My PlayStation Vita was largely used to play PSone classics on the go, but one exclusive title claimed more of my time than anything else on that handheld: Persona 4 Golden. It was my first foray into anything Shin Megami Tensei-related, and while it took a while to click, I ended up utterly consumed by it until I watched the credits roll after the final ending.
I’ve been chomping at the bit to relive Persona 4 Golden on Nintnedo Switch for as long as the system has existed, and I’m happy to report that it’s here now in all of its glory.
For the uninitiated, this installment places you in the shoes of an average high schooler who’s been sent off to live with his uncle for a year. The protagonist is quickly drawn into a mystery involving the Midnight Channel, an otherworldly transmission that appears on TV screens. Those who are shown on it end up dead, and it falls upon you and your newfound friends to Scooby-Doo the truth. The crux of Persona 4 Golden lies in juggling your social life and racing against time to save the murder victims.
To achieve the latter, you’ll plunge into randomly-generated dungeons and engage in turn-based combat vaguely reminiscent of Shin Megami Tensei’s Press Turn system. Hitting an enemy with their elemental weakness stuns them and grants an extra turn, and if each of the enemies is knocked down, your party gets a powerful pile-on attack. However, your party members have their own weaknesses and can be stunned as well. It’s a simple yet effective system, even during the game’s longer dungeons where resource management is critical, and other JRPGs can become slogs.
Social interactions feed back into the battle system. As you grow closer with your party members, they develop new skills that accent those they learn naturally. Bonding with your family and others in your daily life is similarly beneficial toward growing your social stats, which unlocks more dialogue options and story branches.
Even having played the story to completion before, revisiting Persona 4 Golden was just as special on the Switch. It still holds up as a superbly crafted mystery and slice-of-life narrative which, like its Royal follow-up, isn’t afraid to handle difficult social issues directly and deftly. My only complaint is that it can be a little restrictive at times, albeit in realistic ways. Otherwise, everything builds slowly to a brilliant boil towards the end, and I’m excited that a new wave of players will get to experience the mystery’s breaking point for the first time.
“The real godsend for Persona 4 Golden’s latest ports, however, is the ability to quicksave anywhere.”
The Nintendo Switch port doesn’t have a lot of additional bells and whistles, not that it needed many. Its graphics look good on TV screens and handheld mode alike, though still like a touch-up of a Vita update to a PS2 game, but everything runs smoothly in the process. (Even as I used my experience to save-scum at a few points for early stat gains, the loading times were swift and painless.)
There’s now an album to revisit past scenes and see what different dialogue choices would bring, a handy resource if you’re preparing for a New Game+ and don’t want to rely on the wealth of existing user-made guides. Difficulty levels can also be set from the get-go instead of progressing into the story a little to change it — a pretty niche tweak.
The real godsend for Persona 4 Golden’s latest ports, however, is the ability to quicksave anywhere. This goes a long way to alleviate the sloggy feeling from long dungeons, alleviating the difficult choice of “should I press on in this dungeon with dwindling resources, or leave now and waste another in-game day?” Quicksaves don’t necessarily remove the challenge from these time-limited scenarios, but they do take some of the stress off players’ shoulders if they choose to utilize it.
I have nothing to say to dissuade anyone from checking this version out. For an incredibly reasonable price, Persona 4 Golden takes a must-play JRPG on the go again and fills a long-standing hole in the Switch’s library. This game was such a perfect fit for the platform, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s also a great onboarding point for the Persona franchise itself, especially now that Persona 3 Portable and Persona 5 Royal have joined Nintendo’s party.
This content was originally published here.