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 Persona 4: Golden

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Shu
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PostSubject: Persona 4: Golden   Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:00 am











We know you're busy making games. That's why from
here on out, Gamasutra will be bringing you a regular look at what
passionate game fans are talking about right now, tapping the zeitgeist
to look at what makes these heroic new fan favorites tick. Sometimes
cultural buzz isn't just about retail units, formal market research and
sales figures. This time, we take a look at the complex appeal of Atlus'
rich, explosive JRPG Persona 4: Golden.


Japanese role-playing games used to be console-sellers, but things have
been quite different this generation. The titanic sun of Japan's
software industry dominance has slowly set, and long-standing Eastern
franchises have struggled to maintain their luster.

Among those with the hardest fall from grace has been the Final Fantasy franchise, with an incredibly mixed reception for FFXIII and a disaster for FFXIV, and with its decline has come the perception that there's hardly any market for JRPGs anymore, not outside a specific niche.

Atlus has been catering to niches for years, with its Western arm and its partners bravely bringing installments of the Shin Megami Tensei series, from which the Persona games spawn, to our shores. The company's taken bets on relatively-hardcore titles like Tactics Ogre or the Growlanser series, games that enjoy small but passionate audiences.

But the Persona games have exponentially gained buzz with each installment. It was 2007's Persona 3
that first broke through in a big way, combining modern jazz and hip
hop soundtracks with sleek, stylized animation -- and the
attention-grabbing imagery of young students summoning demons by holding
guns to their heads. There was something about that game's subtly-dark
storyline, which followed teenagers searching for their inner selves as
they investigate supernatural phenomena, that grabbed people.

2008's Persona 4 was an incredibly lush and sharp iteration on some of the formulas Persona 3
had laid out, giving the player richer characters and a more
well-realized world, ironing out some of the weaknesses in the battle
system, and offering more, in general, to do.

It follows the story of a boy who moves to the country town of Inaba in
the midst of fog-shrouded murder mysteries -- and ends up joining
friends to chase down psychic traumas in a nightmarish technicolor TV
world.

The current hardware climate has allowed Atlus to be quite iterative with both games, much to fans' delight. Persona 3 got an add-on disc called FES in the year following its release, and the PSP edition, Persona 3 Portable was broadly enhanced, adding in the mechanical improvements made to its systems in P4
-- and giving the player the option to play as a girl, completely
shifting the lens of the game's key social interactions and romances.

Now, Persona 4 Golden is a similarly enhanced and expanded remake of Persona 4
that is poised to become one of the most popular titles on Sony's
PSVita -- maybe even a system seller. If it does well, it'll resemble
the old days when Sony relied on big, hundred-hour JRPGs to help move
its hardware. So why this game, why now? What's all the buzz about?

It's a fresh approach to story. Back in the day, you'd see
Western games shoot for "gritty realism," while JRPGs were teased for
having too many winged androgynes and absurd sparkling god-monsters.
This game has its share of that, to be sure -- but the imagery is
strongly grounded in the game's ideas about human psyche. P4 contrasts the player's surreal objectives with the mundane and vivid normalcy of a real world.

The typical JRPG work of powering through dungeons and defeating bosses
is set alongside a daily time and life management sim. Choices and tasks
undertaken in the real world -- spending time with friends, allocating
attention to school activities, clubs and studies -- determine your
player's character progression and strength level in the dungeons.
Somehow the grind of battle feels more meaningful when it's anchored to
something relatable, like the quiet repetition of country life or
bonding with school pals.

Alongside the rise of the Western RPG has come an increased focus on the
tropes of high fantasy and science fiction, accompanied by dense lore
and complex arrays of discoverable quests and equipment. P4 is
highly linear, favoring a strong narrative, but offers players a number
of statistical choices. This lets the players focus on elements they can
directly control, while being free to let the story unfold.

One popular complaint about P4, both in Golden and in the
original, is that the game takes a good two hours before it opens up
fully to the players. It's a very slow burn of an exposition, spending
time introducing the town of Inaba, life at home with host relatives,
and the protagonist's school friends before allowing the player to take
meaningful control. Lots of P4 fans actually like this, though, enjoying a game that focuses on emotional foundation.

Characters are part of gameplay. P3 and P4 alike
both rely on the idea that the protagonist can create strange, monstrous
alternate selves called Personas that can be summoned into battle. The
strength of Personas depends on the relationships the player forges and
cultivates with the other characters within the game. Spending time with
characters within the game's world and pursuing their individual story
arcs increases the amount of power Personas can receive.

Social interaction as directly impactful to strength is a mechanic that
appeals to a lot of players, especially as they seem to get attached to
the surprisingly complex characters as the story unfolds. For example,
the player can help his drama club captain decide whether she wants to
see her father before he dies, or his basketball teammate deal with the
pressures of being from a rich family. Much to fans' delight, the player
can choose to engender romances with some of the female characters in
the game.

That this is actually a core part of the gameplay seems to be a major
pillar of the game's appeal -- most successful roleplaying games include
depth when it comes to options on friendships and romances.

It's more than a port. Remakes and updates of varying degrees of quality are everywhere these days. But Persona 4 Golden
represents such a meaningful iteration on the beloved original game
that it's worth a purchase not just for new players, but for those who
already have the PS2 version and some means of playing it. The massive
JRPG has had a few years to marinate in fans' minds, and fresh off the
well-received PSP iteration for Persona 3, there are enough new features to make it seem like the right time to revisit.

The game adds two new social arcs, makes some subtle but meaningful
changes to the pacing, and polishes the battle system even further,
removing a few frustrating random elements in favor of more engaging
options. It also provides more detailed feedback on some of the
progressions and a few alternate avenues to fulfill daily goals,
eliminating some of the system's opacity and giving players a greater
sense of choice and control at each junction. It also adds a few more
story events, providing new content to familiar players.

It has meaningful multiplayer. One of the most significant tweaks that P4 Golden
includes is some cleverly-integrated multiplayer. With its use of
message-leaving and the ability to summon another player when needed, Dark Souls
and its predecessor charmed audiences by proving that multiplayer could
mean more than competitive or co-operative arena spaces, and P4 Golden also takes this cue.

When given a block of time, connected players can touch the Vita's
screen to get a population sampling about what others decided to do
during the same period. Since success in the game revolves so much
around planning for major upcoming events, the ability to do a sort of
audience poll when confronted with many options is engaging.

Players can leave distress messages in the dungeons as well, giving
powerful players the option to come to the aid of those in desperate
straits. The massive and detail-heavy nature of JRPGs rewards those who
use real-world social behavior to help solve problems, and sharing
suggestions with other fans is simple but powerful.

Its localization is brilliant. The writing and dialogue in Persona 4
is an understated art, managing to delicately balance the Japanese
cultural influences that attract a lot of JRPG fans with dialogue and
text that feel modern and accessible.

P4 Golden's additions even include a couple references to subtle
in-jokes within the fandom, showing that Atlus USA has a close
acquaintance with its community and knows how to interpret language for
it. In an era where much bigger Japanese companies have foundered as
they try to pitch for Western appeal, that's no small feat.

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Neoyoshi
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PostSubject: Re: Persona 4: Golden   Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:52 pm

This game is the reason why i bought a Playstation VITA *drools*

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