According to a press release, HBO has partnered with New York’s Brewery Ommegang to launch a series of Game Of Thrones-themed beers timed to the March 31 third season premiere, beginning with the first entry, Iron Throne Blonde Ale. The 750ml, $8.50-per-bottle beer is the first of four to come that will “directly tie into themes, characters, and nuances” established in the show’s universe.
I’m the guy who keeps interesting specialty bottles as decorations so I can’t wait to add one of these to my collection. I’m sure the Iron Throne Blonde Ale will look pretty awesome next to my Cascadian Secession Dark Ale.
A blonde, though? I can only assume that there’s a Targaryen or Lannister connection there because otherwise “Iron Throne” makes me think of the darker stuff. But while we’re on the subject of oh-so-apt Game of Thrones beer names, how about a “Varys Targaryen Golden Ale” or a “Melisandre Flaming Amber” if those aren’t too obvious?
“Triple-Slap Chocolate Stout.” “Tyrion Lannister’s Dragonfire Lager.” That would be a St. Patrick’s Day special, of course. Any old Arrogant Bastard with Joffrey on the label might work too. “Well-Hung Impish Ale.” Okay, I’ll stop now.
That is one of the stranger headlines I’ve thrown together but it does have the virtue of being surprisingly accurate. I think I can go even further with it, though…
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim appears to be a tale of GLaDOS from Portal teaming up with a G.I. Joe power armour-clad Charlie Hunnam (Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy, still using the American accent but presumably not journaling these events for his sons) to fight alien Godzilla/Cthulhu-esque creatures with the aid of Transformers-ish giant robots.” How’s that?
And if the trailer is any indication, the entire score will just be BWRAAAAAAAM. BWRAAAAAAAM. BWRAAAAAAAM. What is it with that, anyway? Apparently, the Inception noise became the new “in a world…” so gradually that I didn’t notice. There’s even a supercut of that below!
Beyond just the crazy-ass trailer, I don’t really know what to think of this. Will the movie be too ridiculous, or just ridiculous enough? Will I ever be able to take Sons of Anarchy seriously ever again now that I’ve seen Charlie Hunnam in a “future linebacker” suit?
The Giant Bomb crew may have accidentally predicted this trend long before that supercut, as the noise has also found its way into game trailers.
This has been a very Trek-heavy week. The plot synopsis and one-sheet poster for Star Trek Into Darkness hit early, followed by the Season 2 blu-ray for The Next Generation on Tuesday, then came Star Trek Online’s winter event, and now the first teaser trailer for Into Darkness up above. Kind of an overload.
Nevermind all that other fluff, though. The trailer is why we’re here, so let’s pull this thing apart and see how it ticks.
The first major consideration is that Benedict Cumberbatch’s lead villain remains unidentified. Earlier reports stated that he’s someone we’ve seen before, presumably from either the original series or the first six movies, with the word “iconic” attached. Khan is the obvious first suspect – too obvious, and too not-British. Gary Mitchell (an American character originally) is generally the second most common name floating around. Reimagining him to be from England in this timeline is less of a head-scratcher than reworking a Vader-class villain like Khan.
Our second consideration could be a clue in disguise: the blonde woman seen here being mentally undressed by Kirk. If she turns out to be a young Carol Marcus, then Cumberbatch could indeed be Khan. However, she also strongly resembles Elizabeth Dehner from the classic TOS episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, which was Gary Mitchell’s story. It’s also possible that either Marcus or Dehner could appear independent of whoever Cumberbatch is playing, which throws this avenue of speculation out the window.
One quick note: Cumberbatch’s character is seen wearing Starfleet duds a couple times in this trailer. Khan and his people only really did that in the same manner as hunters wearing the bones or skins of their prey. Mitchell however, was a Starfleet officer. That said, it was only flirting with the galactic barrier that drove Mitchell to the dark side, so to speak. The mere glimpses we’ve seen here are very different in tone from that old story. Less action-adventure, more thriller.
