Cos This Ain't No Game
A long time fan of the Endurance Run, I decided to get P4G mostly because I couldn't find (and I tried) a copy of Persona 4, and because I wanted to experience some of the stuff Jeff and Vinny didn't go through. As a result, the story doesn't come as a surprise to me, but it's still very enjoyable.
You probably know the basic setup for Persona 4 Golden, but in case you don't, here it is again: You play as the main protagonist, a high-school student who has been sent to spend a year with his uncle at the countryside town of Inaba. Very soon after your arrival, however, a series of seemingly bizarre and unsolvable murders begins to take place, with the victims being found dead atop telephone poles and TV antennas. Fate (literally) has decreed that your character must take a pivotal role in investigating and solving this supernatural mystery, along with the help of some of your Inaba friends.
The Story is very good, and it certain knocks anything Square has done in the past 6 or 7 years out of the park. While very interesting and funny as all hell (mostly thanks to the stellar localization team), it is also occasionally moving and it also addresses mature issues which you don't typically find in JRPGs. It really reminds you of what a JRPG can do, if it puts effort into not being lazy or shallow. The Story can last anywhere from 70 to 80 hours on average, and it contains tons of voice work, dialogue, battles and choices.
Persona 4 Golden's gameplay is quite a bit different to your typical JRPG. Gameplay is broken up into "Real World" areas and "TV world" areas. In the Real world, your character has his life to lead - he must go to school, interact with his friends, study, take up part time jobs, explore, talk and buy items. In the TV world, you and your friends unleash your Personas to fight against Shadow Creatures in order to rescue potential victims.
Combat is turn based, fun and overwhelmingly tactical. You simply can't X your way to victory - shadows are tough monsters, and without exploiting their weaknesses for advantages, you will almost certainly be unable to win. Targeting weaknesses, buffing characters, debuffing enemies and knowing which Personas your main character brings into battle is absolutely vital for your success. While your characters do get steadily more and more powerful as time goes by, the game simply will not let you grind your way to victory. Being a JRPG, you must grind a bit, but because of the scarcity of items, the inability to easily replenish hitpoints and SP (the game's MP equivalent), the game also sternly tells you that you cannot grind forever in one day.
Real world gameplay is choice-driven and centres around time management. At the end of each school day, or on weekends, your character must decide what to do - they can study for exams, they can buy items, build up characteristics or spend time talking with friends to build social links. You might wonder why this is important, but the social links and the interactions in the Real world is the emotional core of this game and it is very important for your combat effectiveness - the more links you have the more powerful personas you can create. The higher your characteristics are, the more social link opportunities you'll be given.
But be warned - this game has a mean time-management aspect to it. On your first-playthrough you quite literally cannot do everything this game has to offer - you simply do not have the time. You must make vital and important decisions on what you want to do with your time - and if you invest unwisely, you can run into serious strife and may not be able to complete the game at all (although you'd have to be pretty silly to find yourself in such a predicament on Normal difficulty).
The Game's graphics are ever so slightly better than the originals on the PS2, but not enough to be very noticeable. Still, due to the wonderful character art, design and style, the game is still fun to look at, even though many of the character models look a bit ugly.
This game's audio shines through. The Composer for this game has done a wonderful, wonderful job. It even has a few new great tracks that weren't in the Original game. Every piece of music fits thematically, and although the lyrics to many of the songs make no sense at all, you won't care (mostly because the accents of the Japanese singers can make the lyrics indecipherable to native English speakers).
Persona 4 Golden is a great game. If you've played P4, understandably it won't have as big an impact on you, but if you've never played a Persona game before, I heartily recommend you buy Persona 4 Golden.
But as good a game as it is, I can't give it 5 stars because they had to replace a character's voice actor and the new voice is terrible when compared to the old voice actor.