Lets Go Dungeon Crawling with Party Based Combat - on the PS Vita
When a new handheld game system is released, its initial library of games is usually pretty thin. Sony's PS Vita was no exception. In 2012, the Vita came out in North America with a price tag of $299 and a selection of about two dozen titles, several of which were ports of older PS2 or PS3 games.
Console-to-handheld ports are often hit-or-miss. Long loading times, pieces of story and features hacked off of the original, a degraded soundtrack - all of these are possibilities when a console game is ported onto a handheld. For that reason, some of these titles pass unnoticed. There is one PS2-to-Vita port that Vita owners shouldn't miss out on, however. Persona 4 Golden is an excellent remake of the extremely popular Atlus RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4.
Originally released in 2008, Persona 4 garnered excellent reviews and attracted attention in the Americas and Europe, where the Japanese RPG is generally considered a niche game genre. But Persona 4 was different. P4 combined rigorous dungeon-crawling gameplay with a social simulation feature in which the main character interacts with his friends during the day. The game featured an original and fresh storyline and an excellent localization courtesy of the hardworking translators and voice actors at Atlus USA.
Story and gameplay
The hero of Persona 4 is a high school student who has just transferred from the big city to Inaba, a small town in the Japanese countryside. Almost immediately after entering town, strange things begin to happen our protagonist. He sees visions of people in mortal peril and has bizarre dreams. At his new school, strange rumors circulate about a mysterious TV channel that only comes on at midnight. And just a few days after starting school in this new locale, a woman is found dead in town, her body hanging from a television antenna.
Persona 4 is an RPG/dungeon-crawler/social sim hybrid. Your protagonist spends his days at school studying and hanging out with friends and his evenings fighting Shadows (essentially your standard RPG monsters) in an alternate world with some of his high school classmates. The two gameplay styles are very different, but this difference doesn't make the game feel disjointed at all. The two styles play into each other, in fact - your social links with your friends and acquaintances in the real world will give you serious advantages when fusing Personas and fighting Shadows. And P4's fresh, original plot and interesting characters produce some genuinely funny and poignant moments. This gives the game a weight that far too many modern cookie-cutter RPGs lack.
Additions and improvements
Persona 4 Golden is much more than a straight port of Persona 4. It adds hours of original content and gameplay to the mix. Those who have already enjoyed Persona 4 on the PS2 can look forward to a new character and social link in Marie, the mysterious new resident of the Velvet Room, and an all-new dungeon. Players can also choose to sneak out of the house in the evening and spend the night in town, an option that wasn't available in vanilla Persona 4. Veterans of Persona 3 and its own expanded version, Persona 3 FES, will also notice the addition of new Arcana that corresponds to the game's new social links.
Persona 4 Golden isn't just an expanded version of the original, though. It also includes some serious cosmetic updates and additions. Characters can now obtain different costumes through story events and quests and wear them while in battle. And players who were driven to the brink of insanity by the one non-boss battle song in the original game can now enjoy a variety of background tracks while killing Shadows. In short, Persona 4 Golden is an enjoyable port and a real improvement upon an already great RPG.
Should you buy this game? If you own a Vita and have never played Persona 4, the answer is an unqualified yes. Persona 4 was one of the most innovative and interesting games of the 2008, and P4 Golden brings the same experience - with some excellent additions - to a handheld system.
If you've already played Persona 4, that “yes” is a little more qualified. RPGs tend not to have very much replay value. If you haven't replayed Persona 4 since its launch and you're up for another round, though, P4 Golden is well worth picking up. P4G is of a rare breed - a portable version of a console game that's even better than the original. It may well be worth picking up for that reason alone. The old school game vault is a big fan of the Persona Series, so read why persona games are so damn good.