On the subject of story themes, most of this teaser takes place planetside with our only ship shots being sea-based for once. Who knows if the real deal will really be so down to Earth, of course; but it could be an early indicator of the subject matter we’re in store for. Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if one of those ships messing around underwater is the Reliant despite Khan having nothing to do with this movie?
A proper extended version of this trailer opens with The Hobbit on December 14th (pray not to get stuck with one of the 48FPS versions) and Star Trek Into Darkness is out May 17th, 2013.
Welcome back to RAW Rambling, peeps. This is your weekly not-at-all-meant-to-be-taken-seriously look at the wacky wrestling sports entertainment circus that is WWE RAW. The real meat of this column are the stray observations to be found just beyond the first image below. Before that is a rundown of last week’s happenings and a quick ‘n’ dirty recap of this week’s show. Just in case you’re reading but not watching the episodes. Which is wise.
When we last saw our heroes: The Shield (not to be confused with S.H.I.E.L.D. but drawing from the same costuming department) made their interview debut. They’re here to forcefully eliminate injustices and dishonours, such as the same dudes getting title shots over and over for no reason… and rigged Twitter polls, apparently.
John Cena and AJ Lee continued their extremely awkward in-ring makeout sessions, which means that Dolph Ziggler has the honour of losing to Cena at the next pay-per-view. Because reasons. In less “High School Musical”-level romantic developments: Alberto Del Rio and Rosa Mendes exchanged a few subtle winks and nudges, like the grown adults they are.
Beyond the big-two angles: Big Show and Sheamus circled their calendars for a chairs match at TLC; Wade Barrett and Kofi Kingston will also meet in a title match; The Great Khali and Hornswoggle entered into a Cosmo Kramer/Mickey Abbott relationship.
This Week’s Quick ‘n’ Dirty Results: Team Hell No defeated the Prime Time Players in a match that only existed as a prelude to another Shield beatdown; AJ did a great job folding herself into origami shapes to sell Tamina’s offence and still won their match together anyway; The Miz solidified his face turn by jumping on CM Punk’s monologue, which resulted in a polygraph later on; John Cena/Sheamus were Teddy Long’d into a match against Dolph Ziggler/Big Show and won; Alberto Del Rio defeated Sin Cara just ’cause; Damien Sandow beat Santino just ’cause; Vince McMahon put the puzzle pieces together for Cena/Ziggler at TLC with Ziggler’s magic briefcase as collateral; Brad Maddox returned, lost to Randy Orton, who himself got jumped by Shield; US and Intercontinental title unification was teased with a great fatal four-way, but Antonio Cesaro prevented it for now; Shield reconvened to interrupt CM Punk’s polygraph session, but were routed by Hell No and Ryback.
…and now, the Rambling!
• Unless he’s returning from a lengthy absence, what purpose does the huge delay between Kane’s pyro and his music still serve?
• The Shield’s calm and collected silent treatment is very effective, especially when looming over the arena from a skybox, not speaking or acting until necessary. Sometimes there’s only one of them in the skybox, sometimes they change positions while the camera is away, like house spiders or Weeping Angels. Even if the ultimate outcome is a foregone conclusion, there’s a chess match feel to it that I really enjoy. This is how you build suspense on a wrestling show and you don’t even need words to do it.
• Thankfully, Kane and Daniel Bryan in deadly serious “let’s get shit done” mode could be the best they’ve ever been together and a totally necessary evolution of their team, since wacky Odd Couple hijinx can only last so long. Just ask Head Cheese or Booker T and Goldust.
• AJ is still extremely popular despite all the recent character assassination attempts made by the writers. She really doesn’t need John Cena. Putting her up against someone like Tamina Snuka for narrow squeaked-out victories by roll-up after getting tossed around like a rag doll may not be 100% ideal, but it’s certainly preferable to the alternative. There was hardly even a reference made to the “scandal” bullshit for the entire time that AJ was onscreen this week. Keep that up, please. Let Cena have his rivalry with Ziggler and AJ can have her thing with Tamina, and toss the root cause out the window for all I care. Some continuity should be ejected.
