Review: Persona 4 Golden (Switch)

It’s hard to believe that Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is turning fifteen this year. Well into the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation, Atlus published something that took the world by storm on a platform many gamers had completely forgotten about. While everyone was talking about Metal Gear Solid 4 or Dead Space, the PlayStation received a hidden gem in the form of Persona 4. It was thena  few years later that Atlus brought the beloved JRPG to the PlayStation Vita, adding additional content and expanding upon the story. While the new character didn’t seem to fit too well in with the rest of the cast, her story ensured players could see a brand new scenario that would alter events and the ending significantly. While it was locked on these two platforms, it wasn’t until three years ago that Atlus made a surprise announcement that Persona 4 Golden would be coming to PC, remastered with new assets and bringing even more variety to players. Fortunately, the story didn’t end there and the Japanese publisher has finally brought the beloved franchise to new platforms. Whether it’s invoking a Persona through a gun, mask or a tarot card, Persona 4 Golden represents a JRPG experience we just don’t see anymore.

Mechanically speaking, Persona 4 Golden still holds up. Granted, if you played through the heavily-improved upon Persona 5, you might notice things are slower with fewer stylish transitions and actions. The battle system features the turn-based combat we’ve come to love, although it’s simple in comparison to how it has been iterated upon over the years. It’s all about finding an enemy’s weak point and exploiting it to deal massive damage while protecting yourself from such a fate. Dungeons are the original randomly-generated corridors instead of intricately-designed environments, meaning you’ll be running through various narrow, misty-themed areas while smacking a shadow over the head. Unfortunately, Persona 4 Golden also retains the PlayStation Vita version’s removal of a save spot before boss fights, which was a disappointing feature to say the least and can be trouble if you don’t have a Goho-M. Thankfully, Atlus has supplied us with a detailed difficulty setting, allowing you to customize anything from EXP distribution to the ability to retry if you die in battle.

While the gameplay is slowly starting to show its age, the story remains one of the best in the series, with a cast of characters that are some of the most memorable in any JRPG. Sure, there are some that can be downright annoying, but your interactions with them and seeing them grow make for enjoyable encounters. Where Persona 5 was all about style, Persona 4 is more laid back and down to Earth being held in rural Japan. You won’t be moving through a bustling cities, but instead riverbeds and small shopping districts. With that said, there are just as dark and depressing themes as ever; maybe not on the level of sexual assault, but it gets up there, especially considering it retains the somewhat childish ideals that adults are self-righteous and only kids are pure of heart enough to fix their problems. This is all helped by an immaculate soundtrack that will have you bobbing your head to the pop and jazzy tunes.

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for: how does the Switch port actually run? We got the PC version almost three years ago and it came with a portion of new graphical options and capabilities, and they seem to be integrated into this version. The biggest and best upgrade is that Persona 4 Golden runs at a buttery smooth 60FPS in docked and handheld mode. You won’t be able to modify any of the graphical features like in the PC version, such as the much appreciated render quality slider, but you are able to modify the contrast. It’s not like there were too many options to begin with, but they all seem to be implemented here. Best yet, you are able to remap a good portion of the controls; it’s not everything as most of the camera and character movements are set in place, bunt commands in battle, on the field and in events are completely reworkable. There’s even a quick save feature added for players who might be far from a save point — although being on a suspendable platform such as the Switch, it’s probably not that big of an issue. Similar to the PC version, we’ve also received an overhaul on the visual clarity and quality, with textures being sharp. Even the smallest little detail you would expect to be a blurry mess from the PlayStation 2 eras is completely visible and even readable. The amount of work that went into this is surprising.

Closing Comments:

It’s hard to believe that it has taken Persona 4 over a decade to branch outside of its PlayStation shackles. We received the fantastic PC remaster nearly three years ago, but Atlus was far from done with just that as we now have a release on Nintendo and Xbox platforms. While they haven’t put too much work into the latest rerelease, the few elements they focused on go a long way. The visual clarity and overall quality-of-life improvements are a welcome addition and only help excel this dungeon, high school life simulator even further. Persona 4 remains one of the best JRPGs on the market and now it’s accessible to more players than ever before. Whether you’re a long-time fan or fresh to the franchise, Persona 4 Golden is an experience you won’t soon forget.

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