Persona 4 Golden (PC) Review

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Story
10
Gameplay
9
Presentation
10
Sound
10
10

✔️One of the greatest JRPG’s of all time, redefined the genre and the Persona franchise.
✔️4K 60fps. How could you argue this incredible up-res?
✔️Groundbreaking presence on an unfamiliar platform. Gives us hope for more Persona on PC.
✔️Incredible narrative, lovable cast of characters, and dungeon design is untouchable.

❌A lengthy JRPG needs an auto-save feature.

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Step on up to the plate... 

The PlayStation 2 still remains the best selling console of all time, moving 155 million units worldwide. There was no doubt that its swan song was set to make an unsound impact within the gaming climate, redefining an age-old genre that was in desperate need of rejuvenation. While Persona 3 was labeled an amazing JRPG in its own right, detractors of the series were in their rights to be pessimistic towards its narrow minded creativity in what could only be described as one massive dungeon. Tartarus lacked in variety and innovative design, which had gamers running through all 264 floors of its spiraled structure within an hour. While many of its beloved cast were praised for their quirks and its narrative adored for hitting a diverse range of beats, it lacked in core level construct.

Series Director Katsura Hashino, knew immediately that the next installment of Persona needed to reverse the tone-deaf delivery the series was renowned for at this juncture. The franchise had become synonymous in displaying a melodramatic and ominous delivery, but when Persona 4 was revealed in the March 2008 issue of Famitsu, fans were baffled by its vibrant aesthetics and rumors of the the fourth entry removing itself from its parent franchise – Shin Megami Tensei – and its general story structure. Instead, Hashino opted to bend the rules in hopes of garnering a new appreciation to the series with its incredible UI design, and its overall lighter presentation. While much of the core mechanics remained identical to its predecessor, P4’s universe broke the mold and veered towards its sensational story of students stumbling into a parallel universe in hopes of solving the ongoing murders of their hometown.

Heartbeat, Heartbreak…

Persona 4 Golden remains one of the PS Vita’s top selling titles, with over 990,000 units sold worldwide. Unfortunately for the platform itself, the Vita fizzled fast in history repeating with Sony’s losing effort to its rival, the Nintendo3DS. Many fans were dissatisfied with the hardware, and Sony’s efforts to push new IP’s towards the device. This left Persona 4 Golden facing an uphill battle, ultimately enticing its established fandom to repurchase the the title for a portable platform. While devotee’s may have abandoned ship from the console’s eventual shipwreck, P4G emerged with an overwhelming response within the community and was capable of spiking sales for the handheld in Japan since its launch with Uncharted: Golden Abyss. With P4G’s unequivocal success, fans were clamoring for the remaster to be released on multiple platforms.

While mainline Persona titles have remained a dedicated staple for Sony’s PlayStation franchise, ATLUS began to question its solidarity to the Japanese based gaming company. It had been long rumored that Persona may make its way to various platforms, with the studio teasing fans with various surveys, querying on which would be their preferred platform. Regardless of which was chosen, its an incredibly groundbreaking achievement to see Persona land on PC. To be given the ultimate experience in gameplay, resolution and presentation for a monumental and historic title as Persona 4, only broadens the studio’s horizons for the series’ legacy. With a resounding response, Persona 4 Golden has established a new achievement over a decade after its initial launch in July of 2008, leading fans hopeful of a Persona 5 port in the future.

Persona 4 Golden should not be whimsically neglected, as it leads a legacy of evolving a parent category, and re-establishing the Persona franchise as one of the greatest of all time.

So, why should we be excited for a re-release of an eight year old title from a fleeting handheld that was discarded by its own maker? Persona 4 Golden took the lead, and ultimately changed the way we play Japanese Role-Playing titles. Persona 4’s delivery remains unmatched to this day, inspiring an entire generation of JPRG’s. It set the bar and while other studios attempted to perform above it, they only pushed title’s concrete estate to higher grounds. With its own franchise borrowing tropes from its predecessor, Persona 5 establishes a fresher experience but lifts similar story beats from its predecessor and places them within its own narrative. Not to say P-Studio had purposely recycled any story elements from its own prequel, as Persona 5 is an incredible title in its own right, but the king remains on its throne.