• Not only does Suited-Up Miz work surprisingly well as a babyface, he’s playing the good guy role better than any of the supposed “pure” babyfaces on the show. I actually kind of want to cheer for this guy rather than rolling my eyes and muting the TV whenever his music hits, which has been the case with both John Cena and Sheamus since I started watching this stuff again at Wrestlemania. He even wears pants!
• That said, the “walrus” insult against Paul Heyman is dumb (Be A Star!) and it’s entirely possible that I’m only giving Miz the thumbs-up because who the hell knows when Chris Jericho’s coming back.
• If the WWE insists on continuing their Teddy Long tag match routine with pairs of faces and heels in separate angles, at least make sure there’s an extra dimension to it somewhere, as was the case this time with Big Show (World Champion) and Ziggler (his eventual rival just waiting to cash-in). Not that anything was going to happen with that on free television, but still. Baby steps.
• Brad Maddox returned to make sure that history never forgets the name Enterprise. I mean, Brad Maddox. And there’s my throwaway geek culture reference for the week. Maddox plays an amazing Hollywood-style sleazeball and even if all he ever does is talk and get fed to guys who don’t need minor victories like Randy Orton, I still consider that a win. Team Maddox!
• There’s an opportunity for an awesome outcome to this Cena/Ziggler Money in the Bank defence at TLC, and that would be to put Ziggler over Cena, thus reassuring everyone that they haven’t completely lost faith in the guy. That said, giving the magic briefcase to Cena might not be a total loss if it gets Hulk Hogan 2012 chasing the World Title instead of the WWE Title, even for just one PPV cycle. If he ultimately wins the World Title, great; it’s a secondary belt that could actually use a slight uplift, though the usual talk of a title unification is probably a pipe dream and I’d rather see someone other than Cena pull that off, obviously. If he loses, also great; Cena doesn’t really need it anyway and might be best used as a fall guy for someone who does, whether that’s Big Show or anyone else. As usual, the only loser is Ziggler.
• Free idea: if the WWE has their own iOS/Android app thing, then what the hell do they need Tout for? They could do all of that themselves through their own app with just a few nips/tucks. All they’d really need would be a profile system and camera functionality, which should be babytown frolics for any professional smartphone developer in 2012.
• Now that I’ve raised the spectre of title unification (and not for the last time; I really want to see that happen someday) I wonder if that’s the plan for the United States and Intercontinental titles. Do we really need both of them now that the brand extension has all-but disappeared? Unification would be a nice short-term boost for whoever gets that push and the current roster isn’t quite large enough to require both.
• Missed opportunity: have CM Punk pass the polygraph test, but reveal later on that it was a set up, with Miz and the random non-cop being just another cog in Paul Heyman’s machine. At the rate that The Shield makes new enemies, it can’t remain a three- or four-man crew forever unless the WWE truly plans on pushing the current members to the moon, plus a fake-out like that with Miz would be pretty cool, not to mention rare in an age when wrestling characters can remain stuck on one end of the Paragon/Renegade scale for years at a time. The finish we got was serviceable, with Punk’s exact involvement still a (rather shallow) mystery, but there’s always room for improvement.
Of course, it’s always possible that The Shield was never intended to be limited to just those three guys, regardless of what happens with Punk and Heyman. Maybe there are other folks down in NXT about to be called-up and mixed into it. Arguably, Kassius Ohno probably should’ve been slotted into Roman Reigns’ position right from the start, and other dudes like Big E. Langston or Leo Kruger could also work pretty well.
That’s all for this week. Stoke the flames of my ego with a comment below, or perhaps a Like or a Tweet if you truly care about my mental well-being. Until next time, I’m Del, and this is all my fault.
