Persona 4 Golden was one of the PS Vita's defining games. An expanded version of the PS2's Persona 4, which first released in 2008, Golden is widely regarded as one of the best JRPGs out there — and it's still easy to see why.
Many would argue that Atlus' series truly came into its own with Persona 4. It took the blueprint behind the already fantastic Persona 3 and ran with it, broadening its ambitions with a wider (and more in-depth) cast of characters, a better realised setting, and a heavier focus on the socialising side of gameplay.
The game primarily takes place in the rural Japanese town of Inaba, which remains one of the genre's most memorable locations. It's an idyllic, if somewhat dull place to be a teenager, but as soon as you arrive in town as a transfer student from the big city, things get crazy. A string of inexplicable murders shakes Inaba to its core, and it's up to you and your new high school buddies to get to the bottom of this macabre mystery.
But you won't be dusting for clues or questioning suspects in this particular case. Instead, you enter TV screens and explore another dimension that's filled with dangerous, shadowy creatures. It sounds mad written down like that, but somehow, the game makes it work. This is probably thanks to the title's incredibly likeable cast, who ground the experience at every turn.
Indeed, these are some outstanding characters. From stern detective Dojima and his adorable daughter Nanako, to classmates Chie the tomboy and Kanji the kind-hearted delinquent, Persona 4 is bursting at the seams with relatable and highly entertaining personalities. And you can get to know most of them through the game's social link system, which has you hanging out with your potential pals in order to deepen your bonds with them.
If you've played Persona 5, you'll already know that stronger bonds means stronger persona creation. These manifestations of your inner self will serve you in battle against the aforementioned shadows, and they act as the link between the game's dungeon crawling action, and the day-to-day high school socialising. It's the same excellent design that's been carrying Persona as a series for over a decade now, and it's especially well balanced, and meaningfully implemented, in Persona 4.
As always, the process of fusing stronger and stronger personas quickly becomes addictive. Meanwhile, you're meeting interesting new people, delving into increasingly dangerous dungeons, and powering up your party with experience points and equipment. Persona 4 takes a few hours to really get going, but once it does, you'll struggle to drag yourself away from its excellent gameplay loop.
There's only one thing that gets in the way of the game's fantastic flow, and that's the dungeon design (which is something that Persona 5 specifically set out to improve upon). Though distinct in their visual styles, Persona 4's dreamlike lairs are made up of samey corridors and not much else. The layouts are randomised each time you enter a floor, but there's no getting around just how monotonous they are to navigate. The dungeons aren't a dealbreaker — after all, the turn-based combat is the main draw of any delve — but they might be hard to stomach depending on your expectations.
But as we say, it's the battles that'll hold your attention. Both on a mechanical and visual level, combat is lifted directly from Persona 3, but it's better balanced here — particularly when it comes to squaring off against boss enemies. Hitting your opponent's weaknesses with certain skills and abilities is still the name of the game, scoring additional attacks and other party-based bonuses. It's the tactical yet approachable system that Persona 5 would arguably go on to perfect — but it's still very well executed in Persona 4.
So, how does Persona 4 Golden hold up on PS4, away from the famously crisp screen of the PS Vita? Well, the game's charming PS2-era graphics remain intact, but enhanced texture work adds some welcome detail to Inaba's intricate locales. What's more, the whole thing runs at a rock solid 60 frames-per-second — although we're not huge fans of the motion blur effect that occurs indoors. An unnecessary distraction at times.
And, of course, we couldn't possibly jump to this review's conclusion without bringing up the soundtrack. Persona 4's music is the perfect partner to its colourful visual palette, and the track list is stuffed with bangers that you'll be humming for years to come.
An immaculate RPG packed with great characters and built on a near flawless gameplay loop, it's still hard to top Persona 4 Golden. Without a doubt, there are a lot of things that Persona 5 does better, but with its bright colours, uplifting soundtrack, and superb setting, there's a unique charm to Persona 4 that sets it apart from its peers. An absolute gem of a game.
If anyone's got any questions, let me know and I'll try to answer them.
Still an incredible game, and I'm glad more people have the opportunity to play it now.
Well, at least this review put the soundtrack as a pro. Nintendolife put it as a con and called some of it repetitive.
That said, glad to see more people finally get to experience probably one of top JRPGs out there. Also glad to see Atlus kept it at 60 FPS. While not a huge deal for a game like this, it does make it feel much better.
Got £20 set back for it, can't wait to play this masterpiece again.
Would love to see this on PS plus extra
Went through this first time around - great memories but too big and too much other stuff to do it all again.
Great for new players to enjoy though.
@ShogunRok If you had to pick one to have a Persona novice play, which one would it be for the best Persona experience: P3, P4, or P5? Just curious since you’ve pretty much played them back to back.
@somnambulance If you're only playing one of them, P5 is the best choice, I think. Best visuals, best gameplay flow, best combat system, arguably best music and best characters.
