By Spencer . November 13, 2012 . 6:16am
Persona 4: Golden begins almost exactly like the PlayStation 2 game. You, a gray-haired teen from the city, hop on a train to Inaba. Your uncle Dojima, a police officer, and jingle loving cousin Nanako are waiting at the station to pick you up. For the next year, this rural town is your home. The protagonist (we’ll call him Yu like in Persona 4 Arena) bumps into Marie, a new character made for the Vita version, who insists your dropped something.
When Marie is in the Velvet Room she can power up your personas with skill cards, another new element in Persona 4: Golden. Skill cards let you customize a persona by bestowing abilities like Agi (that’s a fire spell) or Media (healing magic). You get skill cards from Shuffle Time and you can either use them or give them to Marie so she can duplicate them for a fee. If you see Marie in town you can start the Aeon Social Link. Marie is confused about the “real world”, riddled with teenage angst, and tends to rambleinsultsinlongsentences. Yu can also spend time with Tohru Adachi, Dojima’s bumbling and loose lipped underling, and develop the Jester social link. These social links are tied to a handful of new for Persona 4: Golden personas that weren’t in the original game, but were in Persona 3. Gurr, Sati, and Narcissus are some of the personas Atlus added to Persona 4: Golden.
Social links? Personas? What are we talking about? For those of you that missed Persona 4, it’s a dungeon RPG meets dating sim hybrid wrapped in a murder mystery. Someone is throwing people into the TV World where enraged Shadows kill them on foggy days. Victims appear on a mysterious program called the Midnight Channel and the Investigation Team led by Yu vows to save them before the weather changes. When you’re not wearing snazzy glasses and wandering through steamy bathhouses, you are an ordinary teenager). Persona 4: Golden brings players back to high school – pop quizzes included. You pass the days developing personal stats like Yu’s knowledge by going to the library or hang out with friends to build social links. Social Links infuse personas with a surge of experience points and new for Persona 4: Golden additional skills for your teammates.
Persona 4: Golden plays like a standard RPG when you step into the TV World. Yu and three other party members run around randomly generated dungeons. If you run into one of the Shadows the game shifts into battle mode. Fights in Persona 4: Golden are turn based and like other Megaten titles monsters are tough. The key to defeating shadows is exploiting weaknesses and fusing personas with the right skills. Atlus made a few tweaks to the battle system like team attacks that automatically trigger if you can knock all of the enemies down and created a new Shuffle Time mini-game. Persona 4: Golden also has an online enabled rescue feature and a very easy difficulty mode for newcomers that just want to experience the story. Speaking of the story, you can peek at how other players are progressing through Persona 4: Golden with Vox Populi. This shows what other people did during the same in-game day.
Okina City is another “new” element in Persona 4: Golden. You can explore the town in the PlayStation Vita version when you get a motorbike. Okina City has a movie theater, a pricey costume shop, and Chagall Cafe. Yeah, that’s the same coffee chain from Persona 3, but sipping coffee won’t boost Yu’s charm. You gain skill cards from Chagall Cafe. With so many opportunities to get skill cards, customizing personas is much more streamlined in Golden than the original game. A beach lies beyond Okina City and this area has a new fishing spot. A new bug catching mini-game makes getting bait easier too. Yu can also help Nanako tend her garden. This raises Yu’s diligence, improves his relationship with the Dojima family, and creates healing items.
Persona 4: Golden also has new events like a ski trip in the winter and a celebration of something that just passed. There’s a new dungeon to explore, as well, but it is possible to miss it. I think fans of the original game will probably find the dungeon, just try things you weren’t able to do in Persona 4 on PlayStation 2. Fans are going to love the extras Atlus stuffed into Persona 4: Golden. You can watch game trailers, test your knowledge in a quiz show game, and see clips from the Persona Music Live concert series. Now that’s fan service!
Even though I knew how the mystery would unfold, I loved returning to Inaba. Persona 4: Golden’s brilliant blend of high school life and good old dungeon crawling is engaging. Inaba may be a backwater town, but there is always something to do. One day you’re eating beef bowls so large they take Yu into the “meat dimension” and the next day you’re running through a dungeon designed like a retro RPG. There was already a ton of content in Persona 4 and the Vita version adds even more to it. If you loved Persona 4 you’ll love this version and if you missed Persona 4 don’t miss out on Persona 4: Golden.