Persona 4 Golden
Back to reviews
Game Reviewed: Persona 4 Golden
Platform: PS Vita (origianl
Click Here to Learn More About our Reviews
Persona 4 is a rarity among video games, even RPGs. Originally released on the Playstation 2, this Japanese game ties relationships into the story and gameplay in a way that I’ve never seen replicated elsewhere, making for a unique mystery story with lovable characters and mythological threats.
The game centers around your character, a high school boy, attempting to solve a series of supernatural murders with your group of friends. You’ve been told you have a destiny, that you can control multiple Personas; beings representative of the “masks” you wear in various social situations and relationships. You use this ability to save the lives of potential victims, rescuing them from a strange prison of their own mind, reflective of their greatest fears about themselves. These experiences force the characters to learn about themselves, facing their strengths as well as their flaws. The battle system is great, and the visuals are wonderful, but the cast of characters and my growing relationships with them is what kept me coming back.
Battles are turn-based, meaning the player enters commands into a menu to a few characters, rather than controlling the specific motions of one person. But relatively little time is spent fighting monsters compared to the time simply exploring Inaba and talking to your friends, strengthening your bonds with them, which in turn strengthens your own fighting abilities.
Though it stars high school students, the game is rated M, so let’s take a look at what might complicate this game for younger audiences.
What Parents Need to Know
Players take control of a variety of characters with a variety of weapons, ranging from katanas to guns to chairs to shoes to… well yeah, a variety of things. When hit, characters can yelp in pain and fall over, but there is no blood in combat. Some cutscenes include dead bodies and blood, but there is never any gore or graphic violence.
The word “s**t” is used on occasion, and lesser expletives such as “d**n” and “ass” are used relatively often.
There is no nudity, but a couple scenes include naked characters with various things (heavy steam, objects, etc.). Sex is implied (albeit so lightly it could easily be read another way) if your character decides to have a romance with one of the girls in the game. One character is something of a letch, and makes suggestive comments on a regular basis.
SPOILERS: Since characters are rescued from projections of their own fears and insecurities, it only makes sense that sexuality would be a common topic. One character feels trapped by the expectations of her family, and this manifests in a copy of her that’s far less restrained, and talking of “scoring” with boys. Another is a star model who wants a simple life, but feels pressured to go the way of Miley Cyrus, and the dungeon from which she must be rescued is modeled after a strip club, with poles and sensual techno music. Her shadow self is dressed in a bikini and constantly threatens to bare it all. She never does, but her final boss form is a giant, womanly figure who dances on a pole and makes sexual noises.
A number of mythologies are drawn upon for the Personas in the game; they include arcangels, Norse gods, Greek figures, demons, and a number of other mythological creatures and characters. The spirituality in the game is vague, and not based on any particular belief system; magic is granted from Personas, which are gained by facing your true self and coming out of it with a better understanding of who you are.
One of the main characters is implied to be gay (it’s outright stated in the original Japanese, but it was made slightly more vague for America).
SPOILERS: Another desires a sex change (it doesn’t happen). It’s revealed that this is less a matter of gender identity and more a desire that if this character were male, she would be taken more seriously in her career of choice, eventually resulting in her conflation of the male gender with success and respect.
I’m not gonna’ lie: this is one of the best games I’ve ever played.
Over its 60-hour runtime, it uses the concepts of Personas and prisons of the mind to develop its characters in brilliant ways, and the result is a compelling story with a huge cast of relatable and complex characters. These characters, and your relationships with them, play into the gameplay in such a way as to make a wonderful statement about the importance of supporting and loving the people around you; the social bonds you make benefit both yourself and the people around you.
The gameplay is kind of like a mix of Pokemon (with collecting and upgrading the Personas) and Final Fantasy (with the turn-based, multi-character system), and it works really well, in no small part to the aforementioned mixture with the narrative elements. It’s just an excellent and profound game with a lot of positive messages about life and growing up.
Of course, it has the M rating for a reason; the objectionable content is not to be ignored. But it’s also there for a reason; the sexual content in particular exists not for shallow titillation, but for the purpose of exploring the insecurities and difficulties of young adults growing into maturity, and it does so splendidly. So while I certainly don’t suggest the game for young players, if you think your child is old and mature enough to handle the content here, they may have a lot to gain and learn from it.