Funny story! I was planning on getting another The Week That Was up last week, buuuut then a little game called Persona 4 Golden game out (only $39.99 for the Playstation Vita, available now! *ding!*) and suddenly a good 40 or 50 hours of my life vanished, like so many “missing time” cases on Coast To Coast AM.
On the plus side, a rather lengthy review did happen to appear on this very site, so it wasn’t a total loss, right? …right? And we do have something of a double-header this week to make up the shortfall, as John Layfield has put together his own “Wiik That Was” for your perusal. See? We’re totally professional!
The Weekly Haul
• Review: Persona 4 Golden – Addition Without Subtraction. Persona 4 was at the top of its class when it was first released in 2008, and this new version for the Playstation Vita is all that and more. With that in mind, my review mainly covers the changes and additions made by Golden, most of which are very positive.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been paying as close an eye to my usual news sources these last couple weeks. Still, here are a couple items for you anyway.
• There was a Walking Dead swimsuit calendar, and it was horrifying. No, it doesn’t feature the show’s female cast. It’s all zombies in bikinis. Really. On the scale of disturbing ideas for calendars, this ranks somewhere between that fireman thing my mother tried to give me once (presumably as a test of my sexuality or something) and that one a bunch of old nude ladies did for some kind of medical research benefit. Brr. (via io9)
• Patrick Stewart pulled a Stephen Colbert impression for PBS. Now here’s fundraising I can get behind! Looks like Stewart’s recent appearances on The Daily Show rubbed off on him. (via TrekMovie)
We shot down a medium UFO, it took both our interceptors to do so, and we’re going to have to clear the insides of this thing. Thor takes another break, despite the last time he did so going disastrously.
The team spots high ground to one side and moves to secure it. Estranged sets herself up the elevated position and the team moves forward. Two thin men stroll into line of sight, HunterF and Est both miss their overwatch shots, but Est doesn’t the second time around. Squad sight snipers on high ground are pretty OP.
Estranged drops the thin man and HunterF retreats to better cover… uncovering two sectoids. Pontiff run and guns his way over and shotguns one, the other remains at large along with the thin man in another direction. With a couple of troops on overwatch, a suicidal sectoid charges at Pontiff and DHerder guns it down before it can get close.
Another two sectoids show up and one brazenly sits behind a tree daring us to shoot at him. We do, and we miss. The thin man from earlier has swung around to back up the sectoids as well, but Est puts him down. Pontiff moves in to get a shot at the sectoid, but it is overwatching.
It hits for 4 damage, meaning Pontiff’s going to be in the infirmary for a while. DHerder continues to lead by example, lasering the sectoid through a tree for the kill. Pontiff darts back to DH for a little healing spray, and HunterF finishes off the other little grey immigrant.
No other aliens appear on the way into the ship, and even inside the ship it’s in the control room that we find one Outsider. Everyone misses him and he responds in kind. Again most of the team miss, but HunterF claims the kill.
Similar to how Guile’s theme goes with everything, the usage of Seinfeld’s lead-in music and laugh track will somehow make just about anything funny even if it should be impossible. If something was already funny to begin with – shazam! Now there’s an exclamation point on that, like all those old Mega64 podcasts that used the theme as a rimshot.
So, well… here it is. Seinfeld crossed with Game of Thrones, with the expected inclusion of Tyrion slapping Joffrey and Littlefinger being a snarky douche. All enhanced via the magic of sitcoms. You win, internet.
I don’t really know how to explain this, so I guess I’ll follow the breadcrumbs from the very beginning.
Barkley Shut Up and Jam! was a basketball game released in 1994 for the Sega Genesis and SNES starring (of course) Charles Barkley. It was pretty much just an unremarkable NBA Jam clone with Barkley’s face on the box. Nothing worth writing home about, although obviously it struck a chord with some people or I wouldn’t be recounting this history to you now.
14 years later, a small group of amateur developers put together Tales of Game’s Presents Chef Boyardee’s Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa – better known as Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden – using the RPG Maker and Game Maker software.[ref]For those of you not in the know, these tools are the game development equivalent of stone knives and bearskins.[/ref] It gained considerable notoriety due to being ridiculous, hilarious, and completely batshit insane.
