For as many hours as I spend with the typical role-playing hero, rarely do their adventures affect me on a personal level. Oh sure, there's lots of exciting action and quests that take me half-way around the world, but it's so far removed from my everyday life that it's hard to relate to the average Final Fantasy character. As a result, I find myself playing them for the sights and story, not because I'm emotionally connected to their plight.
As it turns out, Persona 4 Golden is not your typical role-playing game. The characters don't live in a far off land where everybody fights ogres and dragons; they are everyday kids trying to solve a mystery in modern day Japan. They have real lives that involve the sorts of things normal high schoolers put up with, like homework, after-school jobs, dating, etc. They are fully developed characters, the kinds of people I remember going to school with oh so many years ago. It just so happens that they also jump through a giant high-definition television to take on a world of bad guys.
Much like past Persona entries, you play the new kid in school. In this case you are a good-natured boy from the big city, shipped away to his Uncle's house while his parents live abroad for a year. Our hero is disappointed to learn that his new surroundings are small, boring and mostly rainy. As somebody who grew up in a small town in the stormy Pacific Northwest, I can certainly identify with this boy's disposition.
Before long the new kid in school (who you get to name at the start) has a couple of new friends, including Chie (a tomboy with a mean kick) and Yosuke (another recent school transfer). When one of their friends goes missing, the three teens uncover a plot to kidnap and murder seemingly random people in their small town. Fearing the bumbling police won't be able to crack the confusing case, our hero decides to investigate these disappearances himself and save the day. What happens next is a wild adventure full of twists and turns you won't see coming.
To make things even stranger, the killer seems to be toying with the freaked-out townspeople. On rainy nights (and only rainy nights), the people of Inaba are able to watch a mysterious television channel that seems to predict the next victim. Not only does our hero witness a vision of his friend being kidnapped, but something (or somebody) nearly sucks him through his television set. Thankfully he wasn't able to fit all the way through; saved by a tiny dorm-sized standard definition TV.
Rattled, our hero isn't quite sure what to think. He'll quickly learn that television sets are a portal to another world, one full of shadow monsters and other spooky aberrations. It's a hostile place with no discernable exits. Thankfully, the Scooby gang meets up with a cartoonish bear that is willing to help. But things are not as they appear and this bear has a few secrets of his own.
Persona 4 Golden is split up into a bunch of different dungeons, each based around the deep, dark secrets of Inaba's citizens. Take Kanji as an example. On the surface he's your typical rebellious high school drop-out that makes all the wrong choices. However, by jumping into the TV and digging into his deepest fears, we learn that this tough guy has another layer; he's hugely conflicted about his own sexuality. This world uses that against him, forcing Kanji to finally face his demons and accept himself for who he is.
Persona 4 Golden isn't your typical role-playing game. There are no villages to explore or fantastical dragons to slay. Here everybody has cars, goes to high school and lives a normal life. But when a serial killer comes to Inaba, Chie, Yosuke and the gang decide to crack the case. The result is one of the best role-playing games of all time and a must-own for the PS Vita. Think of Persona 4 Golden as A Nightmare on Elm Street: The JRPG!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!