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Persona 4 Golden Review: A Gorgeous Remaster With Some Blemishes

EDITORS' RATING : 9 / 10
Pros
  • Gorgeous new visual upgrades
  • Engaging combat system
  • Captivating main narrative and side stories
Cons
  • Some environmental repetition
  • Writing has misogynistic and homophobic elements that have aged poorly

Xbox Series X (via Game Pass) was used for this review. "Persona 4 Golden" is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and Nintendo Switch as part of the "Persona" 25th Anniversary.

A quiet town beset by a murderous fog. A transfer student from the big city with a unique ability. Strange worlds that are hidden within TVs and are built within the inner psyches of tormented individuals. Fierce creatures that reflect the inner hearts of those who have fully accepted themselves. All of these are the building blocks of "Persona 4 Golden," a remaster of the classic JRPG from Atlus that brings it from the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Vita to the PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

The remaster not only ushers in a new era for the classic JRPG as it becomes more available than ever, but it is also part of the series' introduction to the Xbox ecosystem. While the game does a very admirable job of remastering the game while maintaining its original style, there are some narrative elements that have aged very poorly. Thankfully, the series' flagship blend of time management, dungeon crawling RPG, and social management mechanics do more than enough to compensate for them.

A world brought to life

A pillar of the "Persona" series is every entry's incredible sense of style. In "Persona 4 Golden," its style is exuberantly on display through bright yellow menus that are accented with bold lines of other colors. The game is absolutely dripping with style, and the improved graphics of the remaster help it look better than ever before. 

The game's graphics are split into multiple styles. There are character portraits shown when players speak with NPCs, cutscenes that are drawn in a retro anime style, simplified overworld exploration, and flashy battles. Every aspect of the game's visuals has been touched up for the remaster, giving it a new coat of paint brinigng it up to modern standards. The retro anime cutscenes in particular look great, while the battles are appropriately flashy with flashy effects and fun animations for every Persona that players come across throughout the game. 

The overworld and dungeons are where the visuals of "Persona 4 Golden" suffer the most. The environmental graphics have been touched up by the remaster, but the overworld rendition of the small town of Inaba ends up not matching the visual interest present in the character designs. Meanwhile, the dungeons that players delve into within the TV realm are procedurally generated, resulting in them being ultimately uninteresting and filled with repetitive tile sets. 

Fighting for good

Combat in "Persona 4 Golden" manages to be as compelling and engrossing today as it was when it was originally released more than a decade ago. Combat encounters feature players controlling a party of four against a range of creative creatures known as Shadows. Each party character at the player's disposal has their own type of weapon and their own Persona. 

A character's Persona not only reflects them as a character, but also dictates the skills they have access to while in battle. The player's main character can control multiple Personas by capturing ones in combat. This allows them to adapt to different party compositions so that the player can cover all of the numerous elemental types. 

Carefully managing a party is critical to success, as attacking enemies with an element they are weak to allows the player to take another turn with that character immediately. Admittedly, it is a lot to keep track of, especially when it comes to performing combos with status effects and certain elements to maximize damage output. Luckily, the remaster allows players to set the difficulty level of their playthrough right away. In the game's original releases, all five of "Persona 4 Golden's" difficulty levels were only available on New Game+, but with the remaster, they are options from the first time the player boots it up.

A murder mystery worth solving

The story of "Persona 4 Golden" kicks off with a bang. Soon after the player arrives in the quiet town of Inaba from Tokyo, a celebrity caught up in a public scandal is found murdered. This murder is quickly followed by another of a student attending the town's high school. After accidentally stumbling upon a hidden universe accessed by passing through televisions, the player assembles a team of teenagers to try and put an end to the killings. 

The mystery behind the murders is captivating while taking noted inspiration from the small-town murder television series, "Twin Peaks," from David Lynch. Running parallel to the main storyline, "Persona 4 Golden" also holds numerous smaller plot lines regarding the residents of the town and the player's party members that are filled with character and emotion. 

However, the story of "Persona 4 Golden" is where the remaster shows its age the most. This is primarily because of the misogynistic and homophobic views that pop up throughout. While the "Persona" series is wonderfully keen on providing social critiques through its storylines, these views are never spoken out against or viewed negatively throughout the game. Instead, teachers, party members, and pretty much every male character in the game makes shocking comments on women. There is also a cringe-worthy plot line that is centered on a closeted gay character that culminates in his form of self-acceptance being refusing to accept his sexual orientation. 

The friends we made along the way

Another key element of the "Persona" series is growing one's abilities and fostering friendships and relationships with other characters. Players have a limited amount of time to play through the game, with its story playing out over a year. Every day players are able to fill their time with various activities, which adds a great layer of customization to one's approach to the game. From reading books to hanging out with friends or making a lunch for school the next day, there is a lot of satisfaction and pleasure to be found in leveling up one's character through daily activities. 

Despite some elements of "Persona 4 Golden's" narrative at points being out dated and wildly bigoted, it is still a classic that is absolutely worth playing. Its combat is still one of the most sleek and addictive in the JRPG genre, its story and characters are engrossing, and its deep RPG mechanics make it well worth returning to again and again. Now that it is on all modern consoles as well, there is hardly a reason to not give it a try. 

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