A soothing vibe permeates the start of Persona 4 Golden. The protagonist isn’t navigating a sprawling Shibuya or the Sangenjaya-inspired streets that result in Persona 5’s Café Leblanc. As an alternative, he’s on a prepare heading in the other way, leaving the crowded metropolis behind to spend a yr within the countryside.
First launched on PlayStation 2 in 2008, Persona 4 will quickly be out there on Nintendo Swap, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox consoles, the latter by way of Recreation Move. It marks a brand new period for the Japanese role-playing traditional, which, except for a 2020 PC port, has been all however inaccessible to anybody with out the PS2 disc or a PlayStation Vita. It’s a foreboding, pastoral journey, and it strikes an altogether totally different tone than its city sequel.
Inaba is nothing like Tokyo. You’ll be able to simply see all the things the city has to supply inside a day — or the span of some in-game minutes. However its slower tempo makes the seemingly mundane features of rural life all of the extra compelling. Your connections, each with folks and the city itself, are extra intimate consequently. And as soon as hazard begins to loom within the background, the stakes change into extra private consequently.
It helps that the protagonist has a way more grounded backstory than Persona 5’s Joker. He’s not transferred due to probationary motion, however as a result of his dad and mom moved overseas for work functions. His uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, alongside his cousin Nanako, welcomes him with open arms in a comfortable residence. He isn’t pressured to reside in an attic, neither is he frowned upon by everybody he meets resulting from his “prison” background. If it weren’t for the sequence of murders and disappearances that transpire proper after his arrival, it might need been a nice, bucolic escape.
The sinister occasions come as a shock for the Inaba townsfolk — significantly the scholars of Yasogami Excessive Faculty. Yosuke Hanamura, the primary new social gathering member, or confidant, was particularly near one of many homicide victims. This spurs the protagonist, together with Yosuke and a number of other different college students, to kind a gaggle and examine.
The crew quickly discovers one thing referred to as the “Midnight Channel,” which presages the demise of anybody who exhibits up on display. Thus begins a countdown in your calendar, a interval wherein you’ll want to totally discover a dungeon and defeat the ultimate boss earlier than a deadly fog units in. As an alternative of exploring the palaces of corrupt adults and shitty political figures à la Persona 5, dungeons listed here are (principally) targeted on the folks near you.
The palaces of Persona 5 are equal elements extravagant and foreboding, and infrequently comprise set items and puzzle motifs to interrupt up turn-based fight encounters. Persona 4 Golden’s dungeons, alternatively, will really feel extra just like the Mementos sections of Persona 5 — procedurally generated labyrinths with intermittent battles. In 2023, they really feel a bit monotonous. However by thrusting you into the psychoscapes of your shut buddies, who’re pressured to carry a mirror as much as their hopes, fears, and objectives, Persona 4 offers a extra inward-looking expertise than its sequel. It’s a cathartic story about self-reflection and honesty.
Everytime you’re not delving into dungeons, attending college, or investigating crime, you’re free to spend your evenings and days off nonetheless you want. There’s a big selection of actions at your disposal, from sports activities and cultural golf equipment to a protracted checklist of secondary quests. Some are targeted solely on growing your stats, whereas others, like a number of particular part-time jobs, can unlock new Social Hyperlinks altogether. Oftentimes, you’ll be gaining factors towards each development programs in a single go, which ends up in a synergy that makes for a satisfying use of time.
Within the sprawling Persona 5, I’ve skipped actions and even secondary places fully. In Persona 4 Golden it’s simpler to dedicate time to banal duties along with your confidants. It’s additionally simpler to linger in Inaba’s nooks and crannies, to develop connected to the placid corners the place you spoke to a confidant: the pretty plain riverbank the place you and Chie observe combating collectively; the restaurant you’ve eaten at a dozen occasions that sells a particular bowl throughout wet days; or that one desk in Junes’ meals courtroom the place the group champions victories and displays on previous errors.
Should you missed Persona 4 Golden on PlayStation Vita or Steam, it feels proper at residence on Nintendo Swap (the model I attempted myself). Visuals are crisp in each handheld and docked modes, there are many quality-of-life tweaks round issue choices and save recordsdata, and it runs at 60 frames per second nearly all of the time, apart from scenes involving fog.
Sadly, Persona 4’s extra problematic content material hasn’t been up to date or revised in its new iteration. It’s nonetheless mired in sexist tropes, and its illustration of queer characters stays missing at finest, and dangerous at worst. It might be simpler to select up and play than ever earlier than, however its content material remains to be intermittently arduous to abdomen.
Some folks will understandably be delay by all of this. But, for all the failings in its script, Persona 4 Golden manages to mine heartfelt tales from different veins. Persona 5 Royal is a veritable amusement park of facet actions that may generally be overwhelming. In Inaba, nonetheless, having fewer distractions helps you to focus in your bonds far more intently. It’ll take a while to regulate to being away from town, particularly with out a smartphone continuously buzzing to let you understand the place everyone is always. However there is no such thing as a want for one. You’re sure to come upon a pleasant face in your solution to the riverbank.
Persona 4 Golden might be launched on Jan. 19 on Nintendo Swap, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Sequence X. The sport was reviewed on Swap utilizing a pre-release obtain code supplied by Sega. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.