Going into this game I had high hopes – perhaps too high. Everyone I’ve heard from has said how amazing this title is and so on. Having had issues getting into Persona games in the past, I probably should have gone in a bit more reserved than I did. However, I was determined to power through this title and try and find out what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately…
I’ve been a long time player of JRPG titles, particularly Final Fantasy and Star Ocean titles. In the past few years I’ve been branching out more and finding more and more titles to play. In this list was Persona 3 FES around a year and a half ago. I had given that title two tries and both times I could hardly get through the ending and once I finally got to a dungeon I felt nervous because I could accidentally call Death and he’d chase me down. After I had this happen I had put down that game and haven’t been back since.
Then I picked up my Vita last November, and due to all I’d heard about Persona 4 Golden I decided to give the series another try. Well, many months later I finally tossed it in and started it up. I have already covered some of my thoughts of the first 10 or so hours over on this post, so I won’t repeat many of them here. The fact it took me three hours to get through the introduction still bugs me though.
Despite finishing it, I found it really hard for me to get into the story. There was a late plot twist that tried to pull me in but ultimately failed – especially when I found out I originally got the bad ending. Having looked up that I would still have things to do past that point, I was planning on continuing past it.
However, come to find out choosing one wrong option in a dialogue tree without thinking about it ended up ending the game. This especially made it hard for me to believe in the plot twist after what happened. Basically oh yeah, this really sad thing happened… but it’s okay, it’s all reversed now… oh and by the way, ending because you chose a wrong option! Though of course it turns out that they decided to reverse it regardless, making it even less believable.
Having to go back and redo a huge section of cutscenes made me realize how much I despise how you “skip” them. You don’t actually “skip” them per-say, you fast forward them. This “fast forward” turns off every time it has to load a new section. While this would be acceptable if you were actually skipping them, since all you are doing is fast forwarding them, I feel like it should’ve left your previous setting on so you didn’t have to keep turning it on. The prompt to “skip” is also slightly misleading – it says you skip but, as I said, it turns it on to fast forward. Having it state this instead would’ve been much better I feel.
Outside of the plot, I mostly enjoyed the dungeon crawling aspect of the title. What I didn’t enjoy after a while is just how long it took to do said dungeon crawling. Each dungeon was a good several hour time commitment, though thankfully with it being on the Vita I could put it down whenever. Of course you could also use an item to escape out and save, but I preferred to do as much in one run as I could.
After a while, however, I started to realize that every dungeon was basically a reskin of the previous one with a different “theme.” They all had their own exploration music, some better than others, but the battle music was the same in each. There was one last-boss of a dungeon where I actually did quite enjoy the music of though, even if it was just a remix of the regular boss theme. Perhaps it had something to do with it being in a midi style…
A bad side of the dungeons, though, was that you would occasionally have to fulfill some silly “requirement” on a floor. One dungeon had me go up two floors to get an item only to have to go back down said two floors to use said item to THEN have to go back up to use the item I just had to backtrack for. Another one required I encounter absolutely nothing otherwise I’m sent back several floors. While having some “odd” requirements for floors is okay, things like this are just stupid. I want to kill! I don’t want to feel like I’m being told “don’t explore just go” either due to backtracking or “please don’t fight anything.” Oh, and did I mention that the floor layouts reset every time you go to a new one, even if you had already been to it before?
A nice aspect of the dungeon crawling was, assuming you were playing online, you could send out an “SOS” call. If there were other players also exploring a dungeon at the same time (and not in a battle), they could tap a thing that comes up on their screen and answer the call. This would give you a minor heal in battle. You, of course, could do the same for them. The flip side of this for me though, is that it would have been nice if there had been more than just healing from outside people.
There were other nice “online” aspects to the title. While doing your day-to-day things, you could check in and see what other people had done that day to give yourself an idea as to what to do. You could also use this to get an idea as to what Persona you could make based off what you already have.
Persona fusion is something I still haven’t quite gotten the grasp of. I’ve done it several times, but mainly only to clear out a full stock of Persona’s so I could get some more. Ability transferring could become even more micromanaging as you tried to figure out the best ones to transfer over. What I ended up doing for my Persona fusion was just going through and thinking “Oh hey, this looks good” and going with that. Trying to understand it any deeper just made my head hurt and I tend to play games to have fun not to think too hard.
In the end, Persona 4 Golden failed to captivate me in terms of story – and when it almost did it threw it all away. The dungeon crawling was nice for the most part, but once I realized it was all just reskins it started to get slightly annoying. Also, as odd as it might sound, eventually gaining the ability to see what’s on the map made me want to explore everywhere even less and try to just get through even faster.
Would I recommend Persona 4 Golden? It’s hard to say. The work you can do with Social Links can make for some interesting (at times) micromanagement and the dungeon crawling can be nice. Where RPGs come down to though, for me, is the story. A story that tries to throw so many elements at me at once while trying to introduce so many characters turns me off fast. Would I recommend it though? It’s something that I know a lot of people enjoy, but it’s not for everyone. It’s really something I can’t say “yay” or “nay” too unfortunately. You will just have to try it for yourselves.
Persona 4 Golden Review Score