Persona 4 Golden PS5 review - An excellent port of a classic murder mystery
Persona 4 Golden is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and I was so glad it came to PC a few years ago. I assumed it was only a matter of time before it would extend its reach to consoles, and I was right. The title was on PC and Steam, but on January 19, 2023, it will be available on the Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Game Pass.
While the Xbox versions are native, PlayStation 5 users must play the PS 4 version. But that doesn't make it an inferior experience. I did not notice any issues with the visuals in the gameplay. It has the same character models and designs as on PlayStation Vita. But the title has been upscaled and improved like the PC version.
Persona 4 Golden is an excellent port of a fantastic PlayStation Vita game
I was quite excited when it was announced that Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden were both coming to consoles in 2023. P4G is why I bought a PS Vita and spent many hours plunging into the game’s depths. It is a classic MegaTen (Megami Tensei) title with multiple endings and many ways to approach it, worth exploring in 2023.
While many Persona games focus on the ills of the world and adults doing terrible things, Persona 4 Golden took a different turn than its predecessor. More of a “Whodunnit,” the game is a murder mystery. Within the first hour or so, the murders happen, and the answer perhaps lies within the Midnight Channel.
The protagonist is new to the town of Inaba, another popular trope in the series. Unlike Persona 5, though, he’s treated well by the people he lives with. Balance your school and personal lives while trying to find the Inaba killer before it’s too late - that's the Persona way.
The character interactions are among my favorites in Persona 4 Golden. In this classic RPG, characters have two selves: How they present themselves to others and their “Shadow” selves. The Shadow self is hidden from the world and often represents deep fears, worries, or insecurities. It’s a very psychological game and tackles some serious concepts maturely.
Quality of Life changes improved Persona 4 Golden compared to the original game’s release
In particular, Persona 4 Golden’s a pretty long game, and there will be times when you cannot save. Whether in a long dungeon or going around town in the game and needing to step away for a bit. Go to your options, click “Suspend” to make a Quick Save, and return to the game later.
It brings you back to the Title Screen, so you can’t just quickly save before a boss fight and try again if you die this way. It is a useful feature, but it’s not the most useful addition.
Watch: Why the protagonist is in Inaba.
Like in Persona 3 Portable, you have adjustable difficulty in Persona 4 Golden, and you aren’t bound to the choices you made at the beginning. While it’s not the most challenging RPG I’ve ever played, it is a Persona game. It’s hard enough. You have the following baseline difficulties: Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. You can adjust things to fit a “Custom” difficulty.
- Damage Taken: Great, Normal, Small
- Damage Given: Great, Normal, Small
- EXP Won: More, Normal, Less
- Money Won: More, Normal, Less
- Retries in Dungeons: Use, Don’t Use
- Retries in Battles: Use, Don’t Use
This means you can adjust the gameplay to whatever you see fit, and you don’t have to wait until New Game+. The flexibility offered by adjusting the difficulty level makes the title accessible across the board. I also appreciated the added content from the original Persona 4 - more social links, extra characters and dungeons, and an additional month of gameplay.
Gameplay and combat are both incredibly enjoyable
While Persona 4 Golden is a fantastic game, the first couple of hours are relatively slow and frustrating. The game focuses primarily on the story setup for those hours while also introducing some of your party members to you. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing, but it might turn off some players. My advice is to keep playing.
Watch: Morooka likes to hear himself talk.
Like the Yakuza titles, the first few hours are slow, but then the pace picks up and stays that way. Personally, Persona 4 Golden improves upon 3 in nearly every way. Especially in combat. I like that the tag team system remains, but you also had a Cavalry attack. A team member not in battle could come cruising in on a scooter and help you attack.
While that was great, the UI was the best change from the previous game. I was not too fond of the Persona 3 Portable combat UI. The rotating menu didn’t work for me. The clear, concise, bright colors of Persona 4 Golden’s made more sense and clarified what you could and could not do.
Watch: A brief introduction to combat.
The game can also stack buffs and debuffs to make combat more enjoyable or dangerous. The Shuffle Time system was improved to give potentially much better rewards. Combat’s great in Persona 4 Golden, but that’s one of the franchise’s best features.
Persona 4 Golden has sharp visuals and a stunning OST
Persona 4 Golden has one of the best soundtracks in the entire franchise. “Heartbeat, Heartbreak” is one of the best songs in the game. The soundtrack has a more mature sound than Persona 3, and that’s not a knock on the previous game. Some of the P3P songs are a little on the silly side.
Between the fantastic voice cast and soundtrack, audio parity is solid in Persona 4. I didn’t notice as much of the audio peaking in this release, either. It only seemed to happen in the Shadow World occasionally. At least it fits in there with the weird shadow-form characters.
Watch: A budding friendship begins with the exploration of a TV.
The character designs were smooth in P4G as well. They retained almost all polygonal visuals from the PlayStation Vita but were smoothed out. From character portraits to the actual world of Inaba, the game did not disappoint visually.
Spend 20 dollars on this game if you don’t have Game Pass. It’s a title that gives you so much for that price. It’s a thrilling adventure with a New Game+ feature, multiple endings, and characters that will be memorable for years to come.
Persona 4 Golden is the choice, without question. However, there is a handy bundle to purchase them both. P4G is one of the greatest games on the PlayStation Vita and is one of the greatest JRPGs of all time. Don't miss out on this game, even if you’ve played it before.
Persona 4 Golden
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 (Code provided by SEGA)
Platforms: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
Publishers: Atlus, SEGA
Release Date: January 19, 2023 (Initial release date: June 14, 2012)