Some games become synonymous with the systems they’re hosted on; Sonic the Hedgehog and the Mega Drive, Wii Sports on the Wii, Gears of War on the Xbox 360. With the PlayStation Vita, Sony barely dented the surface of Nintendo’s all-powerful handhold on gaming-on-the-go, but it did boast a number of almighty treasures in its software catalogue. Persona 4 Golden is right at the top of the list, and now, without any fanfare at all, it’s arrived on PC.
‘One of the best JRPGs of all time’ isn’t a claim to swing around carelessly, but with Persona 4 Golden, it’s inarguably the case. Set in the town of Inaba, this school-age mystery starts in macabre fashion, with a string of murders setting the tone for a weird, wonderful and occasionally disturbing adventure.
Boasting a cast of visually striking and memorable characters, Persona 4 Golden is a game as much about interpersonal relationships and knowing oneself, as it is about busting up a bunch of evil spirits. Praised at the time for its sensitive portrayal of sexuality, Atlus were ahead of the curve, particularly in terms of Japanese gaming and culture. This was subsequently ignored in the game’s sequel, proving in some measure that Persona 4 Golden was distinctly far ahead of Japanese norms.
The PC port will give many gamers their first opportunity to play Persona 4 Golden, but they should be prepared for the fact that this is distinctly a port, rather than a remake or remaster. Expectations have been raised astronomically for games returning from years gone by, but this is as far from the FFVII remake as it’s possible to be. That is thankfully reflected in the budget price though.
With the move to PC there are a bunch of visual options that you can access, with Persona 4 Golden supporting resolutions up to 4K – a huge jump over the Vita’s native 960×544 or the PSTV’s 720p. You can change the rendering scale up to 200%, as well as alter settings for shadow quality, select the level of anisotropic filtering, and choose whether or not to play with anti-aliasing or V-Sync enabled.
What that all amounts to, is that Persona 4 Golden on PC is sharper and more vibrant than you’ve ever seen it before. The character images during the frequent conversations look absolutely fantastic and help each character to feel like fully realised human beings rather than anime cyphers. The rest of the visuals can’t do a great deal to hide their humble origins; Persona 4 Golden is an eight-year-old handheld game, itself a port of a PS2 title, so there’s little surprise that it’s showing its age.
Despite that, the art style is just about distinct enough to hold up in 2020, and the benefit of the higher resolution is that everything, from the characters and enemies through to the different locations, is sharp and clear, emphasising the detail they hold. While the cutscenes are still fantastically animated, and bring the anime drama full circle, they are at times noticeably lower resolution than everything else, though not to any detriment to the game.
One of the biggest improvements for fans and newcomers is the inclusion of both the original Japanese voice tracks and the English dub. While the dub is more than good enough – there’s only Chie that I’ve always found particularly annoying – it was a major sticking point when the game released in the West that there wasn’t the ability to revert to Japanese.
That’s remedied here, and it makes the whole experience feel more authentic, with recognisable Japanese voice actors like Yui Horie and Showtaro Morikubo really giving it their all. What is odd is that the Japanese audio doesn’t seem to be as high quality as the English one, seemingly recorded in a different way, presenting with a less clean sound and even a hint of clipping. You stop noticing after a while, but if you jump back and forth between the two it becomes more obvious. It doesn’t hurt the game particularly, it’s a just a little odd.
Besides the audio and visual options, the other key improvement is the option to play the game with keyboard and mouse or a controller, giving you the opportunity to pick your favourite control system. I’d still say a controller is the best way to experience Persona 4 Golden, if only because keyboard controls force your character to run in a less natural manner. Still, they’re there if you want them.
Unfortunately, some elements of Persona 4 Golden on PC aren’t particularly stable, at least in its pre-release state. The game repeatedly crashed straight back to the desktop with no warning, and, in the build we were given access to, it can make the game essentially unplayable. However, I was able to narrow the issue down to the graphical effects, and turning everything off barring V-Sync completely remedied the problem.
You would hope, or imagine, that it’s something that Atlus will be aware of, but if you do decide to take the leap, it’s definitely going to be worth saving regularly to make sure you don’t lose any progress. It’s lucky that the extra graphical effects are largely unnecessary. I think I actually prefer the image without them, but you’re going to need to make some changes in order to run the game properly until stability can be improved.