So that brings us to today, as a Kickstarter campaign has begun to fund a proper Gaiden sequel dubbed The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa. Or, y’know. “Barkley 2.”
If any of this made sense, go throw a few dollars at the project, assuming post-apocalyptic basketball-themed Japanese RPGs not made in Japan are your thing. Maybe it’ll scratch an itch you never knew you had.
Pledge $100 and you’ll even score yourself this amazing body pillow!
Yep. This is happening.[ref]For real! Barkley 2 was officially funded as of December 28th 2012, earning $120,335 in pledges. The goal was a mere $35,000.[/ref]
Nicolas Cage is one prolific dude. With over 60 films under his belt since 1980, he’s probably even more deserving of that old Samuel L. Jackson joke on Family Guy than Mr. Jackson was, though cameo appearances in older or more iconic films have often escaped him. Not being born yet carries certain professional disadvantages.
Well, no more! Pleated Jeans has the solution with the re-edit above. As always, Wrath of Khan is woefully underrepresented, but whatever. This is still a pretty good start.
Welcome back to RAW Rambling, brothers. This week I’m going to try something a little different in the interest of context. If you’re not a regular follower of this wacky wrestling thing that I’m ranting about here every week, check out the new Quick ‘n’ Dirty paragraph situated right below last week’s recap. There I’ll provide a basic rundown of the show’s developments so that when you make your way down to the meat of the column, it might make a little more sense – as if wrestling was ever sensical to begin with.
When we last saw our heroes: The squick quotient was upped into the stratosphere by John Cena and AJ Lee with an extended in-ring slobbering session. Dolph Ziggler, perhaps on behalf of the audience, took that moment to pounce, which led to Cena reinjuring himself in the ensuing chase. That’s what happens when you try to run with a boner; the low-top sneakers probably didn’t help either.
Meanwhile! CM Punk and Paul Heyman celebrated Punk’s 365th day as WWE champion. A wild Ryback appeared, but so did the uplifted NXT trio of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and ALL-CAPS DEAN AMBROSE, allowing the beatdown finish from Survivor Series to be repeated for the benefit of those smart enough not to spend money on pay-per-view events. It was super effective.
The Quick ‘n’ Dirty: This week, the aforementioned trio was packaged as The Shield and their goals established as “correcting injustices” and “fighting dishonours”. I guess my next Klingon character in Star Trek Online will have to be named Dean Ambrose now. They took out Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Ryback (again) to close the show, much to the bewilderment of onlooking CM Punk. The John Cena/AJ Lee “scandal” storyline also continued to sputter along. No closure there. In romantic angles that haven’t been ruined yet, Rosa Mendes and Alberto Del Rio are still chasing each other. Elsewhere, Big Show and Seamus are set to beat each other silly with chairs at TLC; Tamina Snuka knocked Alicia Fox down a peg (so that’s -1 pegs, if you’re counting); Damien Sandow killed a little time taking Zack Ryder apart; Khali and Hornswoggle are a wacky pair, but can they get along in the suburbs?!
• Ryback functions pretty well as a curtain-jerker, but he might be even better as a Mortal Kombat-style overseer who just sits at ringside and randomly yells slogans at people. “Wake up” and “finish it” just need a bonus stage quote to complete the triad. This would be preferable to letting him shout/pant into a live microphone. Very few people here would benefit from a manager more than Ryback. Apparently, chanting three words over and over throughout a commercial break exerts him enough to start sweating all over the place.
• Vickie Guerrero’s title of “managing supervisor” is the new “assistant to the regional manager”. Dwight Shrute would own this place.
• Memo to Michael Cole: “swoggled” is not a thing, so please stop trying to make it a thing. Bonus drinking game rule: drink whenever the WWE tries too hard to force a talking point into popular usage. “Wildcat Kofi Kingston” alone could put you in a coma these past few weeks. A nice, comfortable, warm little coma.
