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Everything Persona 4 Golden & Persona 3 Portable Newcomers Should Know

Step into Inaba and Iwatodai with ease.



Today, Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable have arrived on modern consoles, and this will be the first time that many players will have the opportunity to experience this pair of classic Atlus games. Because Persona games, and the Shin Megami Tensei series that they are based on, can be pretty intimidating for newcomers, we have created a guide to help provide some advice for players who have never played either of these Persona games before! This is everything players new to Persona 4 Golden or Persona 3 Portable should know before they start their adventures in Inaba and Iwatodai.

Remember to Balance Social Engagement with Dungeon Crawling

Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden follow a sort of hybrid structure that combines dungeon crawling RPG segments with slice-of-life components modeled on dating sims. You alternate between fighting enemies in dungeons and trying to make friends at school. For gamers who prefer one of these elements, it can be tempting to neglect one in favor of the other; however, the true joy of a Persona game comes from seeing how the two come together.

Leveling up your social connections with friends will help you do better in dungeons, and exploring the dungeons will help you better understand the characters since each dungeon is like a deep dive into someone’s psyche. If you want to truly experience a Persona game in all of its glory, you would be best served by valuing both of these aspects equally. If you’re not a fan of dating sims, you might want to keep an open mind; the games might surprise you!

Don’t Try to Do Everything

Image: SEGA

This is the piece of advice that gamers are most likely to ignore, since it can be tempting when playing an RPG to try and experience everything it has to offer. However, even if you have completionist tendencies or experience FOMO when you don’t do everything in a game, Persona may be the one franchise that is really better if you learn to overcome these issues, at least for the first playthrough. If you try to do everything, you’ll get overwhelmed and miss out on a lot of the fun that comes from figuring out what unique path you, personally, want to take, instead of trying to optimize your experience.

Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden have over 20 social links each. Between social links, social stats like courage or understanding, part-time jobs, hobbies like model building and scooter riding, movie theaters, shrines, and gardening, there is a lot to do with your very limited time. While there are many guides online that can teach you how to max out the best social links or make the most efficient use of your time in a playthrough, relying too much on the paths laid out by these guides can be stressful and distract you from fully enjoying the game. It can be a good strategy to focus on what you are drawn to the most and accept that you may have to overlook some content.

Both games have also  New Game + options, so there is nothing stopping you from doing a second playthrough to catch any social link paths or activities that you missed the first time. For a first playthrough, it can be really beneficial to focus on enjoying yourself and exploring what interests you while spending little to no time on other things that draw you in less. While there are some general guidelines that may be helpful (for example, social links with playable party members are usually more valuable than those with NPCs), trying too hard to be a completionist on your first playthrough can ruin the experience. It is almost inevitable that you are going to miss something the first time through, so focus on enjoying the things that you do experience instead of worrying about the things that you might miss. You can always come back for a second playthrough, or even watch some missed social link scenes on YouTube.

A few caveats to this rule: Persona 4 Golden has a possible “fake” ending that can leave some players in a strange situation where they think they have finished the game despite the fact that they have missed some very important dungeons and narrative details, so you may want to check a guide online after you beat the game to make sure you have actually finished it. Persona 4 Golden players may also want to avoid neglecting Marie; some people find her annoying, but her social link is key to unlocking an important optional dungeon.

Don’t Finish Dungeons Too Fast in Persona 4 Golden

Everything you need to know in Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden
Image: SEGA

If you complete a dungeon early in Persona 4 Golden, you will automatically be transported to the end of the month. This can create a problem because you lose the chance to engage in any activities that you could have done on all of the days that were skipped. While it is okay to drop into dungeons now and then throughout the month to complete side quests, explore, grind and farm, try to avoid beating the final boss of a dungeon until the last possible day to ensure that you don’t miss out on any days.

Time is one of the most valuable resources in a Persona game and you can’t get it back, so you should try to make the most out of every day that you get and avoid choices that will skip over or lose days. The one exception to this is the dungeon in December, which actually needs to be completed a bit earlier to avoid missing special holiday events.

Switch it Up!

Everything you need to know in Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden
Image: SEGA

While it may be tempting to pick one favorite persona and simply level it throughout the game, this approach ignores the fact that every persona is good at something different. One may have high magic power, another may have strong resistances, and another may have devastating physical attack power. Because different enemies require different strategies, having a variety of personas to choose from at any given moment puts you in a much stronger, more adaptable position than relying too heavily on one favorite.

You’re allowed to carry quite a few personas at any given time, so try to find a range of elemental affinities, stats, and movesets to diversify your team. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to fuse personas together to create new ones; the fusion system is how you access some of the most powerful personas in the game, and neglecting it could easily leave you underpowered and without access to strong skills and stats.

Be Ready for a Long-Term Relationship

Everything you need to know in Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden
Image: SEGA

A Persona game is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint, and you really can’t rush through them quickly. When you pick up a Persona game, you’re embarking on a relationship that can last for around 100 hours, so the game will likely be a part of your life for quite a long time. Try to focus on enjoying the experience and pacing yourself so you can gradually enjoy the game throughout the process; if you focus too much on plowing through the campaign and finishing the game with longer, intense sessions, you will find yourself frustrated when it feels like it will never end.

Even when compared to other massive RPGs like Final Fantasy games, Persona games can definitely still feel really long; if you try to binge them, you will find yourself getting exhausted and burnt out rather quickly. Instead of throwing yourself fully into the game from the beginning, it might be better to approach it more gradually, playing it in smaller chunks at a time spread out over a longer period. If you buckle down for the long run and really approach these games like a long-term relationship instead of just focusing on the end goal, you will be setting yourself up for a much more enjoyable experience.

Steven Greenwood is a Montreal-based writer & director, and the Artistic Director of Home Theatre Productions. He holds a PhD from McGill University with a focus on queer cultural history, and he teaches university courses in film, theatre, and popular culture. His work is influenced by his passion for queer history & culture, and he is a fan of all things geeky, pulpy, campy & queer. You can find him on Twitter @steven_c_g or on Instagram @steven.c.greenwood.