To almost everyone’s surprise, in June 2020 Persona 4 Golden was released on PC, making it the first Persona title ever released on the platform. Its release on Steam also rescued it from its entrapment on the PS Vita– Persona 4 Golden is an enhanced version of the original game for PS2– an absolutely miserable handheld that held hardly any relevance other than having Persona 4 Golden as an exclusive. It sold a ridiculous amount of copies on Steam for a port of a fairly old title, selling 500k copies just a month after release, in comparison to the 700k copies sold of the PS Vita version over a year after release.
Personally, it’s not hard to see why it did so well. Persona 4 Golden is one of the greatest JRPGS of all time, combining the best parts of a murder mystery, slice-of-life anime, and classic turn-based mechanics, along with an incredible soundtrack and art design.
The game’s premise is simple: there’s a small town, a murder, and high school students who investigate because the police aren’t good enough. They jump into TVs and fight weird monsters using Personas, images projected from their inner selves resembling mythological figures that represent the façades worn by individuals to face life’s hardships. Pretty normal stuff, basically.
Despite the rock solidness of Persona 4 Golden’s turn-based battle system, offering an incredible amount of versatility for what is essentially a dungeon-crawler, I’d go as far as to say that combat is the worst part of the game. This is more of a testament to the perfection of every other element, however, particularly the game’s Social Link mechanics.
Key to the game’s vibe is its Social Link system, which connects to its incredible cast of characters. As the player, you choose how the game’s protagonist spends each day, doing things such as hanging out with friends, working part-time, or going out to eat. When you hang out with friends, your character’s Social Link can progress with them, causing you to learn more about that character and having them go through a personal arc separate from the main plot. As the player, you have a significant amount of agency on which characters you spend the most time with. You can play favourites, basically.
The journey you take with Persona 4 Golden’s main cast, along with the significant development they can have through Social Links, creates a bond between the player and the game’s characters that isn’t really experienced in any other game. The other titles in the Persona series come close, sure, but Persona 3’s cast had a bit of a dysfunctional family thing going on, and Persona 5 (and Persona 5 Royal) lacked some of the lighter moments that Persona 4 Golden had in abundance. Persona 4 Golden’s cast are the perfect companions over lockdown, although you’ll very likely find yourself in tears by the game’s emotional conclusion because of them. It’s up to you to decide if you’re up for that catharsis.