Persona 4: Golden is rich in story and offers the player to fight for survival with an alternative ego. The game starts off with quite a bit of reading, which will immediately grab the reader’s attention and thrust him into this immersive plot, until he is neck deep and there is no turning back. The player enters the shoes of the game’s lead hero and you are able to enter the name that you wish to be called in-game. Beginning in a blue limo called the Velvet Room, you are greeted by a creepy older individual who will explain everything you need to know every time you step foot into the Velvet Room. Skill Cards are achieved throughout the battles, along with Personas, that can be fused and registered here later throughout the game.
You have ended up in Inaba and will be staying with your uncle, Dojima and his six-year old daughter, your cousin, Nanako. There is no indication why your mother has sent you to stay with them and you are in constant search of answers that surround your life. Yet, you are welcomed into their home and develop a relationship with them. With all of the people that you come in close contact with, you will learn about the hardships and struggles in their lives and what makes them each special. This becomes the heart and soul of the game. I quickly found myself drawn to the stories and worked to uncover more from each of them. Since your character possesses an eloquence, in which he can use to his advantage in gaining friends and relationships with other individuals, the other characters are compelled to share everything about themselves with you. Dojima is a detective who has witnessed pain that is incomprehensible, with the death of his wife. While he immerses himself in his work to keep his mind off of his deceased wife, Nanako is left to tend to duties in the home, all while missing her mother. The characters were created in such a manner, that everyone is special and a unique attachment comes along with each. In a complete world, they individually fill in the gaps of your life, completing you, piece by piece.
With an anime type look, the story of Persona 4: Golden is not completely set in stone with a direct path that the player needs to take. There are many options available that leave doors open to unearth a deeper storyline. Depending on how much time you are wanting to invest in the game, will determine how much of the story you will unlock. Since the game is story-driven, you will quickly find yourself immersed and want to reveal every aspect of the story. The game is based on decisions and the way these decisions are carried out by the player will have their own impact on the storyline of the game. If your teacher at school asks you a question and you answer correctly, you will increase your knowledge. After school and on days off, you have various activities that you can choose to do. Will you spend the time hanging out with friends to improve social links, read books in your room to improve your courage or knowledge and by extension, assisting you in mini games, such as school finals or fishing? You can also work to help gain social stats and meet more people to learn their back stories and max out their Social Links, and gain some money, as well.
Persona 4: Golden offers much to do and all while you are trying to build these bonds to max out the Social Links, there are murders that are occurring all through Inaba. The victims are shown on rainy nights on the Midnight Channel. As the days grow closer to the death, the victim appears fuzzy on the channel, until they are clearly displayed. During that time, they are missing and you and your friends are trying to save them before they are found dead, hanging from television antennas, with no indication of how or why.
Saving them requires you to jump into this curious television world, in which you will be found winding through dungeon halls and fighting enemies, known as shadows, until meeting the boss of the level. Each dungeon in the TV has a theme that is based on that character’s “other self”, where they find themselves battling a part of themselves, until they are forced to face and accept that aspect of them. One of the themes even takes on an 8bit rendered style that any old-time gamer can appreciate. In a turn-based style, you, and three friends you have selected to fight alongside, will have the opportunity to choose to attack or unleash your persona on the enemy. The battle system is quite robust. In unleashing your persona, which is your fighting character, you can select between various assaults through magic. As you fight enemies, your persona levels up, allowing you to acquire some more attributes to add to your persona’s fighting style and also pick up some extra items, such as HP and extra personas. I was quite immersed in the persona collection and looked forward to taking my acquired persona cards to the Velvet Room and fuse them to make even more powerful personas to rake havoc on enemies in battle. Just when you think you had your favorite persona to battle with, I loved being able to equip each with different moves and switched between several. Not only will you be attracted to the persona’s abilities, but just like the enemies and bosses, each have a unique look that you will certainly find appealing.
Once you begin to think there is downtime in the game, there is always something that you can be doing to make use of your time with various activities. Building special bonds with each character will not only help them overcome or realize an underlying issue that they have been coping with in life, but also help your battle in the game as this will enhance their personas’ abilities during the fighting sequences. You will find yourself attempting to rank each up to their max of 10, so that their personas morph into more powerful personas that will acquire new powerful skills, plus gain access to follow-up attacks. If you have a test coming up, you can choose to study at the desk in your room to enhance your intelligence, thus helping you with your judgment with various occasions that arise. Reading books can also help with various things, such as enhancing your intelligence as well, which will later assist with some mini games down the road. You can read a book that will effectively assist your studying and this will also gain you more intelligence when you study. Books can also help raise your expression which will benefit you when you need to talk to one of the characters. Sometimes the story will not progress further with that character until your expression, or even courage or understanding, is at a particular stage. Joining clubs and sports will also allow some more opportunities for new social links to open up. The in-game calendar will help keep you on track with all you need to do throughout the game and even allow some time to spend with your friends during particular holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas. You will find yourself wanting to take advantage of all the social links the game has to offer. Not only is it fun to unveil more about the game, but also boost your character all the while.
The music of Persona 4: Golden will stick with you even when you put the game down. From the supermarket, Junes, jingle to the songs you hear in the dungeons and while you are exploring Inaba, the soundtrack captures your heart. Each character that disappears has their special song that is married with their background for the ultimate story experience. After putting so much time into the game, I immediately looked up the soundtrack and purchased it along with the PlayStation 2 version of the game and cannot listen to it enough. Just listening to the songs will bring in the memorable moments of the game that remain with you.
I immediately found myself in love with the characters and they wouldn’t be as special if they were voiced by anyone else. Atlus hired an outstanding team of voice actors to include Troy Baker, who voices Kanji Tatsumi. Baker has voiced several characters in big titles, such as Snow in Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2, Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden 3, God of War: Ascensions as Orkos, just to name a few. He is also lending his voice to some upcoming major titles, to include The Last of Us as Joel and BioShock Infinite as Booker DeWitt. Laura Bailey, who has worked with Baker on several video games, voiced Rise Kujikawa. Bailey has voiced Serah in both Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2, Harley Quinn in LEGO Batman 2, Helena Harper in Resident Evil 6, and so many other titles. The cast also includes Amanda Winn Lee, who offers the voice of Yukiko Amagi, Erin Fitzgerald as Chie Satonaka, Yuri Lowenthal as Yosuke Hanamura, Sam Riegel as Teddy, JB Blanc as Ryotaro Dojima, and Karen Strassman as Nanako Dojima. Each voice actor has quite an extensive background in voice acting.
Persona 4: Golden is definitely a must own for anyone with a PS Vita. It is the perfect game to take on the go and, trust me, the game will consume you so much that you will most definitely want it with you anywhere you are. If you do not own a PS Vita, the game alone will justify the purchase of the system. I have never been one to invest time into a JRPG title. I have to say that Persona 4: Golden has opened the doors to this genre for me and this is definitely the gateway drug to JRPGs.