• Rosa Mendes swaps between languages so frequently she could be a character in a bad episode of Firefly. If there were bad episodes of Firefly. Does “Safe” count? That one had by far the thickest and most awkward uses of bilingualism on that show.
• While I’m dropping old TV references all over the place: The Great Khali is Kramer and Hornswoggle is Mickey. That’s the only way I can accept this pairing. Have Hornswoggle start flying off the handle at people for no reason, it might work. Anyway, keeping Khali around only makes sense if he’s used to make Alberto Del Rio and others look good, so all’s well tolerable at the moment. Anything more than that and I’ll just let Barney Stinson here explain my feelings for me.
• Paul Heyman’s “innocent until proven guilty” was perfect. This cat could act circles around a lot of people in Hollywood if he weren’t so firmly entrenched in the wrestling world. Is it too much to hope for that he’ll be around in a highly visible, dialogue-heavy role until the end of time, and somehow not get himself on the wrong side of management like he usually does? Watching this guy chew scenery is one of my only reliable excuses to keep tuning in every week.
• The interview with Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose accomplished exactly what it needed to: they exposed Ambrose’s speaking abilities to that 95% of the audience who never watched FCW; Rollins as the vaguely CM Punk-ish figure (some very similar inflections and mannerisms there; hopefully the Jeff Hardy prediction doesn’t come true); and Reigns was very wisely reserved, which I suppose makes him the Batista of the group. Bonus points for referencing Nexus and shooting down the annoying NWO meme that’s been going around.
• Oh, and those three collectively are now called The Shield, and their philosophy is somewhat Lawful Evil. As usual, the supposed bad guys on this show make a lot more sense than the good guys. That tends to happen when you write actual characters as opposed to walking merch tables.
• I was hoping that Tamina Snuka would keep her Turks bodyguard suit as ring attire. Her old music also doesn’t mesh terribly well with this new twist on her character, so why not go all-out with it? Even just the theme from Reservoir Dogs would be an improvement. I guess what I’m saying here is that she rocked that suit.
• This week in appropriate “what?” chants: any usage during the “scandal” segment of the show. It’s normally one notch below Smackdown’s canned heat on the scale of shit I hate about wrestling, but if they were used as a barometer for crowd opinion (which they aren’t, obviously) I could tolerate the chant’s continued existence. But only because the far more direct “this is boring” fell out of common usage years ago. Too many syllables in “boring”, I suppose.
• Daniel Bryan making fun of CNN’s magical map graphics may be a few weeks too late, but it’s still damn funny anyway. He and Kane should do that every time “the universe” is tasked with a Twitter poll, because it’s an impossible gimmick to take seriously so they may as well have fun with it. Also, I love how Bryan somehow has the ability to manipulate random backstage TV monitors with hand motions. It’s just as ridiculous as Kane’s “fire powers” but far more mundane. That tickles me a bit.
• Memo: any future matches between Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio need to be at least twice as long as this one. These two work well with just about everyone, so of course they’re great against each other. Put ’em in there for an hour, I’d watch that.
• Seeing John Cena go into Hulk Hogan mode while trapped in Dolph Ziggler’s sleeper hold, then immediately segue into an STF like nothing happened, makes me more of a Ziggler fan than ever. Cena’s superhuman act is annoying enough under normal circumstances; watching him pull that while he’s also supposed to be selling an injury just makes my brain hurt.
• If you didn’t watch The Soup’s little WWE crossover episode, it was worth 30 minutes of your time, so go find it. Go figure, it was was much less PG than anything the WWE has produced on their own in the last few years, so that novelty alone was pretty fun. Joel McHale and Daniel Bryan in one room was almost too much hilarity for me to handle. Combinations like these almost make up for McHale’s tiny and overhyped role on Sons of Anarchy this season.
