Reflection is good. It’s nice to look back on was has been and, remember the great achievements of times gone past. I’d like to think that’s why Game of the Year awards are so popular, not just so we can screech at each other about supposedly wrong opinions – something that’s sadly all to common in the world of video games. We’ve admittedly left our Top Ten Games of 2013 list a little later than most but, we did so that we might better experience all of last years big titles, in the hopes we don’t leave any great experiences unrepresented. 2013 was a fantastic year that saw some truly staggering games hit as the last generation systems gave way to the next. Persona 4: The Golden takes the bronze at number 3.
Persona 4: The Golden – Vita
You’re probably surprised by this entry. Allow me to quickly explain that although Persona 4: The Golden was released in North America during 2012 it didn’t actually arrive Europe until February 2013; since I’m English, I’m going to allow it. ATLUS’s Vita title may appear to be a straight port of the already incredible 2008 Playstation 2 JRPG but, it’s much more than that. Boasting improved visuals, a whole extra character with their own story arc, a brand new dungeon, a dungeon helper feature, the ability to see what other players did in certain situations and, an extra few hours of brand new voice acted content after the original games ending, The Golden is far more than a simple port. The result is easily one of the best JRPG I’ve ever played.
Players assume the role of a teenage boy who is moving to the small countryside town of Inaba to live with his overworked Uncle Ryotaro Dojima and, neglected cousin Nanako for a year whilst his parents are away on business. The idea turns out to be a masterstroke as the protagonist is introduced to the town, and cast members, at exactly the same time as the player – there’s no presumed knowledge. Before long a body turns up in the idyllic settlement put on display in very peculiar manner. At the same a time a supernatural rumor begins to circle school about the midnight channel – a mysterious image that appears on television screens in Inaba at midnight but, only when it’s foggy apparently displaying the watchers true love.
When more people go missing the gang discovers they’re able to actually enter the TV like a portal leading them to another world inhabited by ghastly monsters called Shadows. It quickly becomes apparent they’re the only ones who know about it and, deciding the murders are linked to the other world they conclude they’re the only ones who can solve the crime.
Time plays a crucial role in Persona 4, because players are only visiting for a year they must solve the case before they’re set to return home. As such Persona 4 splits itself into days, time management is fundamental to success, players can only do so much in one day, therefore must their time wisely. Should I spend time studying, maybe go grind in the shadow world, help out some friends to increase social links or, just prepare lunch for the next day. It’s an intriguing take on the genre that effectively combines it’s traditional JRPG combat sensibilities with a sort of life simulator and, it works exceedingly well. The amount of time I neglected to go fight monsters to go gardening is ludicrous.
Combat is simple yet challenging, a host of difficulty levels means there’s a sweet spot for everyone. Fighting using their persona each of the cast has a fixed set of skills, with the exception of the lead who can change between them at will making him as versatile as any player wishes. They’re hundreds of Persona collect, a generous amount of weapons, wacky costumes to wear (my whole gang wore secret service like suits) and a good selection of dungeons to crawl through. I could go on about how Persona 4 is mechanically great but, it’s real strength lies in it’s characters.
Yes, the story is silly. Typically Japanese. They’re flourishes that will make you cringe; sections you really wish weren’t there. But none of that matters. Persona 4 is at it’s heart a coming of age tale, the importance of accepting who we are and, examining the “persona” that we use to shield ourselves from others. It’s a story that could fall flat under it’s weight, but doesn’t. Each cast member has their own unique problems, there own demons and I was intrigued by everyone. They’re so phenomenally written, localised and voice acted that there pain is palpable, I wanted to help all of them overcome their issues – it genuinely made choosing who to hang out with my limited time exceedingly difficult. There’s not an unlikely one amongst them. Even the frankly ridiculous stuffed bear Teddie is emphatical, and that’s a triumph of great writing. It’s down all downers either, they’re genuine laughs generously sprinkled throughout – the observations of teenage life are so spot on its scary.
Persona 4: The Golden might be a port of a 2008 PS2 game, but it’s story and characters compete with some of the best experience on offer today – I found the team as a whole comparable to the quality of the Mass Effect series; thats saying something. It’s unique life simulator adds a refreshing element that helps break up the typical JRPG combat. Simply put – I cannot recommend Persona 4: The Golden enough.