I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am no fan of the J-RPG genre but after picking it up for cheap in a sale after hearing all the rave reviews and being told it is “the best game on VITA”. I thought that mid-term was the perfect time to dive into ‘Persona 4 Golden’. I booted it up and was met with the most colourful (and impressive looking on the VITA’s OLED screen) splash screen I have ever seen.
The music was also excellent;
Overall my initial impression of the game, before I even started playing was hugely positive! The combination of the bright colours and upbeat J-Pop has me hoping that ‘Persona 4 Golden’ (henceforth P4G) would avoid the biggest pitfall of the genre. The thing that’s always been off-putting to me; the game being too anime emo!
I’m hoping that ‘P4G’ can give me a great story, with great characters that are not being torn apart by some inner turmoil! Fingers crossed.
Not very interactive
I knew before going in that ‘Persona 4 Golden’ had a substantial prologue that serves as the tutorial. What I did not know that, at two hours, I was still only midway through that tutorial! Although there are a few instances of being given full control ; exploring the shopping district when you arrive at Inaba for example, most of the time the exposition limited my interaction to nothing more than pressing the ‘x’ button to further dialogue! There are huge swathes of the opening few hours that border on being a visual novel rather than a video game!
And yet, this is not a negative at all. The game is building the foundations for the story and the relationships of the characters…
Hugely Impressive Characterisation
…characters that are already well-defined and fleshed out; they even manage to avoid the cliche anime tropes; to a degree. Within minutes of entering the village you meet the main cast of characters;
Chie is an energetic and outgoing tomboy. She seems to be a lot of fun and has an upbeat personality.
Yosuke is first seen crashing his bike and ending up inside a bin! He is clumsy, funny and seems to have a tendency to accidentally insult people! He is my favourite character so far!
Yukiko is proper Waifu material! She seems very introverted and shy, she doesn’t seem too comfortable when people mention her beautiful although she, seemingly, appreciates the friendship she has with the others. Her story-arc has the potential to be brilliant and she is definitely the most intriguing teenage character.
Dojima is a hardworking, grizzled cop character who lives alone with his daughter. He admits to struggling to care for her because of her similarities to his dead wife – the little snippets of conversation you have with Dojima really do paint the picture of a man struggling with his feelings. I really like him.
Nanako is your young cousin who is mature far beyond her years! She takes care of Dojima and is more than able to carry a conversation with you – however she has her childish moments; the advert for Junes always makes her sing, one of the better moments of the game was singing it with her!
Teddy lives in the Midnight channel as a janitor (?) I have no idea what role he will play or his character as he has said maybe three lines!
All the characters are unique and interesting in their own way; they all will play a role within the narrative too, that much is obvious from what has happened all ready! What that narrative is, I’m still unsure because…
Slow burning but intriguing storyline
…it has barely got started. Without resorting to spoilers (I have none to give) ‘Persona 4 Golden’ makes excellent use of parallel story-telling! On one hand there has been a murder in the village and one the other there is a very teenage drama that revolves around urban legend and a TV channel called Midnight TV that can only be watched via;
“[..] stare at the screen of a closed television, alone, at midnight during a heavy rain, one could see their soul mate.“
I know that the game is going to become Shin Megami Scooby Doo as my friends and I try our best to solve the murder; but I have no idea where the other storyline is going. Nor do I know what other twists will be thrown my way but I am excited to find out!
Graphics & Sound
‘P4G’ was originally a Playstation 2 title so it is not cutting edge by any stretch of the imagination but it feels right at home on the VITA. The graphics are good, the animations are fine but they come to life in the anime cut scenes; these things look absolutely incredible on the VITAs OLED screen! Vivid colours, gloriously smooth movement and transitions it is a feast for the eyes. Serviceable in-game but beautiful in the anime!
The sound is uniformly excellent, the voice acting is excellent (low-level of Engrish slips) and the music is beautiful. I am really enjoying the tone that Atlus have created with their soundtrack! Everything feels light-hearted and childish (in a good way, we are dealing with teens here) but they are not afraid to throw in some music of gravitas when the narrative needs it! Their confidence is refreshing and their execution, flawless.
I am so excited to play through the story of ‘Persona 4 Golden’ as well as creating some posts about my journey through it. Although it’s too early to make my mind up about it, I want to spend the time and see it to its conclusion…so if you’ll excuse me, I got a mystery to solve.