Let’s talk about video game ports. You know, the business of taking existing software, giving it the ol’ spit shine and expecting consumers to buy it all over again for another system. When I do convince myself that a port is worth my hard-earned money I’m generally disappointed. It’s especially tough to inject a JRPG with enough new content to warrant a double-dip given the amount of time they demand. Persona 4 Golden is Atlus’s newest port of one of the most acclaimed PS2 era JRPGs. Did they get it right?
When I saw that Persona 4 Golden had network features I was worried. Very worried. Images of the obtrusive network pop-up windows of LittleBigPlanet Vita still haunt my dreams… Despite the fact that the Vita is still pretty young, Atlus showed their foresight by avoiding this. Toggling network functions on and off is simple and doesn’t require constant reconfirmation. They’re also pretty useful. The feature I took advantage of the most was the Vox Populi system, which allows you to see how other players spent their free time on the same in-game date:
This saved me from having to explore every familiar corner of Inaba by instead giving me a glance at my options for that day. Vox Populi is also based on the time of day, so I could see what others did after school and even during the evening. I admit I had hoped Vox Populi would allow me to see what specific individuals on my PSN friend list did, but sadly it’s all anonymous. Anonymity aside, the network features are helpful, optional, and unobtrusive.
In Persona 4 Golden you can collect outfits throughout the course of the game. Unlike the armor-based outfits of Persona 3 Portable, these items have no bearing on defenses or offenses — they’re just for looking cool while traversing random dungeons:
There are times when my whole team is decked out in swirly-mustache-glasses. Those are the best times. But sometimes, I feel like dressing in winter attire. Occasionally I want my whole team to mix and match. The freedom is there, and it makes me excited to collect new outfits so I can play dress up while someone is in mortal peril.
Yeah, we all giggled during that fade-to-black with our first female love interest in Persona 4. But there is a lot more to the relationships you form in the game then what happens when the lights are off. You learn that behind every facade, every tough exterior, there is a fragile person just like you or me. It’s a lofty message for a video game, and told without a heavy-hand.
In Persona 4 Golden, there are two new S-Link characters that build on this awesome system, though for the sake of spoilers I’ll only show you one:
I soon found myself wanting to spend more and more free time with these two characters, shrugging off even old favorites. Why? It wasn’t just because they were a new face; they also reveal more about certain aspects of the game’s world that were shrouded in mystery. Let’s just say they have… unique perspectives. Such deep development of both these characters and the world itself is a great way to freshen up Persona 4′s already top-notch story.
There are a number of minor tweaks to Persona 4 that just make Golden more of a pleasure to play. You can fast forward dialog, which is great for veterans or upon getting a game over. Selecting what skills your Persona learn through fusion is more direct than ever. You can maintain a garden which strengthens your relationship with certain S-links and yields some helpful items. There is also a TV Overlay System that lets you watch all previous movies as well as some Persona Live Music events. All in all the game is more comfortable to play than ever and it looks amazing on the Vita.
I admit it took a while for me to get back into exploring Inaba. Once the game opened up and I was free to decide how I’d spend my time, everything that made Persona 4 great came back to me: the colorful characters, the charm of a rural life, and the dangerous mystery of the TV world. Persona 4 Golden subtly improves upon these celebrated core features, resulting in an experience that urges you forward down a familiar path. This path is a little less bumpy than you remember it, and very much worth experiencing all over again.