For many, Atlus’s Persona 5 was their first venture inside the world of the Shin Megami Tensei classroom offshoot series of Persona. After I was swept away by Persona 5 for months, I had a burning desire to go back and experience what came before. The most accessible of the bunch after Persona 5 was Persona 4 Golden, which was only available on the now discontinued, PS Vita. Now, Atlus has graced PC gamers with the opportunity to experience Persona 4 Golden. But the question is, how does this game—that was originally a 2008 PS2 game—fair on the PC? And is it too dated to enjoy?
Persona games are known for their unorthodox storytelling which involves deep characterization and flashy anime cutscenes that blend with the in-game graphics. In Persona 4 Golden, the protagonist arrives in the rural Japanese town of Inaba to live with his uncle and cousin Ryotaro and Nanako Dojima as his parents are working abroad. This means our protagonist must join the local school and is forced to make new friends.
But right after his arrival a reporter is found dead with her body hanging from an antenna. And to make things hit home even more, a student from the same high school who had discovered the body, is later found dead herself.
Shortly after, our protagonist and a couple of his new friends stumble upon a weird parallel TV universe by accident, and inside this universe their new Personas awaken, allowing them to fight the evil shadows lurking within. They learn that there’s a link between the murders in the real world and the shadows lurking in the TV world, so they use their new abilities to fight shadows and save possible victims and unravel the deeper mysteries that lie within. Eventually they learn that they can save would-be victims in the real world by conquering the many dungeons in the TV realm and defeating the boss shadows.
What’s incredible is how Atlus is able to make the real world and TV world gameplay all link together. In the real world, you control your protagonist as he attends school, meets with friends, partakes in a variety of school clubs and goes back home to spend time with his family.
You get to live his life as a student and make crucial social decisions—like who you want to date and how you want to spend your limited time each day. Your experiences in the real world will boost your Social Qualities (Understanding, Knowledge, Courage, Expression, Diligence), and levelling up each one gives you access to new things. Things like new dialogue options, better performance on tests, and bonuses for mini-games. And all of these character developments can impact your Social Links (or connections) with your companions. And as your Social Links progress, you’ll be able to utilize more powerful Personas in the TV universe.
You’re also given deadlines. You’ll have to save new victims before the next foggy day on the calendar. Meaning you’ll have to check the weather for each day and plan your days accordingly. You can choose between progressing with the TV world dungeon or participating in many of the social scenarios described previously. As long as you save the victims before the foggy day, you get to decide how you spend your time. And if you don’t save the next victim you’re presented with a game over screen.
Inside the TV world, each of your companions has a Persona of their own; with your protagonist having the ability to switch between them. This means that it’s possible to obtain more of them. There are a few ways to do this: you can capture them in battle, or win them via the Shuffle Time mechanic or you can obtain them by fusing two different Personas that you currently own into a more powerful (and sometimes rare) one. This allows for a deep level of customization, as you’ll be able to tweak the fused Personas skills, choosing which ones to carry over.
Each Persona has their strengths and weaknesses, just like the enemy shadows you’ll face. And exploiting weaknesses is something that’s important with the game’s battle system.
Persona 4 uses a fast-paced turn-based battle system that gives you as much or as little control as you want. As typical with turn-based battle systems, you, your allies and your enemies each take turns. But if someone hits an attack that their opponent is weak against, they’ll get an extra turn to strike, making it super important to figure out an enemies weakness, while also protecting against your own.
After the initial tutorial phase of the game, you’ll be able to decide whether you choose your friend’s actions for them or you can allow them to take turns automatically. If you let them take turns on their own you can set them a few basic rules to follow. But I believe you get the most tactical advantage by deciding your allies’ actions for them. Because sometimes the A.I chooses not to exploit an enemy weakness.
When you’ve weakened all enemies in the battle field you’ll get the chance to hit them with a snazzy group attack with cool anime effects—it’s called an All-Out Attack. Hitting an All-Out Attack after a long grueling battle is exhilarating and it really gives the game an exciting edge. If you hit an All-Out Attack, or your protagonist lands the final blow of the battle, you’re then presented with the Shuffle Time mini-game. Shuffle Time allows you to select one taro card, which are basically rewards. Through Shuffle Time you can gain weapons, money, extra EXP, new Personas, HP and more. Choose wisely, because there are trick cards too.
There are some social features within the game that allow you to see how others on Steam spent each day in the game. You can also send out an SOS while in dungeons so other players can give you aid.
When Persona 4 Golden originally hit the Vita in 2012 a ton of new content was added that wasn’t in the 2008 PS2 version of the game. Some of these new changes include: two new Social Link characters (Marie & Tohru), a new dungeon, new dialogue, new endings, new music and much more. To see a full list of what was added in the original Persona 4 Golden see here.
But what separates this PC version from the PS Vita version of Persona 4? Content wise, it’s exactly the same as the Vita version. But this PC version offers a HD experience with unlocked frame-rates and 16:9 resolution. The game’s textures have also been polished to the point you can’t tell that this was ever a PS2 game. While walking around I noticed some pretty clean fabric textures. Sure, it doesn’t look like Persona 5, but Persona 4 Golden on the PC looks like a beautiful JRPG with an original art style, and it holds up quite well. There’s nothing dated here at all.
The only downside is that this PC version has nothing like the Vita’s suspend feature, which was revolutionary for JRPG fans. JRPGs are known for having scarce save points, so the Vita’s suspend feature was great for when you wanted to take a break between saves and then continue right where you left off. But that’s not a possibility here so if you have an emergency (between saves) and need to quit the game, you either lose data or keep the game running while you’re away. Adding in some extra quick save options would have been nice.
I’d previously played this game on the Vita after falling in love with Persona 5, but because I have difficulty staying committed to handheld games, I never saw this game all the way through. Atlus has blessed us all by allowing us to experience this phenomenal game in a format we might be more comfortable with, and not much has been lost in the process besides the game’s exclusivity.
The Steam marketplace is desperate for new JRPGs and at the cost of $19.99 | €19.99, Persona 4 Golden is a no-brainer. There’s also a Deluxe Edition which includes the digital soundtrack and artbook for $24.99 | €24.99. Persona 4 has some jams that will be stuck in your head for some time, so I’d consider the Deluxe Edition.
My final words on this are simply…what are you waiting for?
Surprisingly mature story-arcs
A stress-reducing soundtrack
Keyboard and Mouse compatible
A new quick save option would have been nice.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Persona 4 Golden for the PC (Steam) provided by Atlus.