Estimated reading time: 13 minute(s)

Cover of the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook, part of Steam's Persona 4 Golden Digital Deluxe Edition.

Title: Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook
Publishers: Atlus; Sega.
Year of Publication: 2020
Genre: Video Game Artbook
ISBN: N/A
Purchase: Available on Steam as part of the Persona 4 Golden Digital Deluxe Edition.
Notes: The Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook is available exclusively from Steam as part of the Persona 4 Golden Digital Deluxe edition. This is not an affiliate review.

Back in July, I published a review of the original paperback artbook for the classic PlayStation 2 Japanese role-playing game, Persona 4. That artbook, “Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Visual Data,” unexpectedly accompanied my order of Persona 4 in 2010. Persona 4 has been re-released twice since the original game in the form of the remastered Persona 4 Golden, first for the PlayStation Vita, and second for PC via Steam last June. In my conclusion to the original review, I noted that Atlus was offering a digital Persona 4 Artbook as part of a deluxe edition of the Steam release of the game, for an extra $5.

At the time I reviewed the original Persona 4 artbook, I had not yet purchased the Steam version of Persona 4 Golden, much less the digital deluxe version, for reasons that I will detail in the final section of this article. I ended up purchasing the Persona 4 Golden Digital Deluxe Edition package on Steam a few weeks ago when it was on sale – all for about $17. Below, I will review the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook before offering the brief story of why I decided to purchase it now.

Please note that this Artbook review does not spoil the story of Persona 4 Golden – as I explain in the review proper.

Finally, before I begin, please note that I have never seen a copy of the “Persona 4: Official Design Works” artbook, and for that reason cannot compare it to either the Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Visual Data or the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook.

How to Purchase the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook

The only way to purchase the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook is by purchasing the Digital Deluxe Edition of Persona 4 on Steam. To the best of my knowledge, it is not officially available elsewhere. The base game, which can be purchased without the extras, costs $20 when it is not on sale. The Digital Deluxe Edition, which comes with the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook and Digital Soundtrack, runs for $25. I purchased the Digital Deluxe Edition on sale for $17 (the base game was $15 for the sale).

Accessing the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook After Purchase

The Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook and Soundtrack appear in Persona 4’s local files on the computer after installing. Users can find the local files for Persona 4 and any other installed games through their computer’s file explorer. The game’s local files can also be accessed easily through the Steam application. In Persona 4’s case, a user can right-click on Persona 4 in his or her Steam library, scroll down to “Manage” on the right-click menu, and then select Browse Local Files. While I am sure that there are more efficient ways of finding any files on one’s computer, this should suffice for all normal purposes.

In the local files, there will be a folder titled “EXTRAS.” This folder contains a folder with the nine-track digital soundtrack and a PDF document titled “P4G_ARTBOOK_v5.pdf.” To what should be no one’s surprise, the PDF is the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook.

Screenshot of the "EXTRAS" folder in Steam Persona 4 Golden local files - taken from computer using KDE's Dolphin File Manager.
This screenshot, taken from my computer, shows the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook in my local files for Persona 4 Golden. At the top, you can see the full file path as it appears on my computer, my username omitted. My computer runs the Manjaro Linux distribution as its OS with the KDE desktop environment. The file explorer in use is KDE’s Dolphin File Manager.

General Overview of the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook

The PDF file for the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook has 18 pages, making it just less than one-quarter the size of the 100-page physical artbook that accompanied the original Persona 4. The first page of the PDF serves as the cover, having identical cover art to Persona 4 for Steam itself with a warning in the corner that the artbook contains potential spoilers.

The background for all of the pages in the artbook is constant. The page background is dominated by Persona 4’s trademark yellow, with the faint outline of a TV set in the background, which represent’s the game’s TV world. The bottom and right corners of each page feature two rainbow arcs.

A Note on Lack of Images in this Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook Review

In my review of the Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Visual Data, I included a limited set of images from the book to give readers an idea of what it had to offer. That artbook, of course, was a promotional tie-in with the original Persona 4, and while there are still used copies available for re-sale, it was never officially sold separate from Persona 4.