• Seamus the character continues to make no damn sense at all, but Seamus the fighter is getting more and more fun to watch, especially pitted against Antonio Cesaro. That said, Cesaro’s style has already begun to eclipse anything Seamus is doing based on those uppercuts alone. I have to wonder if Cesaro has something on his gloves that go *clack* whenever he punches the air, like the stories I used to hear about Tajiri’s boots, or if he’s really working that stiff. Whatever the case, there are very few spots in the WWE that look better than Cesaro’s badass uppercut counter on a flying opponent, or the one he does while he’s flying.
• Best moment of unintentional comedy: watching Big Show awkwardly rip apart a chair as a show of strength – shades of TNA-era Ric Flair – followed by Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler bending over backwards for the next two segments trying to sell it.
• Damien Sandow is still awesome. Until Cody Rhodes recovers and they can get back to whatever was planned for them originally, that’s all that needs to be said. Each and every week.
• I like how they’re keeping CM Punk on the periphery of The Shield’s antics for now. While there’s obviously an expiration date attached to that holding pattern, it does allow two story branches to be considered: first, they could align The Shield with Punk and Heyman as most are predicting, thus forming the next big heel stable the internet is always clamouring for, which is the most likely choice.
Alternatively, they could use The Shield as a mechanism to turn Punk face again, since his heel turn obviously isn’t working too well and no amount of Jerry Lawler heart attack jokes seem to be helping.
That’s all for this week. Tune in next time for another round of tweaks and tucks, if need be.
In case you missed it the first time around, Persona 4 was an RPG for the Playstation 2 in which you followed a year in the life of Souji SetaYu NarukamiCharlie Tunoku, a Japanese high school student sent to live in the tiny mountain town of Inaba while his parents worked abroad. A series of paranormal murders began upon his arrival, pushing Charlie and his new friends into forming their own “investigation team” – one that involved physically entering television sets and fighting the shadowy aspects of mankind’s collective unconscious.
It was perhaps the biggest hit for Japanese developer Atlus ever, one that has seen its story retold in an array of different media since then, including its own anime series. Now, the remastered Persona 4 Golden has arrived for the Playstation Vita, becoming simultaneously the definitive version of Persona 4 and also the only truly compelling reason to purchase Sony’s troubled handheld aside from the recent expansion of their Playstation Plus service.
Having read those introductory paragraphs, you’ve most likely (and very correctly) guessed that our review for Persona 4 Golden will be almost entirely positive. Congratulations, your Understanding has greatly increased. So with that in mind, let’s focus mainly on Golden’s changes and additions from here on out.
First, the big stuff. There are two new Social Links for players to indulge in. The first is with Marie (pictured above) who falls somewhere between Elizabeth and Margaret on the Persona scale; an outsider who, while naive, isn’t completely removed from the real world. Marie is thankfully the beneficiary of some very strong voice work. The second is Adachi, a familiar face for P4 veterans. Both are important to the overall story rather than being mere side characters.
Both Chie and Teddie have retained their new voices as introduced by Persona 4 Arena and the anime’s English dub. This is a good thing, as both those products are still very recent and switching up the actors any further would be an awkward blow to continuity. That said, I will always prefer the somewhat more mature portrayal of Chie in the original Persona 4, though I do realize that recasting her was a necessity which also opened up new dialogue opportunities with Golden that would’ve been impossible otherwise.
Online functionality has also been added in the form of the Voice and SOS options. It’s not true multiplayer – which is a good thing as such a mode would never fit into Persona 4’s existing structure – but something more akin to Dark Souls and its predecessor. Tapping the Voice button will fill your screen with speech bubbles that indicate what other players did in your current position, which can be useful for weighing your daily options at a glance instead of wandering around town looking for something to do. However, as different players progress through the social aspect of Persona 4 Golden in different ways, there will usually be a few bubbles that won’t reflect your own situation, and you’ll likely have avenues of your own that aren’t shown either.