It just feels like P5 perfects the formula. But everything P5 does wouldn't have been possible without P3 and P4 establishing the series' identity beforehand.
Are the achievements similar to P5R where you don’t need to max out every single social link to get a platinum?
@ShogunRok I am very sensitive to motion blur, like even the tiniest really hurts my eyes/messes with my vision. If I can turn it off in games I do. Will this be a dealbreaker for me?
@jmac1686 Nah I think you'll probably be okay — this is only noticeable in some very select places, like the school corridors. It's not particularly bad, it just stands out once you notice it.
Still, might be worth looking up some gameplay once it's out just in case.
@Deoxyr1bose Trophies are exactly the same as they were in the Vita version. I can't remember if there's a Trophy for maxing every link, but it's still much more of a grind than P5R.
I’d like to know the differences between the PS4 version and Series X version since PS owners got screwed.
I honestly don’t mind the generated dungeons, especially coming off Persona 1 and 2’s irritating trap-filled dungeons. It’s a step up from Tartarus too!
Teddy is the worst.
Aigis & even Morgana are much better mascot characters.
Didn’t love this game as much everyone else did, but maybe I’ll enjoy it more second time around on the big screen.
Con: Hardcore Risette Fan trophy.
They should have taken the opportunity to give this a more reasonable trophy list. Royal's trophy list was almost perfect, since it was designed to be achieved in one very complete playthrough.
@nessisonett Tartarus is one of the worst JRPG dungeons I've ever seen. Still, the procedurally generated hallways in this are such a drag after P5's lavishly designed palaces.
Easiest ten ever, 9 pffffft
P4G is one of my favourite games, and probably the game that really got me into the PlayStation eco system when I played it on my Vita. To see it finally playable on PS4/PS5 after all these years is great. I was convinced we'd never see the day but somehow Atlus did it. This game will easily be worth the price point
@Ralizah Tartarus’ music is pretty good at least. I still have nightmares about some of the horrible tunes in 4’s dungeons.
Excellent review overall. I never got the chance to play this on the Vita or Steam release so I am very excited to play this tomorrow.
I've had P4 in my Steam Library for a long, long time. A friend gifted it to me after it released on PC.
I may just play it on the PS5 lol.
Easily one of my favorite games of all time, easily makes my top 10 games of all time. It has a great story, amazing characters, a god-tier soundtrack (I want 'Snowflakes to be played at my funeral), the combat is simple turn-based affairs but still manages to be fun, the dungeon design probably being the only 'weak' aspect of the game, especially after experiencing how great dungeons can be from having played Persona 5 & Persona 5 Royal, but I won't hold that against Persona 4 Golden, originally made with the PS2's limitations in mind, but still ending up a damn fine game.
I remember getting Persona 4 Golden on New Years Eve, which happens to be my birthday, I knew literally nothing about this game, I had never heard of the Persona series, my Mum had simply bought it on a whim, and my Mum has a surprisingly good track record for buying games that always end up being good or great games.
Anyway on the first day of the New Year, I decided to play it... and I swear as soon as I witnessed that incredible 'Shadow World' opening intro video, I knew I was in for something truly special, not since Kingdom Hearts 2 had I felt that feeling. 3 months... 3 MONTHS I was playing and replaying Persona 4 Golden and nothing else, I was absolutely engrossed into this game, I genuinely did not want my time in Inaba to ever come to an end. I always tear up when I'm nearing the end of the game and they hit me with the 'Snowflakes' music, I absolutely love that theme, the entire soundtrack is phenomenal, but 'Shadow World', 'Heaven' and 'Snowflakes' will always hold a special place in my heart.
Oh and Kanji Tatsumi is the best Persona 4 character, I will 100% die on that hill.
@ShogunRok I have two questions that are just curiosity (1) in the original PC release there was a stutter whenever you did an all-out attack. Is that present? And (2) what’s the resolution for the PS4 version?
Thank you for the review! I love this game. It’s great to see more people be able to play it
@rawzeku - Persona 4 Golden has a god-tier soundtrack, I don't see how anyone could dislike it, 90% of the soundtrack is filled to the brim with bangers, with only like 5-6 so-so tracks.
@nessisonett tbh even the worst P4 dungeon themes are better than the annoying scratching sounds that pass for music in Tartarus. Although I'd agree that most of them are on the weak side.
Heaven is exquisite, though. Best dungeon theme in the entire series.
@koffing No stuttering in my experience, only some slight pausing when the game's accessing the network feature where you can see how other players have spent their time.
Not totally sure on the resolution. It does look very crisp, but I don't know if it's native 4K. If I find out, I'll post another reply.
... but who was best girl? 🤔 Crucial piece of information missing from your review.
@ShogunRok yeah I agree that P5 has the better gameplay and certainly the better dungeons but I much prefer the story, characters and setting of P4 and I can't wait to play it again
Still waiting for the ability to buy the game
@carlos82 Yeah I can certainly see why someone might prefer the story and cast of P4G — it very much comes down to personal taste because I think both are fantastic.