Unlike the Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Visual Data, which is now something of a historic curiosity, the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook is available for anyone to purchase on Steam, the largest computer game distribution platform. For that reason, combined with the fact that the Artbook is only 18 pages long, I will not include any images from the Digital Artbook other than the cover in this post. The review will describe every page of the Digital Artbook in great detail, and thus should give prospective buyers and curious passersby alike a clear and distinct idea of what the Artbook includes and omits.

A Spoiler-Free Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook Review

For its part, this review will be entirely spoiler free – lest one would be surprised to find that all the characters who appear on the cover of Persona 4 Golden are potential playable characters. In the next section, I note that there are potential spoilers on pages 8-9, 12-13, and 14-17. I will discuss those sections in a way that spoils nothing beyond what might be disclosed on the game’s cover art. Thus, new and old Persona 4 Golden players alike may read the review to see if they are interested in purchasing the Digital Deluxe Edition of Persona 4 Golden.

Spoilers in the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook

As the front cover suggests, the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook does contain some spoilers regarding certain characters. For that reason, I would include the front cover in advising players new to Persona 4 and Persona 4 Golden to complete the game before going through the artbook. With that being said, the digital artbook contains fewer spoilers than the original Persona 4 artbook.

Pages 8 and 9 of the PDF contain significant spoilers relating to two of Persona 4 Golden’s major characters. Pages 12 and 13 contain minor spoilers regarding the “personas” wielded by the protagonist and his party members. The bonus artwork on pages 14-17 may potentially spoil a fact about one of the main characters that is more obviously spoiled on page 9 for those who study the images carefully.

The artbook does not contain many meaningful spoilers for players who completed the original Persona 4 but never completed Persona 4 Golden for PlayStation Vita. There are two things in the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook that are unique to Persona 4 Golden. First, the Digital Artbook includes Marie, a character unique to Persona 4 Golden. While Marie is new, her addition to Persona 4 Golden was one of the game’s top selling points. Nothing included about Marie, who appears only on pages 11 and 16, spoils her character or provides any information beyond what Atlus used to advertise Persona 4 Golden when it was initially released. Pages 12-13, which depict all of the personas that the protagonist’s party members can use, includes some different personas than those that appeared in Persona 4.

On the whole, the artbook is generally safe to read for those who only played the PlayStation 2 Persona 4, but those players may consider skipping pages 12-13 in an excess of caution.

Sections of the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook

In between the front and back covers, the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook is best thought of as having five sections.

Pages 2-9 of the PDF feature the protagonist and the player’s party members. Pages 10-11 have images for five significant supporting characters. Pages 12-13 have artwork for the personas used by the protagonist and the party members. Pages 14-17 are used for artwork depicting the characters that is not used in the game itself, with one exception on page 17. Finally, page 18 has special artwork for the back cover along with a copyright notice.

Below, I will assess each of the sections and, where appropriate, compare them to the Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Visual Data.

Pages 2-9: Protagonist and Party Members

The protagonist and each of the party members in Persona 4 Golden has one full page from pages 2-9 of the PDF. Each page in this section has the same structure.

The left side of the page shows an in-game portrait of the character taken from when the player triggers an “all-out attack,” the right side of the page shows the character’s starting persona. (For those who are unfamiliar with the Persona series, a “persona” is a sort of monster character that each character uses in battle.) The character’s name appears in wide, blocky font, at the very top left of the page, above the all-out attack portrait.

The top-center of each character page features three boxes with sketches of the characters – mostly early concept art, but in some cases the sketches that are close to the character’s final appearance. The bottom-center of the page depicts four in-game portraits of the character along with dialogue text boxes.

Unlike the Persona 4 Visual Data Artbook, there are no comments on the character pages.

