A Satisfyingly Polarizing Adventure | “Persona 4 Golden Remastered” (2023) Game Review

Recently, Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable were remastered in HD for modern consoles. Currently, both games are up for the reasonable price of $19.99. The former being discussed today originally launched in 2008 before the Golden version released four years later.

Right away, this game is extremely polarizing. It possesses traits that were both outdated and incredibly well ahead of its time. Unlike usual, today we will go over the game using a “Good, Bad and Ugly” breakdown, only we will be added a “Great” category as well.

The Great

(Most) Social Interactions

Like other mainline Persona games, this game features quite a bit of ‘slice of life’ interactivity between dungeon crawling. Specifically, the player will have an assortment of Confidants. Interacting with them socially can increase their rank, which makes creating Personas under the Confidant’s Arcana more beneficial and, if the Confidant is also a party member, this will also give them a leg up in a combat specific way, such as learning a new skill.

The main draw to social links typically isn’t the prospect of tangible rewards; it’s the actual storyline behind the interactions themselves. For example, Kanji Tatsumi’s storyline behind his social interactions involves him coming to terms with himself not enjoying the same hobbies that society’s idea of a “real man” would. Most social links in this game are genuinely fun to even thrilling to engage with, making this time spent out to be quite satisfying.

Shuffle Time

Shuffle Time is a mechanic exclusive to Persona 4. At the end of a fight, the player has a chance to earn a Shuffle Time which will convey added rewards to winning the fight. The exact rewards are entirely random, but can range from unlocking new personas to stats to the player’s equipped persona, extra money, extra experience points, or rewards that can help the dungeon crawl, such as being briefly invisible to enemies or receiving a small amount of health and SP for the team.

The particular aspect of Shuffle Time that makes it great is both how it can be triggered and the strategy behind optimizing a Shuffle Time. Shuffle Time has a greater chance to be activated if the player hit the enemies of that fight in their elemental weakness. This incentivizes the player to interact with enemies and try to find a specific weakness, rather than simply blasting them away with a Megidolaon and calling it a day. Optimizing Shuffle Time takes some time to get used to, but is fun as well and turns into a mini game of sorts. Top that off with Shuffle Time being typically very tangibly rewarding in some way, and this was a mechanic that added a lot to the monotony of the typical dungeon crawling experience.

The Main Plot/Plot Twists

Persona 4 sees a group of high schoolers come together to try and discover who has been committing a series of mysterious murders and kidnappings across Inaba. Dubbed “The Investigation Team,” the journey they undergo to find the culprit is genuinely thrilling and directly engages with the player, constantly prompting them to consider who it might be. The reveal of the true culprit at the end is an enormous plot twist which is awesome to watch play out. Overall, this was one of Person 4’s defining traits for sure.

The Good

Persona Fusion

As with most Persona games, fusion is a very important, frequently used mechanic throughout the game. It is how the player primarily acquires new personas and eventually best optimizes them to fit their desired function. As always, the experience is rock solid in this one. Whether you’re the type to want to make a cool looking persona perform as best as it can, or you want the most brokenly overpowered killing machine possible, Persona 4 can offer you either of those and then some. The mechanic has always been charming because you don’t need a PHD to set something very complicated up reasonably easy, but you do need just enough focus and macrogaming to make the experience satisfying at the end of the process.

This game in particular makes a lot of use of fusion methods other than simple “persona A + B = persona C” methods. Namely, once entering New Game Plus, the Dodecagon method unlocks. It’s exactly how it sounds, demanding a total of twelve personas in fusion to create a particularly powerful one.

Multiplayer Functionality

Persona 4 originally released in 2008, during the PlayStation 2/XBox era. Of course, this would’ve been a period just before online gaming began to really explode in popularity and, as such, Persona 4 being a single player game anyway meant it ultimately didn’t have any cooperative interaction with other players whatsoever. While, for the most part, that remains unchanged here, there are two small but useful and fun main ways to rather indirectly engage in multiplayer: the SOS system and day to day data collected by the game to show the player what other players spent that day doing. For the former, when dungeon crawling, you can send out an SOS signal to others also in that dungeon at that time. If someone responds to the SOS, you will receive a small amount of HP and SP at the start of your next combat encounter. When sending an SOS signal, you gain the ability to respond to other SOSes. Doing so costs the player nothing and provides another needy player with the aforementioned small benefit. It’s a simple system involving helping others at no expense whatsoever. Plus, you get to send a funny message to the person who sent an SOS signal- what’s not to like about that?