@Browny I didn't want to start a waifu war in the comments!
@ShogunRok Thanks for the review and I especially appreciate you answering questions in the comments.
Is the online component still in: the "Vox Populi" polling system and the SOS feature?
The correct choice. 👍
@Ralizah The 8-bit theme from the game dungeon and the sauna theme in 4 do my head in! Both 3 and 4 have brilliant music outside the dungeons though.
@Melee_Ace Yep, both are still in this port.
I can't wait for this! I remember first playing this on my Vita during my trip to Scotland in 2017... and it being the only good thing that happend during that trip due to circumstances >_>.
Still, will be picking both this one and P3P on thursday!
Was looking forward to this but checked out a few gameplay vids and saw what looked like a bunch of toddlers, nothing like the artwork or the tall characters of P5. Thought they'd remake the character models to match P5's standards.
Are you sure you've seen Persona 4 Golden videos and not, by accident, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (A whole different type of Persona game where the models are sorta like chibi characters)? If not, well, they look nothing like toddlers lmao. Unless you have impossible high standards, of course..
@DefiledViper Believe the Series X version has a bit higher resolution and 120 FPS. Still surprised they didn’t bother with a native PS5 version.
@awp69 I just read that on ResetEra. So PS4 is 1080/60 and Series X is 4K/120 with significantly faster load times. What a massive slap in the face. And yet the gaming media, including supposed PlayStation specific sites, haven’t even mentioned it since it was announced. Unbelievable.
I'm really torn about buying these cause been wanting to finish them yet there's no native PS5 version, they're locked to 1080p on all PS consoles apparently and if there's a PS5 version later, will it have save transfer considering games like Y7 and Lost Judgment didn't?
@nessisonett I love the game dungeon theme! Had it on my YouTube playlist for years
@DefiledViper the ps4 is run from hhd, the series x from an ssd. Which explains why loading is faster.
And honestly, it's a Vita port. 1080p is fine.
@themcnoisy yeah it's a turn based vita port. 4k and 120fps is just there for bragging really, it's not going to make your game any different.
At this point, I really can't wait to play... Persona 6. Ready to move forward.
Should I play P3P or P4G first? Absolutely adored P5/P5R and have played many Atlus games because of it. I’m thinking about just diving into P4G straight away
@DefiledViper That's a pretty big thing to leave out of the review!? So were getting a vastly inferior port compared to Series X when this was a PlayStation exclusive to being with! Someone at Sony must have really pissed off the Atlus guys.
Persona is very similar to Pokemon: same turn based combat, same RPG + combat mix, the Pokemon are similar to the Personas.
The story is quite different, but game combat, exploration, and overall structure are very similar.
Both are VERY grindy, which makes them relaxing to play for hours.
I don't even like JRPGs and I love this game.
I am so excited to buy this game, try to platinum it but fail because of the hardcore risette fan trophy, get annoyed and never finish it, and then start the whole process again.
@CWill97 Both games will feel like a step back in a lot of ways after playing P5, but you'll probably still love them. P4G is obviously closer to P5 in terms of overall quality and structure, while P3P is more dated.
Going from P5 to P4 to P3 might make P3 feel old and clunky by comparison, but again, if you loved P5, I think you'll find a lot to like about both games.
Both P3 and P4's soundtracks are available on Spotify for your listening pleasure.
One of my favorite games of all time but I can't support paying the same for something less than what Xbox is getting, when they announce a PS5 version on par with the series X then it will be a day one!
I live in Australia, and it's the 19th of January at 7:08am, but it's still not allowing me to buy Persona 3 Portable or Persona 4 Golden, despite the release being the 19th of January. Can anyone explain what's wrong? Or is it a case of it not being able to be bought/played until a certain time?
@Juanalf - Likely it's a timed exclusivity thing, and they'll update the PS version for free at a later date, however if enough people on PS buy the game, that might force ATLUS to come to their senses and add the 4k 120fps patch sooner than later.
Then again I don't mind either way, 1080p at 60fps is perfectly fine, and considering how dated P4G already looks, 4K ain't going to exactly make it look much better, and 120fps doesn't seem that necessary for a turn-based game like this, but to each their own I guess.
@ShogunRok thank you for this! It’s an interesting view that I didn’t think about. Gonna think on which game before I buy one of the two this week.
Selfishly, this means my Vita physical edition will decrease even more in value like it did with the PC release 😭 Selflessly though, happy that more people will finally get to play it 😁
@JustPlainLoco If that was a timed exclusivity deal, Atlus would be sued and pay millions tô MS for doing It sonner than the deal was for....
@Juanalf @TheEnygma @awp69 Yeah it's criminal that the remaster is stuck on PS4, while Xbox Series X has a native version.
I may just wait and see if we get a native PS5 upgrade down the line...especially if they make people buy the game again at full price.
Microsoft must've bought "next-gen" exclusivity when they put it on gamepass.
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