Comparing Pages for Main Character in Digital Artbook to the Original Artbook

Because the all-out attack portraits were only added in Persona 4 Golden, they are new to the Digital Artbook. These portraits are more attractive than the 3D character models used in the original artbook, so this counts as an improvement. The Persona models themselves are unchanged from the original artbook, although in that instance, they were featured in a different section than the main character pages.

While the original Persona 4 artbook had more early character sketches, a few of the sketches included in the Digital Artbook did not appear in the original. Pages 2, 3, 5, 8, and 9 feature at least one sketch that was not included in the Persona 4 Visual Data. The strongest new entrants are found on pages 2 and 3. Page 2 features an intense sketch of the protagonist, ready to fight, while wearing a headband. Page 3 features a very striking profile sketch of one of the main characters, Chie Satonaka, which is, in my view, the best and most aesthetic character stretch in either Persona 4 artbook.

The sketches for each character are well organized to show how the character designs evolved throughout Persona 4’s early development. Even had I not seen many of the sketches in the Persona 4 Visual Data, the newly included sketches for the protagonist and Chie stood out as highlights.

Pages 10-11: Supporting Character Pagers

Page 10 features Nanako and Dojima, the two characters who the protagonist lives with during the events of Persona 4. I examine these two characters in some mostly spoiler-free detail in a separate article.

The top left of page 10 features their names in the same style as the names for the protagonist and party members on pages 2-9. The left side of the page features the same character portraits for Nanako and Dojima that were used in the original Persona 4 artbook, pictured below.

Picture of Nanako and Dojima page in Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Visual Data as part of a composition.
Picture of the Dojima and Nanako page in the original Persona 4 Golden Artbook as part of a composition for one of my earlier articles.

The top right of the page features early design sketches of Dojima and Nanako respectively. These sketches appeared in the original Persona 4 Visual Data. The middle-right side of the page shows in-game dialogue portraits of both Dojima and Nanako, highlighting different expressions and outfits. These too are identical to those found in the original Persona 4 artbook.

The bottom-right of the page 10 includes two pieces new to the Persona 4 Golden Digital Art Book. The first is an austere sketch of Dojima smoking, and the second is a sketch of Nanako with a soft smile, each reflecting their final designs. Both of these sketches are quite good and the best depictions of the characters in either Persona 4 artbook.

Page 12 features only 3D character models of three other key supporting characters, Igor, Margaret, and the Persona 4 Golden exclusive Marie. The Igor and Margaret art is identical to that found in the Persona 4 Visual Data.

Pages 12-13: Persona Evolutions

Pages 12 and 13 show 3D models for all of the personas that the protagonist’s party members can acquire throughout the game, along with two unique personas for the protagonist. Some of these personas are unique to Persona 4 Golden. As I noted, these pages may include minor spoilers for people who played Persona 4 for PlayStation 2 but never played Persona 4 Golden in its first iteration for PlayStation Vita. While these pages are comprehensive and neatly organized, the lack of anything beyond the 3D sprites makes this one of the least interesting sections of the Digital Artbook.

Pages 14-17: Additional Illustrations of the Main Cast

The entirety of page 14 is a full-color picture of the protagonist and the game’s party members lying on their backs and looking at the camera, with the exception of one character who is asleep and another who is lying on her stomach. It is a good depiction of the whole cast, and the drawing brings out each character’s personality well.

Page 15 is devoted to an illustration of five characters – Teddie, Dojima, Nanako, the protagonist, and Youske, huddled together while Dojima talks under the blue sky. The protagonist and Youske are both wearing their school gym uniforms, suggesting some sort of activity.

Page 16 features a tangram collage of pictures of the characters with the protagonist, each of the party members, and Marie appearing. While most of the individual images are independent of each other, the right side of the page features an irritated Chie in one section glaring at Teddie in another, as he appears to reach for Marie in a third. That and the image of another character, party member Rise Kujikawa, singing, are the highlights of the page 16 collage.

