76 hours. That's how long I spent on my first playthrough of Persona 4 Golden. And you know what? I wish it were longer. Now, you're probably thinking "Levi! You dashing rogue! Why would you want to add time to an already abusrd amount?" Well ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, lend me your eyes and I'll tell you!
Now, before we get started, I'll give you a quick rundown of P4G's story. You are a high school student who recently transferred to the small town of Inaba. The kind of town where everyone, more or less, knows each other. You move in with your uncle and shortly after arriving a murder most fowl takes place. The circumstance of the murders seems to be super natural and it's up to you and your motley crew of Japanese high school students have until your year in Inaba is up to stop it! Or the world will end! Also, there's some stuff with a dude named Igor in a limousine and you can jump inside TVs.
You and your friends have a power called 'Persona'. An ability you get from from overcoming your 'Shadow', the part of yourself you can't show others or don't want to admit to yourself. This is very important. The game revolves around two themes, accepting who you really are and using the bonds you have with others in order to grow stronger as a person. These notions sound really cheesy, but in my experiences as a person; they're startlingly accurate. Everything in the game ties back into these themes and in doing so, ties into the main story. These themes are made that much more powerful by being such an integral part of progressing the plot. Every one of your struggles is overcome with the strength you've gained from these bonds. Known in game as S.Links.
The main character is a complete blank slate, he says next to nothing and he looks the most generic. This was done on purpose. By doing this, you're able to impart yourself on the character, suddenly you aren't watching the adventures of Space Marine X, you're experiencing the adventures of you! The game gives the main character enough choice in what happens that it feels more personal, yet not so much that it feels overwhelming. You have an emotional attachment to the events surrounding these fictional characters, and since the characters are interesting, you want to hang out with them, you want to get to know them better.
Every member of your dungeon crawling party is memorable because they're written so well. No two characters are alike and every character is believable. Even the side characters are like, with each one having their own story to explore in their S.Link. I was always excited to see what happened next in the 10 levels of each S.Link I completed. And these aren't just throw away side stories, by leveling up the S.Links you are able to create more powerful Persona's used to fight shadows. You can't max out every S.Link on your first play-through however (unless you're using a guide) as you only have about a year in Inaba. Spending time with people takes up a day, even if the S.Link doesn't advance, time you could also be using to save people from being murdered inside the tv. So you have to manage your time wisely. It adds a level of strategy to something as simple as hanging out with friends that works really well. "Do I blow a day eating steak with Chie? Or do I pursue my budding romance with Yukiko? Maybe I go train my teammates in the television.."
As you probably guessed, the story is very long. But the major story beats are separated into segments where, if you're bad at this game, nothing happens. These segments are in place so you can explore S.Links, grind, study for school, fish or build models. All of which give you strength for creating personas, or yield powerful items for use in dungeons. By giving you these opportunities to explore the other facets of this very fleshed out world the story doesn't drag. Yet by drip feeding you revelations and plot twists, it also holds your attention. With the new story segments, a new dungeon to explore is also unveiled. Every dungeon has a unique design that is symbolic of the person trapped inside. The only thing that isn't unique between dungeons is the enemy designs, with every model just being reskins of the monsters in previous dungeons.
While running around dungeons a Chrono Trigger system is employed. Where you can see the encounter walking around the environment, you can hit it and engage in battle, run past it or be hit by it and risk giving the enemy an advantage. If you manage to strike the monsters rear end, you get the advantage! And an awesome song. The fighting is as simple as it gets, turn based strategy. Most enemies have weaknesses you can exploit to unleash powerful All In attacks or to take the enemy out of the equation for a while by dizzying him. No enemies weakness is obvious though, and what one enemy is weak to, another could be immune to. Or worse, the attack could heal the enemy! Your party also has weaknesses, so your incentivized to have diverse members in order to exploit more weaknesses, but you also have to be conscious of the spells the enemies can cast on you. Adding a lot more strategy to the mix. No systems feel unnecessary and the dungeons do a good job of making sure you're strong enough to face the boss by the end so grinding isn't even a big deal.
Those familiar with Persona 4 vanilla who are on the fence about this game should definitely pick it up. There's at least 10 hours of new content, the art work has all been redone and looks great in high res. Everything from the original game is still here in tact, the great music that I find myself humming nearly everyday, the great sense of humour which still makes me laugh even though I know all of the jokes. This game is definitely worth the 76 hours I put into it and more. Before June, I'll probably have played it one or two more times. That's around 228 hours total! If I'm willing to dedicate that much time to one game, it must be something special.