The arguably more helpful instance of indirect multiplayer comes from the game recording what players do on a day to day basis and sharing this info. This game may not be quite as big as, say, Persona 5, but it still demands the player keep track of dozens of various out of combat things, even more at times. It’s very easy to forget what days of the week something or someone is available, or it’s easy to straight up miss something important. Simply having a look at what other players did on the day you’re on can reveal these things- perhaps a lot of players chose to advance the social link of a character you didn’t even know was available that day. Neither aspect of multiplayer reinvents the wheel in anyway, but they’re both nice for general quality of life purposes.

The Bad


Like other mainline Persona games, combat is turn based in this one. On paper, it functions no differently from a typical turn based game. It functions well enough, but falls exceptionally short of being a particularly fun experience. Enemy variety is totally nonexistent, and the player will find themselves fighting the same small pool of enemies over and over and over again, with very slight and sometimes unnoticeable aesthetic changes at times. As well, enemies begin to really pile up on resistances and immunities even early in the game, which can sometimes make combat drag. Outside of some bosses, many fail to pose significant threats to the player, which frequently turns into combat encounters being brainless hack and slashes against incredibly tanky enemies. Where Shuffle Time encourages the player to locate weaknesses and exploit them, actual combat tends to be monotonous and instead incentivizes the player to just click Megidolaon without any real thought each encounter.

Rainy Weather

When the weather in-game is rainy, almost all social links will be unavailable as well as many other activities the player could engage with in lieu of said social links. While it is possible to plan around the rain and optimize time spent to a degree, it will inevitably create instances where the player simply has nothing to do. This can feel incredibly annoying at times in a game where time management is so crucial, especially with some of these social links being particularly time sensitive.

Dungeon Gimmicks

To make up for the complete lack of creativity in the slightest way in each dungeon, Atlas attached an exclusive gimmick to each dungeon the player will go through. For the most part, these gimmicks were forgettable and relatively harmless, but could get annoying or even egregiously poor in one case, so placing this under ‘The Bad’ felt fitting. In a couple dungeons, the gimmick is no more than simply backtracking a couple floors to grab a key that the player could’ve even grabbed on accident beforehand anyway. In its poorest form, the dungeon shown above punishes the player for engaging in combat encounters by halving their current SP after each fight and simply taking away all the items in their inventory. How creative and inspiring!

The Ugly

Reader discretion is advised, as the last topic under this category touches base on sexually implicit material, some of which involves underaged characters

Dungeon Crawling

Persona 4 dungeons are entirely procedurally generated, meaning most of the layout is randomized and will often vary greatly on repeat journeys. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon has been quite successful using this formula and, given that both games are turn based and share a few parallels, it’s reasonable to assume the format had a chance to work here as well.

Unfortunately, procedurally generated dungeons worked poorly here. It makes dungeon crawling incredibly monotonous and often boring at times. Because enemy variety is genuinely non-existent as well, it makes it so that the only real differences between two dungeons are aesthetics and gimmicks. This particular aspect is what Persona 5, the successor to Persona 4, definitely improved on the most. Even though, for example, Okumura’s Palace is a horrendous dungeon in Persona 5, at least it’s not monotonous and it’s clear that Atlas at least tried to make that area work. Here, it feels like next to no real effort was ever put in on dungeon crawling in general other than aesthetics.

New Game Plus/Replayability

When entering New Game Plus, the player will lose all of their items, their equipped personas but will keep their money. The only reason this is such a big issue is that it totally decentivizes going the extra mile to acquire rarer or harder to get items. Namely, the iconic Reaper boss returns in this game, and he drops ‘ultimate’ equipment exclusive to one character when slain. What’s the point of beating him enough times to earn this equipment if it’s just going to get taken away? Likewise, why bother interacting with the gem merchant or endeavoring to unlock gear in Daidara’s shop when the tedious process needed to earn said equipment simply needs to be repeated every playthrough?

Oversexuality, sometimes towards minors

By far the worst trait this game had to offer, and definitely the part of which has been outdated the most, is how casually it portrays sexual coercion, sexual harassment and even downright pedophilia. Two of the biggest offenders of this are Yosoke Hanamura and Sayoko Uehara, who are incidentally both Confidants the player finds themselves interacting with often. The former coerces two of his “friends” into stripping for him as some sort of recompense for them simply cooking him a meal he didn’t like. The latter, a middle aged adult, makes advances on the player’s underaged character multiple times even if the player chooses dialogue options clearly indicating a lack of interest. While several examples could be listed off, the general attitude towards sexuality in a game where most of the main characters are minors could easily offend or potentially even traumatize people who play this game. Definitely do not play this game if you haven’t got the patience or emotional capacity to handle this sort of thing.


Persona 4 Golden shines in a few areas, but is severely lacking in others. This is a very polarizing, controversial experience you will likely either love or hate. As such, a grade of a B feels appropriate.


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