Touching the SOS button while in a dungeon will send a distress signal over the Playstation Network, which will provide HP and SP regeneration at the beginning of your next battle if responded to by another player. This works basically the same way as the Invigorate skills already in the game, but depending on how many players respond it can be dramatically more effective. If used liberally, SOS could allow your party to remain in the TV world indefinitely without spending any yen or items on healing, depending on your play style. It could also be a huge boon to players using the Very Hard difficulty setting.
Unfortunately, SOS pauses the game for a moment while the signal is going out, which delivers a slight hit to immersion. This naturally becomes more of an issue if your Wi-Fi network is prone to interruptions or if PSN is on one of its little sabbaticals. Of course, Voice and SOS can both be disabled entirely at any point and the game prompts you to make this decision on every startup.
Voice and SOS are also Persona 4 Golden’s only use of the Vita’s touch capabilities, which could be good or bad depending on your outlook. No one likes control gimmicks that feel tacked on, yet minor uses of such functionality often feel like missed opportunites or wasted potential. Personally, I just dislike getting fingerprints on the screen. It’s for that reason that I wonder if this feature could’ve been mapped to the rear touchpad instead, which like most Vita titles, sees no action at all in Persona 4 Golden.
Tweaks to Persona 4’s existing mechanics are almost too numerous to mention although several stand out from the pack as critical. Chief among them is the ability to cherry-pick your new Persona’s skills before fusion, rather than “The Nose” giving you a random assortment of inherited abilities as he did before. This means that the days of backing in and out of the fusion screen until you get the skills you want, a frustrating limitation of this system since its introduction in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, are finally at an end.
Another welcome addition to the fusion system is the Fusion Search screen, wherein a list of all the Personas you can create with your current stock are given to you straight up. You can still select two or more of your Personas blindly the old-fashioned way, but with Search, there isn’t much reason to unless you’re intentionally going for a huge multi-Persona fusion job. This isn’t as big a deal as the skill picker, which had me jumping out of my chair and DX crotch-chopping when I first read about it, but it is nonetheless very nice to have.
Skill cards have also been added to the mix. Obtained via the revamped Shuffle Time minigame, you can register skill cards in the Velvet Room in the same manner as Personas which allows you to purchase them later and apply them to any Persona on your active roster. These cards contain skills ranging from the expected staples to exotics that I don’t recognize at all, some of which could be new to Golden.
In battle, Persona-based combination attacks can now be triggered by All-Out attacks, forming a one-two punch capable of laying-out most basic enemies. Furthermore, S-Link progression now unlocks new skills for your party member’s Personas; for instance, Yukiko’s Persona can now learn Mudo fairly early on, which only helps the never-ending search for enemy affinities and weaknesses. However, a lot of rebalancing has also been done to prevent the player from steamrolling over everything, particularly in the case of bosses, though rest easy knowing that Chie is still perfectly capable of punting a mid-boss into orbit.
A balance pass has also been made over the non-combat gameplay to account for all the new timesinks. New books, new jobs, and new side activities have all been added, many of which can raise more than one social characteristic at once, and the options in this area which already existed have also been improved. Finish reading that Knowledge-boosting manual early on and every subsequent study session will be doubled. Being able to explore the town at night also grants new methods for boosting stats like Diligence and Courage, as does taking a ride on the scooter to neighbouring Okina City.
With so many enhancements made to Persona 4’s already winning marriage of story and mechanics and with nary a strike to be made against it, Persona 4 Golden becomes the definitive edition of P4 – and the strongest weapon in the Playstation Vita’s wanting arsenal – pretty much by default. Fans of Persona in particular and RPGs in general, with a “J” or otherwise, should consider this a no-brainer addition to your library if you happen to own a Vita already. If not, it’s your best justification yet to grab that new chunk of hardware.
For non-fans or the unfamiliar, consider the following words and phrases: steak; TV world; the Meat Dimension; luchador masks; Mysterious Fox and Funky Student; “the secret animal cracker.” There are so many more, and so much depth beyond just the comical aspects. If you want to discover what any of that means for yourself, Persona 4 Golden the best way to do so.