Honestly, I've had a love/hate relationship when it comes to completely crazy Japanese games, movies, anime; basically, all media that comes from a culture as colorful as only Japan can make it. I feel like I almost need to make two reviews as I feel this game will be so divisive. So, when I recently picked up PERSONA 4 GOLDEN for my PS Vita, I was confused, excited, impressed, embarrassed, and enthralled while playing it. Confused yet? Yeah, so I am trying to put down in writing of what exactly the Persona series even *is*, let alone what they mean.
So, if you've played any other game in the series, let's just say that the fifth entry here is extremely similar to previous titles but just in a new setting with new characters and personas to fight with, not to mention a new messed up evil that you must fight. If you are new to the series, well, it's tough to describe. Basically, as a new student at a High School plagued with dark secrets, you must uncover them either solo or befriend allies to help you fight both literally and figuratively said evil in a pink speedo.. I won't say more than that.
Imagine a visual, interactive novel paired with a social simulation mixed with JRPG turn based battles and tons of mini games. Yeah, it's basically all those things and so much more. It's something that I could never see being made here in the USA, only developed only Japan. It's funny, annoying, intriguing, and so far out there, all at the same time. If you've watched a lot of anime or played a lot of JRPGs, you'll feel right at home. If you're new to these types of games, you may not make it through the first hour.
Either way, you fight your way, slowly I might add, through another dimension of creatures using forms or Personas, basically different summons that range from Pixies to Horse Demons to Jack O Laterns. Yep, it's that kind of a game.
It's really a shame that the developer has locked taking any PS4 screenshots or videos during PERSONA 5. I wanted to capture so many zany and insane moments, just during the first few weeks of the school year. Alas, we are stuck with these shots provided and meh, they just really show how gorgeous, polished, and downright stunning the game can be. Despite a few low res textures in the subway, splashes of color with a slick interface is just the start. Everything is polished to a spit shine in character models, portraits, effects, and story transitions. Truly a sight to behold in 4K on a PS4 Pro.
The sound is equally impressive besides a few VERY annoying characters but, shouldn't that be expected by now? I will say though, that a lot of the dialogue is so juvenile and ridiculous, I don't know how to even describe it.
To discuss replayability, let's just say, this is not a game you are going to beat on a rainy weekend. In fact, you could play for months without seeing all the content jam packed into this game. This can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to how many hours are stuffed into the game. While a lot of is quality, there are hundreds of small cutscenes with loading times before them that provide little or no value to the gameplay or story. Usually this isn't a big deal but there were several times throughout the game I just wanted to MOVE FORWARD. So, this isn't a game for the impatient. A lot of the game mechanics don't even open up until several hours into the game. So, to even go back and play again? You've gotta have the patience of Job but if this your type of things, you could stay entertained for a very, very long time.
What It Could Have Done Better
It's hard to nit pick such a master-crafted game with so many things going for it but there are things I truly wish the wizards behind the game would try out. First off, the mentioned 2-5 second cut scenes are so disjointed, it hurts. Also, why are so many pieces of dialogue full voiced while randomly, they are not, with no rhyme or reason. Lastly, having gameplay mechanics open up with the first few hours would be nice, instead of having to trudge through intro filler that isn't really necessary at all. Possibly, a Persona experienced mode vs a Noob mode that goes through every detail of explanation vs skipping through so many slow basics.
Lastly, some of the dialogue is extremely deep and meaningful while a lot of it looks and sounds like my angry teenager or mid 20 friends living with their moms on Facebook, spewing out profanity. It's a huge mixed bag.
I am faced with the extremely tough chore (First World Problems) of giving this immense game a numbered score but you've got to give credit where credit is due for an extremely well done game with so much to do and see. Once again, I wish I could give it two reviews, one for PERSONA fans and another for those completely unfamiliar with the series. For the fans, this is a crazy polished version of the games you've loved after all these years. It's bright, polished, and overflowing with content. Even those who are fans of zany JPRGS and/or anime, you could get into this game but be warned, that is no small task. For those who detest fighting alongside a talking cat with a pixie whilst bashing a man with a pink speedo, this game isn't for you and I doubt it will convert you to the series. Either way, this game is so huge and so well done, it deserves the credit for fans but it's really time for the developers to do something a bit different to attract a larger gaming audience and newcomers alike. Also, please, unlock the restriction of in game screenshots and video capture.