Persona 4 Golden review in progress – The gold standard of gaming

An official image of Persona 4 Golden artwork.Atlus

Over a decade since its original release, Persona 4 Golden is finally coming to modern consoles, giving players the opportunity to experience the title that cemented a once-niche franchise into one of the JRPG greats. With an unforgettable story and a handful of quality-of-life improvements, there’s no time like the present to tune into the Midnight Channel.

Fans of the Persona franchise have been clambering for Atlus to make the older titles more accessible for years, especially after the roaring success of Persona 5, and its enhanced edition, Persona 5 Royal.

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Fast forward to the summer of 2022 and the fanbases’ collective prayers were answered when Atlus revealed that Royal, Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable would finally be coming to modern consoles.

With even more enhancements made to these ports, there’s no better time to be a fan of – or a newcomer to – this mammoth JRPG franchise, and entry points don’t come much stronger than Persona 4 Golden.

Persona 4 Golden key details

  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Developer: Atlus
  • Release date: January 19, 2023 
  • Platforms: Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.

Persona 4 Golden trailer

Small Town Living

An image of the protagonist during a cutscene in P4G.Atlus
The protagonist of P4G begins the game on the way to the town of Inaba.

Perhaps the most striking thing players will notice upon booting up Persona 4 Golden for the first time (aside from an eye-catching opening movie) is the stark contrast of its setting compared to the rest of the series. 

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P4G trades in the vibrant environments of previous (and future) entries and instead chooses to immerse the player in a quaint countryside adventure. The game begins with the teenage protagonist arriving in the rural town of Inaba, where he’s due to stay with his uncle Dojima and younger cousin Nanako for one calendar year. 

Inaba is a far cry from the bright lights of the big city, and in the game’s opening hours, the small-town mentality and lifestyle are painted clear as you meet various residents. In fact, there is clearly so little going on in the town that its Inn is considered by many to be the biggest tourist attraction for outsiders.

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The small town routine that acts as a backdrop to the story only makes the sinister events that begin to unfold all the more unsettling – because suddenly in the town where nothing happens, people start disappearing and a murder case is opened. 

Although your uncle is the lead detective of the ongoing investigation, it’s you and your friends who end up discovering the true nature of the crimes after stumbling into the mysterious TV World.

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TV Detectives

An image of Yosuke and the protagonist in Persona 4 Golden's social link increasing.Atlus
Ranking up your social links is a key part of progression in Persona 4 Golden.

During the events of P4G, you’ll be joined by a main party made up of fellow high school students, and together you resolve to help those who have been trapped in the TV World – a bizarre supernatural phenomenon that’s directly connected to Inaba. 

The core cast of Persona 4 Golden are some of the best-written characters in any JRPG. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your peers thanks to the game’s social link mechanics, which is a delightful experience due to how distinct, fully realized, and endlessly charming they all are. From the feisty Ku Fung-loving Chie, the brash but misunderstood Kanji, and the clumsy but deductive Yosuke (to name just a few) every party member is a joy to bond with.

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Maintaining relationships is just as crucial as battling your way through dungeons in Persona 4 Golden and the more you bond with your fellow students during the game’s slice-of-life segments, the more your social link will increase and grant you additional buffs in combat.

Play your cards right

An image of the card reward system in Persona 4 Golden.Atlus
Battles will reward you with different cards to choose from in P4G that all have different advantages.

Combat is the other shining aspect of P4G’s gameplay. The TV World is made up of dungeons that you’ll have to explore while battling against dangerous shadows in traditional turn-based battles where up to four characters can be controlled.

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Each party member wields their Persona (powerful creatures that represent one’s true self) to fight but what makes the protagonist unique is his ability to collect new Personas, as well as fuse them together to create even stronger creatures. As you progress through the game, you’ll want constantly collect and fuse Persona to increase your strength. 

After successful battles, the player will be rewarded with a handful of cards to choose from – these cards can contain everything from a new Persona, to treasure chest keys, and healing buffs – so you’ll need to choose your cards carefully depending on your circumstances.

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Combat relies heavily on exploiting the enemy’s weakness – knocking a shadow back by hitting their weakness will provide you with an additional attack, and this can often turn into a devasting ‘all-out attack’ where all your party members will strike at once.

Gameplay in Persona 4 Golden provides an excellent balance between an engaging day-to-day life simulator and challenging tactical turn-based combat – which results in a thoroughly enjoyable loop that will have players hooked for hours on end.

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A definitive JRPG experience

An image of party members in Persona 4 Golden.Atlus
Persona 4 Golden is a must-play for any JRPG fan.

PG4 was already the definitive version of Persona 4 when it was released for the PlayStation Vita in 2012 and it quickly became the crown jewel of the portable console.  

Thanks to further enhancements that come with this modern port – including high-resolution graphics, a handy quick save function, and an adjustable difficulty that’s available from the very beginning – this is truly the most complete edition of the game yet. 

Verdict – 5/5

With an extremely gripping narrative, a fantastic gameplay loop, and a host of lovable characters – even just a dozen hours into what can easily become an 80+ hour experience – it’s abundantly clear that Persona 4 Golden is one of the best JRPGs of all time.

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Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

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