If you don’t know what Persona 4 is, that doesn’t surprise me. When people say “JRPG” most people thing of Final Fantasy. Not me. I’m a self proclaimed, loyal and dedicated follower of the Shin Megami Tensi franchise made by Atlus. Screw Final Fantasy. You want a good story that will take your mind on a trip it never expected, pick up any game with those three words above the title.
Persona 4 Golden is their newest game in the setting on the PS Vita, taking place in a small town called Inaba in Japan. You play as a young, second year high school student (equivalent to an American Junior) just transferred in front the big city after your parents shot off to the U.S. for work. You’ll be staying with your uncle, a detective in the small town, until they come back next year. Things seem perfectly normal, scandal in the news, bad weather, nothing that special; at least until you learn about the Midnight Channel.
At your new school, Yasogami High, rumor has it that if you look into a turned off television at midnight on a rainy night, you’ll see the love of your life. Silly, right? Sure, but you’re dared into doing it so, when it rains, you do it. You look into the T.V.
And you see someone. It’s brief and there’s too much static, but there was definitely a person there. Without thinking, you place your hand on the television and it sinks inside. Something or someone grabs you, yanking you forward until your shoulders collide with the edges of your small set and you’re prevented from falling in.
The next day, you tell your friends, but they don’t believe you. Who would possibly believe that you’d gotten sucked inside your T.V. It’s hard enough to believe you saw someone when the television was off as it is. So they brush it off and you all head to the local department store, the biggest and most interesting place in little Inaba. Your friends lead you to the electronics department and you realize that with a big flat screen T.V., you could fit your whole body inside. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that idea, right? Of course not.
After you scare the crap out of your friends by climbing inside, the three of you fall into the T.V. and into a bizarre fog shrouded world. There you find a creepy room, posters on the walls with the faces ripped out. A noose hangs above a single chair. Everything about the place is oppressive and wrong, but you can’t find your way back. At least not at first. Eventually, you meet a strange creature named Teddie who helps you back to your home and the three of you decide to act like that day never happened.
None of you get to do that, however. There’s a murderer on the lose, using the world inside the television to kill without leaving a trace. The police are stumped and it’s not like you can tell them about what you know, about a murderer who kills by throwing his victims inside a T.V. It’s up to you and your friends to figure out the mystery behind the killings and bring the culprit to justice. No one else can.
If you’re not dying to get your hands on this game for the story now, maybe the game play can convince you. Like all Persona games, players fight off enemies using their “Personas”. These are created from shadows that have been faced and overcome. But what’s a shadow? A shadow is the dark impulse that resides within the human heart, the dark thoughts and feelings that we all have and don’t want anyone to know about. Your persona is created when you face those hidden emotions and let accept even the worst parts of yourself.
What the hell does that have to do with combat? Each Persona is unique and different, with strengths and weaknesses, spells and abilities that can be used in a wide variety of situations. Your character can find and create over a hundred different Personas which he can then use in combat to defeat enemy shadows. The turn based combat is similar to all JRPGs, with rock-paper-scissors mechanics having you hunt for the perfect move while trying not to drain your health and mana. If that happens (well the former is pretty damn obvious), you can’t continue as far through the dungeon and will have to quit for the day.
Quitting before reaching the end of a dungeon is painful, not just because you didn’t do as well as you could in combat, but because you’re wasting a day that could have been spent in pursuit of a story line or social link upgrade. You only have a year to complete your mission and you only get to do one or two things each day. Thankfully, the new online S.O.S. system makes it a lot easy to travel through dungeons without using a million items or quitting and it was a brilliant edition to an already amazing game. I managed to use it well enough to get through each dungeon in one day, spending the rest of my time improving my social links to get as much story out of the game as possible.
If you’re still not convinced, them I’m going to assume you just don’t like JRPGs. Personally, I give it a whopping five out of five screaming Jan’s cats. Even if you don’t have a PS Vita, you can and should still get your hands on the original version of this game for the PS2. You won’t regret it. The game play is difficult and engaging, fun as hell, and the story will leave you guessing until the very end.