Everyday's great at your Junes ♪

Our protagonist – commonly known by his adopted name in the Anime adaptation – Yu Narukami, is shipped off to live with his family in the rural town of Inaba, while his parents work abroad. On arriving to the city, Narukami is greeted by his Uncle, Detective Ryotaro Dojima and his daughter Nanako. Unfamiliar with his extended family, this is first time our hero had met his Mother’s brother since being an infant. After becoming acquainted with the Dojima’s, the trio set off for ice-cream but take a slight detour at the local town gas station where Narukami is greeted and welcomed by an attendant. While explaining to the attendant his arrangements, a strange sensation overcomes our protagonist, in which he describes to his curious little cousin as a headache. After celebrating his arrival, Dojima shows Narukami to his room and advises him to get a good night’s rest as he begins school the next day.

The following sequence takes us to a dream-state with Narukami in-battle using his Persona, Inzanagi. Awakening in state of panic, Narukami likens this to a simple nightmare. The next day our hero is introduced to his class mates through a comical confrontation. Chie Satonaka, a spunky extrovert who isn’t shy of letting you know her true feelings. Her tomboy attitude lands her in moments of of strife, however her sense of justice is what defines her character. Yukiko Amagi is the rich popular girl, however she is in no way the stereotypical spoiled brat. Her personality contrasts that to her best friend Chie, which ultimately illustrates the perfect representation of the pair’s relationship. While Yukiko is characterised as an introvert, her confidence is strong. Yosuke Hanamura, the clumsy, unkempt best friend who like our hero, is new to Inaba. Arriving six months before Narukami, Yosuke befriends our hero under comical circumstances that ultimately lead to all four characters becoming an established group.

Overhearing the general chatter surrounding the rumored “Midnight Channel”, Narukami greets Chie and Yukiko with the pair inviting our protagonist out to the local shopping district after school. With classes over, the trio head out only to an announcement of a major incident occurring on campus with students told to stay in class for the time being. Breaking news on the death of populat TV announcer Mayumi Yamano had begun to leak through word of mouth. Believing the incident was linked to the mysterious Midnight Channel, Narukami accompanies the ladies home with the corpse of the deceased discovered hanging upside-down from a telephone pole. Shocked by these events, Narukami decides to investigate these rumors by awaiting The Midnight Channel’s presence. As it is aptly labeled, the broadcast appears at midnight during heavy rainfall with legend stating; if you stare long enough that you will see your soul mate.

Narukami’s pessimism of such a ridiculous tale leaves him in disbelief of such an event occurring. It is then the clock strikes midnight, and the exact sensation that radiated through our hero at the local gas station returns, with the voice of Inzanagi echoing through Narukami’s mind, warning the teenager to remain in the real world. Our Protagonist is suddenly dragged into his TV, but successfully fights off the overpowering urge. Explaining to his classmates that he was able to enter his television, the group are convinced that Narukami was dreaming but to put their theory to the test, they decide to head to Junes, at the local shopping district where they could potentially enter a television with a larger screen. Proving his theory correct, our hero is capable of entering this supposed multiverse that takes them to this strange world which represents people’s cognitive representation, and belief of their own reflections upon their peers.

I'll face myself...

A common theme is established within the title’s narrative of overcoming one’s negative reflection, and truly accepting themselves for who they are. Many of its controversial encounters initiated in its dungeons will remain similar throughout the title, with our rag-tag group of unlikely heroes engaging in battle against a flurry of shadows which represent demons and other creatures within the Shin Megami franchise. After scaling each dungeon and making your way to its climax, each level will consist of a cognitive reflection of each our heroes. As you traverse further into the Shadow world, you will be introduced to other characters and Persona’s, including our ‘Bear-y’ obnoxious buddy Teddie, an anthropomorphic bear that takes on the appearance of a stuffed toy. After befriending Narukami, he refers to the stone faced teen as ‘Sensei’, in hopes of leading him to safety. 

Gaining new confidants, and evolving the narrative’s plot-line, your group will expand as you continue your quest throughout the alternate reality in hopes of seeking its existence. While everything will seem familiar to established Persona 4 die-hards, newcomers to the entry who may have played Persona 5 prior to its prequel will certainly notice a lofty absence of features that are represented within the series latest entry. This will remain only issue throughout your experience, if you are a die-hard of Persona 5 (Royal) with substantial improvements in mechanics and its core gameplay loop remaining evident here. That’s not to say Persona 4 is a poor experience, the title remains a timeless masterpiece that plays better than many modern releases in its shared category.

Which platform would you like to see Persona 4 Golden land next?

