Persona 4 was one of my favorite games of all time, so when they announced that they were making an expanded version for the Vita, I knew I had to buy the system. Well, P4G finally came out this week and I'm in love all over again. First I'll talk about Persona 4 in general for those of you who haven't played it (or Persona 3, which is very similar), then I'll go into specifics about the Vita version. Sorry that this is a bit longer than a standard BIIF; if you want the tl;dr just skip to the end.
Persona 4 is almost like two games; part of it is a traditional dungeon crawler RPG that, even on Normal, is a good deal harder than the average Final Fantasy. You and three of your friends fight monsters using your Persona; for the side characters, this is manifested as some inner facet of their personality. However, the main character has the ability to possess multiple Personas (and combine them to make new ones), which leads to some Pokemon-esque gameplay albeit with a good deal more depth. The added difficulty comes from the fact that you cannot simply use basic attacks to kill things, even trash mobs, unless you're incredibly over-leveled. Instead, you have to use your elemental attacks to target their weaknesses; use the right element and the enemy will be stunned. Even stat debuffing abilities, which are usually useless in RPGs, can mean the difference between life and death in P4. All of these abilities cost mana (or in the case of the stronger physical attacks, health), and restoring mana is a costly proposition when available, resulting in a war of attrition as you push your way through the dungeons.
The other half of the game is an anime-style school simulation: you join clubs, make friends, date girls (sorry ladies, they didn't add a Female main character to P4G like they did in P3P), and take exams. Your main character has a set of non-combat stats that you have to improve as well (Knowledge, Diligence, Expression, Understand and Courage) which unlock certain aspects of school life. Every major character you encounter has a Social Link that represents your relationship with them; when you first meet them it starts at 1, and advances to 10 as you become closer with that person (either becoming friends or lovers in some cases). Each character/Social Link is tied to one of the Trumps of that Tarot, and every Persona also has a Tarot association; as you advance the Social Links, Personas you create that match will be stronger.
The game also features a calender system; every day is split into daytime and evening. The daytime is when most Social Links are available, while night time is usually reserved for improving your school stats; exploring the dungeon consumes an entire day, and you have to clear each dungeon by a certain date or else it's Game Over. And of course, there are certain story segments that will consume days (or in the case of exams, weeks) without letting you advance your Social Links. This all creates an interesting balance of gameplay, encouraging you to push as far in the dungeon as possible every time (so you have more free time to work on your Social Links and your school stats) but limiting your progress because fighting a boss while low on mana is suicide.
So, that's Persona 4 in a nutshell; the Vita version has several changes. We'll start with the bad: there's a new online feature that allows you to ask other people for help. After every battle you can tap a button on the touch screen to send out a customized-with-limits message to everyone in your region playing online at the time. When you start your next battle, your whole party will be healed for ~5% hp and mana per person who tapped your request. This trivializes the entire point of the long dungeon grinds, the abilities/items that grant regeneration, and the cost of mana restoration in the dungeon. I'm playing on Normal (I'm not sure if it's disabled on the harder modes) and I stopped using it because it's such a game changer in terms of difficulty. It's also stupid because this is a handheld system; suddenly the game is much harder when you're out and not in a WiFi hotspot.
I could think of a hundred ways to make this system suck less, but the reality is that in six months it'll be a non-issue when there aren't a ton of people playing.
Fortunately, every thing else they've changed for Golden is an improvement. There are at least two new Social Links and accompanying Persona: one for Adachi and the other for a new tsundere girl in the Velvet Room, Marie. There's a new TV Viewer feature that lets you replay cutscenes (which all made it into P4G intact unlike P3P), get some extra story info, and even listen to concerts of the game's excellent soundtrack. The other online feature is called Voice; similar to what Atlus did in Catherine, it lets you see how other players spent whatever day you're on; this isn't often useful but it's interesting to look at from time to time. I assume they've added some extra endgame/new-game-plus content as well, but haven't verified that because I don't want to spoil anything relating to the new Social Links.
All in all, this is a good port of an excellent game. Buy it. Buy a Vita for it.