Before Persona 5, modern Persona games were only playable with English voice acting. It led, naturally, to controversies. The dub script still had the English-speaking cast speaking with Japanese honorifics, leading to sometimes stilted or awkward-sounding conversations. Persona 5, despite having a separate download for Japanese voice acting for the first time in the series via DLC, received a tremendous amount of flack for its dub script, with some calling it out for being the clunkiest of all.
So when the most surprising of emails landed in my inbox—Persona 4 Golden is leaving its PlayStation Vita prison and coming to PC(!)—one buried feature about the 2020 port stood out to me: "Audio: Japanese and English." Yes, fellow small town detectives, thanks to the new Persona 4 Golden release on PC via Steam today, at last we don't have to suffer through how annoying Teddie is in English. Now we can be annoyed with Teddie in Japanese too!
It's been a fascinating new way to play Persona 4 Golden over the past week. I find myself preferring the English voice actors for some characters, like Chie. (For the record: I prefer Golden Chie to PlayStation 2 Chie.) For others, I'm finding Japanese is better. And then for Teddie, I prefer neither, because I will always loathe Teddie forever. The music remains the absolute best, of course. I won't lie, I let my PC idle for probably a couple hours on Sunday in the midst of Inaba, just letting it play "Heartbeat, Heartbreak" on quote-unquote "accident."
There is one hindrance that I've found with the Japanese audio option: It's not as crisp as the default English voice acting. It sounds a little bit tinny, as if Atlus couldn't find the true source file for the Japanese audio, and is compromising somehow. It's not the worst audio quality in the world, but toggling back and forth between English and Japanese, there is a definite noticeable difference in overall audio quality. Considering I've played through Persona 4 before though, I've stuck mostly with Japanese so far regardless just so I can have a different sort of experience.
The PC port doesn't solely introduce Japanese audio. It also brings with it achievements, HD resolution with unlocked frame rates, a fuller 16:9 aspect ratio, and even support for higher resolutions. Players can even toggle text settings to Japanese, English, Korean, or Traditional Chinese, and they can play with either mouse and keyboard (which works... fine, but isn't optimal for any JRPG in my opinion) or a traditional gamepad. It is a port through and through—while the higher resolutions look nice, faces remain stagnant when they talk; the animations are sometimes clunky. This is no beefy remaster. It is very much an upscaled PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Vita game, but it looks much cleaner than it ever has before.
I have said this many times, and I'll say it again: everyone's first Persona game is their favorite. For most people, that means 2012's PlayStation Vita-bound Persona 4 Golden or 2017's Persona 5 have stolen their hearts. For me, the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable-leaning weirdo, Persona 3 FES and the femme-led Persona 3 Portable are mutually tied for my favorite. Persona 4, as I've been loud about in the past, is my least loved.
Persona 4 just never clicked with me in the same way that Persona 3 and Persona 5 did, despite having a soundtrack every bit as good as Persona 3's. Part of that is how Persona 4 is undeniably the most stuck-in-its-time of the Katsura Hashino-directed games in the series. Playing it bit by bit again in 2020 only further reminds me of that fact as I inch closer to the clumsy arcs of Kanji and Naoto.
Persona 4 is still not without its merits, even with the big caveats. In 2012, it's easy to see how it captured the admiration of so many fans through the easily lovable party members, the adorable Nanako singing the Junes commercial theme, and the general intrigue of its complex murder mystery. But for all that Persona 4 does well in its portrayal of small town life changing as mom and pop shops are swallowed whole by big corporations, it takes two steps back when it's telling the stories of how its teen heroes are finding themselves.
That all said: It has been impressive playing Persona 4 Golden on PC. While Persona 4 has aged in more ways than just its politics, from its combat and drab procedural dungeons, most of its character building and storytelling holds up. Its slice of life flavor remains just as transportive as it's always been. I admittedly don't have a big monitor for my PC, but it still looks the best it ever has; far better than it ever looked on even Vita TV.
With the PlayStation Vita effectively dead and buried for quite some time now, it's nice to see another Vita exclusive game find a new home. Other exclusives like Gravity Rush found renewed life on platforms like PlayStation 4, so to keep my fingers crossed, hopefully this means that we'll see more Atlus games making the jump to PC. I know my dreams of a full-blown Persona 3 remake will never be a reality, but a gal can dream. So at least put Persona 3 FES or Portable on PC, Atlus.