Persona 4 Golden - Review

Author: Vincenzo Ercole
Date: 2020-03-02 21:37:50
Almost five years have passed since Atlus released Persona 4 for PlayStation 2 in Japan, bringing the Megami Tensei saga to its heyday and giving new life and ideas of innovation to role-playing games. At the dawn of the new generation of consoles, the enthusiast then projected himself into the future dreaming of rosy and attractive horizons. What wonderful exponents of the genre would come to reinvigorate the tradition of Japan RPG? And how would Atlus participate in this process? What would he create? Shin Megami Tensei IV? Devil Summoner 3? Person 5? A brand new brand? None of this. Contemporaneity tells a lot more: of a genre in decline, of an Atlus that survives thanks to the glories of the past, of a Persona 5 who does not seem to want to get out of limbo and of a long-awaited Persona 4 Golden which, on balance, represents not only the best that can be found on PlayStation Vita, in an absolute sense, but also the most fitting example of how the Japanese role-playing game can mature itself without distorting itself. As if time, since 2008, had stopped in part.

To make Persona 4 Golden so interesting to play today, first of all, the idea underlying its structure is thought of: to combine Jung, psychoanalysis and tarot cards with the classic stylistic features of Megami Tensei. Putting the theories of the well-known Swiss psychologist into practice, Persona 4 Golden recounts between the lines the processes of self-realization of the unconscious of a handful of students, dealing with the Shadow, the Person and the identification of the Self. In a typically Japanese urban scenario, the protagonist and his neighbors are involved despite themselves in a series of murders with disturbing outlines, to investigate which will have to explore a parallel world set in a sort of television studio, which can be accessed by literally entering inside the TV screen. This is the proposed context, in which action and introspection blend perfectly.

A trendy "look" is what it takes to show up on television: the new Persona 4 Golden costumes!

The narrative arc of the game embraces almost an entire year, lived day by day between school commitments, exams, sports clubs, jobs to earn some pennies, outings with friends and anything else that can characterize the life of a high school student . The protagonist, as in a classic Japanese dating sim, weaves relationships with the other characters in the game, dedicating time and attention to them, participating in the proposed activities and giving the most appropriate answers, among those suggested, when involved in a dialogue. Each day is divided into three distinct moments: the morning, dedicated to lessons, the afternoon, reserved for club activities or walks in the town of Inaba, the evening, marked by family needs, from study, from some reading or a short meeting with friends. The actions taken and the choices made in the dialogues modify both the characteristics of the protagonist (with indices that measure, for example, courage, education and expressiveness), and the degree of affinity with the allies. The former depend on the activities that the hero will be able to carry out from time to time and the quality of his performances (both in terms of school results and ability to complete the work undertaken), on the second the behavior of the allies in battle, the bonuses related to the merger processes of the Persona and, in general, the narrative fabric within the given story, as well as the conclusion of the story described.

A nice way to increase courage: gobble up to win the challenge proposed by the restaurateur!

Although linear, the story is conveyed through a varied set of events, determined by the player according to preference and opportunity. The range of options is vast enough to create embarrassments and doubts on some occasions, which develop, after the first hours of the game, a deep and lasting involvement. The rhythm is calm but constant, the flow slow but intense: the pleasure you feel is directly proportional to the empathy that is established with the hero and his companions. The excellent quality of the dialogues in English and the sublime characterization of the characters favor in this sense the idea of actively participating in the events of a handful of ordinary kids, dealing with the challenges of adolescence. To make the game experience intriguing, the more properly role-playing part intervenes, with labyrinths to explore, enemies to defeat and missions to solve. The protagonists are called to investigate, as we said, a parallel environment used as a television program, in which it is not known how, no one knows why, unfortunate people are thrown and forced to stay there for a predetermined number of days, at the end of which they are killed. The player, aware that the death of the kidnapped person on duty occurs at a specific time of the month in question, must therefore wisely manage the days available, deciding how much time to devote to school and recreational activities and how to explore the mazes. Failing to save the designated victim within the given deadline leads to the end of the adventure, with its game over (followed by the possibility of going back in ten days, to modify the strategy adopted).

It should be said immediately that failing to save is quite unlikely: the game mechanics are fluid and understandable enough to quickly understand how to extricate between the different needs, while the support characters will not fail to remember the need to take action, if you was lingering too long. This does not mean that fulfilling the missions is a simple and obvious operation: starting from the "normal" level of difficulty, the challenge is considerable, even if it is "difficult" that Persona 4 Golden shows its best side, managing to create the right pathos. The structuring of the labyrinths excellently explains the conjunction between game and psychoanalysis mentioned above: each kidnapped character creates, through his Shadow, an ad hoc thematic labyrinth. Each environment reflects the personal unconscious of the individual, that dark and irrational part that contains what has been removed from consciousness: fears, painful memories and sides of oneself that one does not want to face.

The fate of every kidnapped person then depends inextricably on a direct confrontation with his projection which is resolved, first, in a frontal clash (classic battle with the boss at the end of the level), then, in an integration process, represented by a sequence of dialogue, which the game resolves with the acquisition of an alter ego called Persona. Once the latter is obtained, the rescued character can join the group of heroes and participate in the adventure. Far from being explained by the game through boring captions, what is described is indirectly conveyed by the dialogues and the action, thus creating, on the one hand, a coherent and profound narrative substrate, but made enjoyable by comic curtains that lighten the climate, on the other, from a supporting structure that, through the union of role and relationship dynamics, brings into being the delicacy of the topics treated without ever becoming pedantic, but, on the contrary, favoring participation and fun.

Yosuke in comparison with the Shadow of Chie Satonaka ... better to go slowly: the girl leads!

The obtained Personas act as life support during battles. Each character in the group has a peculiar one, which he calls into play to perform special spells or hits. Only the protagonist has the ability to vary as many Person as he likes, through a management system that includes both the acquisition of the enemies at the end of the battle, in the form of tarot cards, and a fusion system of the same. Both the acquisition and the fusion of the enemies are typical elements of every self-respecting Megami Tensei and, although not in Persona 4 Golden central as in other chapters of the saga, they work properly and meet the needs of both veterans and novices. Thus, a nucleus of alter egos good for every occasion is formed. The turn-based combat system, in fact, is characterized to a large extent by the comparison between the magical affinities of each contender: to reveal and hit with the appropriate move the weak point of the opponents, to guarantee one or more additional turns, and protect their own, in order not to be landed, it is the fulcrum of the whole mechanism.