Finally, page 17 is split down the middle with two equal-sized images. The left side features a unique image of five of the main characters, with the protagonist in between two characters walking in one group, while two of the other party members walk and talk in the distance. The right side features an image of all the characters’ all-out attack portraits together. While it is well-constructed, these are of course the same portraits that were used in the character pages for page 2-9 of the PDF.

Page 18: Back Cover

The back cover image is a black TV – befitting Persona 4’s theme – with a mostly black-and-white Teddie flexing his muscles as he leaps forward (Teddie, a walking, talking, bear suit, is a party-member who serves a secondary purpose as one of Persona 4’s mascots.)

Overall Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook Review

I was somewhat disappointed to find that the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook had only 18 pages and lacked any discussion or commentary at all. Furthermore, the lack of any artwork for many of the memorable characters who the protagonist can get to know throughout the game’s long story, was a sad omission.

With that being said, it was well-organized. Despite the lack of commentary, the choices of sketches to accompany the protagonist and the main cast showed how the character designs evolved over time in an effective way. As I noted, two later sketches for the protagonist and Chie, along with sketches for the supporting characters Nanako and Dojima, were particularly striking.

The illustrations included at the end were a nice addition, with the tangram collage on page 16 standing out from the rest of the group.

I think that the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook was a great value at the sale price, wherein it and the soundtrack only added $2 to the game. At full price, $5 is a little bit high, especially if the purchaser is not also interested in the nine-track soundtrack. Given how often Steam games go on sale, Persona 4 Golden included, I would generally advise waiting for a sale in any case unless one has a reason to purchase a copy immediately (e.g., to play over a vacation). Despite its short length, there are some highlights for any Persona 4 fan to enjoy, and most Persona 4 Golden players likely never obtained, much less still have, a copy of the original Persona 4 Visual Data.

My Brief Persona 4 Golden Steam Acquisition Story

Having completed my review of the Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook, please indulge me as I tell the brief story of why I purchased Persona 4 Golden when I did.

An Anticipated Purchase Deferred

Persona 4 Golden is, as I have noted previously, one of my favorite all time video games, and one that I will write more about here at The New Leaf Journal in the future. Thus, despite the fact that I did complete Persona 4 Golden over the course of several months of playing with my distinguished New Leaf Journal colleague, Victor V. Gurbo, I had an interest in purchasing it to play on my computer. Furthermore, having it on my computer would make it easier for me to capture content for publication on this very site.

Alas, when Persona 4 Golden was released for Steam over the summer, I was still on my old computer, which had lacked a game-suitable video card for several years. Furthermore, while I was already planning to build a new computer, I had decided that I would use a Linux operating system instead of Windows, raising questions of compatibility regarding Persona 4, which does not natively support Linux.

Jumping on a Steam Sale

Eventually, I built my computer after some unfortunate hardships. Having noted that Linux users appeared to be having mixed results running Persona 4, I decided to wait until it was at least on sale. In October, I saw a sale, and decided to check ProtonDB, a site where users who are far more Linux-savvy than I am test Windows games on Linux and post their results and fixes. I saw that a couple of users running similar Linux distributions to mine had listed a somewhat long list of steps to make Persona 4 Golden run properly (note that without these steps, one cannot even make it to the start screen). That, combined with the sale and the prospect of reviewing the Digital Artbook here, inspired me to purchase the game.

I spent one long evening trying to implement all of the steps to make Persona 4 Golden run. After failing a couple of times due to my misapplying a couple of steps, I was finally able to get Persona 4 Golden to start properly. That was very good. Although I enjoyed the Artbook and writing an in-depth review of it, I must admit that I would have been a bit disappointed to have spent $17 on an 18-page PDF and nine Persona 4 Golden songs.

Looking Forward to Future Persona 4 Golden Content

For now, I will conclude this post and reserve my story of getting Persona 4 Golden to run in Linux until I make sure that the game proper works – for I have not actually started a new playthru. But assuming that the game works in full, I look forward to playing it again and using that run to write about some of Persona 4’s most interesting character interactions and themes, content that I hope might be interesting for Persona 4 players and those who do not play games at all alike.