Persona 4’s controversial legacy remains intact, with many of its underlying messages and mission statements relevant to the struggles humanity face to this day. Mental health, equality, greed, sexuality and fame are touched upon in an incredible manner, that has inspired a generation of gamers with its powerful message to welcome acceptance. Persona 4 carries on its legacy with a sleek and stylish turn-based combat system, in which our heroes can either initiate with advantage or be chased to their disadvantage, similar to that of Persona 5 for those unfamiliar. Grinding your way through each dungeon will level your protagonist and his classmates, which will in-turn make your Persona’s stronger and gain unmatched capabilities to thwart your oncoming opponents. Utilising your Persona’s capabilities will cost your character a number of HP or SP, depending on the size and strength of the ability’s attack range.

Landing simple strikes towards a shadow won’t cost your character anything, but will ultimately be regarded as a simple method in decreasing your opponents health, but only by minor fragments. You may purchase a plethora of items to carry into the Shadowverse, in hopes of protecting your group while in-battle. It’s highly advised to do so later in the game, as shadows will become ferociously stronger. This will lead to confrontations with demons that may be ‘above your pay grade’. Advice? Grind. It’s not hard, and you will appreciate the seamless flow in the title’s historically praised gameplay loop and incredible level design. Yes like many JRPG’s, bottlenecking will occur but camouflages itself quite nicely leaving your entire experience uninterrupted. 

Let go of the remote...

How does Persona 4 Golden perform in 2020? Phenomenally. The monumental remaster that was placed on the unpopular piece portable tech has been rejuvenated for PC with an incredible up-res, delivering a crisp 4K display which certainly makes everything pop quite nicely. Given how its blue-print had been lifted from its initial release for the Vita, developers were precise in remodeling the entire game with intricate care. It became quite obvious that we weren’t dealing with a simple port directly from the handheld, or Sony’s 2nd generation home console. Persona 4 Golden on PC breathes new life with the entire title given a complete overhaul, with a myriad of remodeling and re-texturing for each character and overlay. I was allured by its sheer beauty in its highest possible resolution.

It was astounding to experience one of my all time favourite’s, preserving its aesthetics with a vibrant polish that evidently leaves a newfound appreciation for the title. The love and care put into its revisiting by ATLUS, makes for an overwhelming adventure that reintroduces this lovable cast of quirky characters, and re-establishes its legacy over a decade later. The array of amazing voice over talent connected to this title, were truly in their infancy, forging their own legacy within the industry with many from this pool of incredible actors exhibiting their awe-inspiring diversity. The glorious range of Johnny Yong Bosch (Devil May Cry 5, Demon Slayer) portrays a multitude of characters within the title, most notably our protagonist.

Bosch is accompanied by what would be considered the cream of the crop in VO Royalty; Yuri Lowenthal (Spiderman, Final Fantasy VII Remake), Erin Fitzgerald (Persona 5 Royal, Catherine: Full Body), Amanda Lee (Persona 5, Bravely Second), Laura Bailey *Harp Music* (Critical Role, The Last of Us Part II), Troy Baker (The Last of Us Part II, Uncharted 4), Sam Reigel (Critical Role, Phoenix Wright), JB Blanc (Mortal Kombat 11, Apex Legends), Daniel Woren (Lupin the 3rd, Bleach), and Karen Strass (Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Fire Emblem: Three Houses). Persona 4’s legacy is notorious for its aesthetic appeal that redefined visual and audio design with legendary composer, Shoji Meguro arranging a mix of J-Pop and Traditional rap to match the series unconventional delivery. P4G’s soundtrack is cemented its legacy, and is regarded as one of the best compilations of gaming music to this day.

While the argument may now be subjective, Persona 4 Golden remains the industry standard for quality JRPG game design. Its ingenious mixture of alluring textures and overlay, combined with its incredible narrative, redesigned to entice newcomers and devotee’s alike for an experience like no other. Appropriately given the handle “Golden”, within P4’s original subtext and plot-line, the title remains the gold-standard for inspiring generations of JRPG’s and other categories. Other renowned developers, including Masahiro Sakurai – the creator of Kirby and Super Smash Bros. –  have praised Persona 4 with its inventive style of overall storytelling and presentation. Persona 4 Golden should not be whimsically neglected, as it leads a legacy of evolving a parent category, and re-establishing the Persona franchise as one of the greatest of all time.

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Persona 4 Golden - ATLUS

Persona 4, also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, is a role-playing video game developed and published by Atlus. It is chronologically the fifth installment in the Persona series.

AVAILABLE NOW ON:

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Story
10
Gameplay
9
Presentation
10
Sound
10
10

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