Persona 4 Golden Review: A welcome change of pace from Persona 5

A calming vibe permeates the beginning of Persona 4 Golden. The protagonist is not navigating a sprawling Shibuya or the Sangenjaya-inspired streets that lead to Person 5‘s Café Leblanc. Instead, he is on a train in the opposite direction, leaving the crowded city to spend a year in the countryside.

First released on PlayStation 2 in 2008, Person 4 will soon be available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation console and Xbox console, the latter via Game Pass. It marks a new era for the classic Japanese role-playing game, which, apart from a 2020 PC port, has been almost inaccessible to anyone without the PS2 disc or a PlayStation Vita. It’s a foreboding pastoral adventure, and strikes a completely different tone than its urban sequel.

Inaba is nothing like Tokyo. You can easily see everything the city has to offer in a day – or a few minutes at a time. But its slower pace makes the seemingly mundane aspects of rural life all the more compelling. Your connections, both with the people and the city itself, are more intimate because of it. And once danger begins to lurk in the background, the stakes become more personal.

It helps that the protagonist has a much more grounded backstory than Person 5the Joker. He is not transferred because of the trial action, but because his parents have moved abroad for work purposes. Her uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, alongside her cousin Nanako, welcomes her with open arms into a cozy home. He is not forced to live in an attic, nor is he frowned upon by everyone he meets because of his “criminal” history. If it weren’t for the series of murders and disappearances that ensued immediately after his arrival, it could have been a pleasant, bucolic getaway.

The sinister events come as a shock to the citizens of Inaba – especially the students of Yasogami High School. Yosuke Hanamura, the party’s first new member, or confidant, was especially close to one of the murder victims. This prompts the protagonist, along with Yosuke and several other students, to form a group and investigate.

The team soon discovers something called the “Midnight Channel”, which portends the death of anyone who appears on the screen. Thus begins a countdown on your calendar, a period in which you will have to fully explore a dungeon and defeat the final boss before a lethal fog sets in. Person 5Dungeons here are (mainly) focused on people near you.

The palaces of Person 5 they’re equal parts quirky and foreboding, and often contain set pieces and puzzle motifs to break up turn-based combat encounters. Persona 4 Golden‘s Dungeons, on the other hand, feel more like the Mementos sections of Person 5 – procedurally generated mazes with intermittent battles. In 2023, they feel a bit monotonous. But entering the psychoscapes of your close friends, who are forced to hold a mirror to their hopes, fears and goals, Person 4 provides a more internal experience than its sequel. It’s a cathartic story about self-reflection and honesty.

Whenever you’re not delving into dungeons, attending school, or investigating crime, you’re free to spend your evenings and days off as you please. There is a wide range of activities at your disposal, from sports and cultural clubs to a long list of side missions. Some are only focused on increasing your stats, while others, like a few specific part-time jobs, can unlock new Social links in all. Often, you’ll earn points towards both progression systems at once, which results in a synergy that makes for a satisfying use of time.

In the sprawling Person 5, I skipped the activities and even the secondary locations entirely. In Persona 4 Golden it is easier to devote time to mundane tasks with your confidants. It is even easier to forget in the paths of Inaba, to grow attached to the placid corners where you spoke to a confidant: the river bank quite flat where you and Chie practice fighting together; the restaurant you’ve eaten at a dozen times that sells a special bowl during rainy days; or that table in Junes food court where the group champions victories and reflects on past mistakes.

If you miss me Persona 4 Golden on PlayStation Vita or Steam, it feels right at home on Nintendo Switch (the version I tested myself). The visuals are crisp in both handheld and anchor modes, there are plenty of quality-of-life tweaks around difficulty options and save files, and it runs at 60 frames per second most of the time. , except for scenes involving fog.

unfortunately, Person 4‘s most problematic content has not been updated or revised in its new iteration. It’s still full of sexism tropesand its representation of strange characters remain missing at best, and harmful to the worst. It may be easier to pick up and play than ever, but its content is still intermittently hard to stomach.

Some may be confused by all of this. However, for all the flaws in his script, Persona 4 Golden manages to mine sincere stories from other sources. Persona 5 Royal it is a real amusement park of side activities which can sometimes be overwhelming. In Inaba, however, having fewer distractions allows you to focus on your connections much closer. It will take some time to adjust to being away from the city, especially without a smartphone constantly buzzing to let you know where everyone is at all times. But there is no need for one. You need to bump into a friendly face on your way to the river bank.

Persona 4 Golden will be released on January 19 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on Switch using a pre-release download code provided by Sega. Vox Media has affiliate partners. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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