The JRPG hasn’t had a great run this console generation. Even former stalwarts like Square-Enix failed to live up to the greatness they were once known for. But even if the consoles are experiencing a dearth of quality JRPG titles, the same can’t be said for the portable gaming scene. Both the DS and PSP established themselves as new venues for fantastic JRPG experiences and now the Vita is set to carry on the tradition with an oldie but a goodie, Persona 4 Golden. In fact it’s so good that for JRPG fans it’s a must have title on Sony’s latest portable gaming system.
Back To School & Monster Slaying
The basic plot of Persona 4 remains intact in this “Golden” edition for the Vita. You control a classic, silent JRPG protagonist who has moved to the small town of Inaba to finish up the school year. Things take a turn for the strange when a serial killer starts leaving bodies hanging on antennas after any foggy days hit the town. It’s up to you and the friends you make at your new school to investigate and stop the killings thanks to an ability known as “Persona.” It allows those so gifted to travel to a dimension with televisions and summon up mighty demons that fight for and with them. If that story sounds absolutely insane, that’s because it is, but in between the dungeon crawling and Jungian psychological rambling, there’s a lot of heart, likable characters, one of the most memorable tales in a JRPG of the last five years.
The visuals are a stunning testament to the technology of our age and the Vita in particular. Granted, even back then, the original PS2 debut of Persona 4 wasn’t putting a strain on that console, but P4G looks better than the original and it’s on a portable. Atlus went the extra mile of rezzing up the graphics to high definition, new art work, environments and even animated scenes have all been created, and there’s no framerate issues at all. It’s obviously no technical marvel compared to something like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but this is the best that a Persona game has looked in this entire generation, since none have come out on consoles.
Another pleasant surprise is the sound. Atlus didn’t have to, but they went back in with series composer Shōji Meguro and crafted some new songs, including a new opening theme and some catchy combat tunes. There are also new voice actors for party members Teddie and Chie Satonaka. While Sam Riegel manages to pull off a different but similar approach to former Teddie voice actor David Wittenberg, it’s a lot more divisive when it comes to Chie. I personally got used to Erin Fitzgerald’s younger take on Chie, but Tracey Rooney made an impression with her original, deeper delivery. Purists are likely to hate Chie’s new performance, but in the context of a hyper, boisterous teenage girl, it’s actually appropriate. With regards to overall quality of the audio, being on a portable we’re only getting stereo sound, obviously. But since Persona is more about dialog and music than explosions, these are given the breathing space on the Vita to have decent fidelity.
All of this is to say that one of the best JRPGs of the last generation has actually gotten better. Not only have the systems been tweaked to be friendlier for short burst, on-the-go play, they’ve also been made approachable for those playing an Atlus JRPG for the first time. However, for Vita owners that may already own the PS2 version, there is enough new content here to absolutely justify a second purchase. It’s not often that a fantastic game gets an HD port that makes it even more fantastic, but that’s exactly what’s happened here. Persona 4 Golden is the definitive experience of this award winning game.
Anyone that complains (with good reason unfortunately) that quality JRPGs have taken a nosedive in this generation owes it to themselves to revisit this game. I can confidently say that for fans of the JRPG genre, this makes the Vita a system worth considering. The only “criticism” I have of this game, if it can even be called that, is that this is unavailable to play on the PS3. For fans of the original, if you have the Vita already, go out and get this game already. If you’re a Vita owner that’s never played this and are receptive to the JRPG experience, this is one of the most unique games on the market. Its contemporary setting and bold hybrid of school simulation and turn-based battles make it one of the most original games on the market with a likable, charming cast, believable drama and conflicts and a story that never lets up. This classic is even more classic thanks to this “Golden” edition that lives up to its new adjective.
This is a shortened review! To read Wayne’s full thoughts on Persona 4 Golden, look for the review in its entirety in the next issue of Comics and Gaming Magazine!