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.