Persona 4 has been getting a lot of attention lately. They have an anime in Japan, which will be released here this September, a rerelease of the main game with new features for the Vita, and a fighting game, Persona 4 Arena. This is a great thing since games as good as Persona 4 rarely get the attention and acclaim that it has been getting lately. Persona 4 Arena is a really weird choice for a quasi-sequel to the original game. The original Persona 4 is a turn-based JRPG, which you wouldn’t think would be conducive to the fighting genre, but it is majorly anime-inspired, and the throng of anime-inspired fighting games tell me that it isn’t that big of a stretch. Atlus wisely decided not to develop the game themselves and instead handed over production of the game to Arc System Works, who has had a lot of success in the genre with their Guilty Gear and Blazblue series. So is this a perfect matchup between master RPG makers and master fighter makers, or does Persona 4 Arena feel like so many other failed anime games?
The gameplay in this game is very similar to Blazblue and anyone who is familiar with the works of Arcsys should have no trouble picking this game up. There are thirteen fighters to choose from, seven from Persona 4, four from Persona 3 and two characters that were introduced for this game. If there is one thing that Arcsys fighters are amazing at it’s diversity. Unlike games such as Street Fighter which is full of identical characters, or other fighters, whose mechanics are such that there is little difference between characters, with one exception, all of the characters in Persona 4 Arena are completely unique and many bring unique mechanics to the fight. For example, Naoto brings a fate counter that allows for instant death attacks when it reaches 0, and Yukiko has a counter for fire boosts. There aren’t really any duds in the roster and the cast is rather well balanced. Sure the grappler still stands at the bottom tier, but a good player will still be able to devastate with him.
|Who needs instant death when you have a gun?|
The basic control scheme is as follows. One button for a weak attack, one for strong, one for weak Persona attack, and one for a strong Persona attack. It is a basic setup that works well, and weaker inputs can be combo’d into stronger ones with little trouble. There are all the trappings of a professional fighter: air blocks, throws, cancels, and supers. There are also some great innovations that make the game a lot more user friendly particularly the auto combo system. Basically by pressing weak attack repeatedly, you will launch into a combo which will end in a super if you have enough SP. It isn’t an amazing combo so it will be used less and less as you gain experience, but it is a godsend for new players who couldn’t pull off any combo to save their lives. The auto combo alone makes this the most newbie friendly competitive level fighter on the market right now.
|Yeah…I don’t know either.|
The gameplay modes are pretty standard for an Arcsys fighter. There is a story mode, a training mode, a challenge mode, an arcade mode, a score attack mode (Hard as nails arcade mode) and an online mode. On top of this there is a lessons mode, which is the tutorial, and galleries. While it would have been nice to have a labyrinth mode such as the one present in Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend, this is still head and shoulders above most fighters this generation. Compared to the barebones Street Fighter IV or the laughably low on content Marvel vs. Capcom, Persona 4 Arena looks very good. The lesson and challenge mode go a long way in teaching players how to effectively use their characters for the other modes, and there is plenty of content for the singleplayer. For those who would rather challenge other people, Persona 4 Arena offers all of the modern online comforts such as replays.
|Yes, there will be bear puns.|
|Even a good story won’t explain why Akihiko looks like a crazy hobo.|
Traditionally, the story mode of fighters is not worth even mentioning. Do you really want to know how badly Dissidia was written, or that nothing at all happens in Street Fighter 4? However, like Blazblue before it, Persona 4 really pulls out the stops. The story is a direct sequel to Persona 4 taking place a year after the game. In short, the Midnight Channel appears again and advertises a strange fighting tournament that leads the original crew to spring to action, and for some strangers (Persona 3 characters) to show up unexpectedly. The story is segmented by character, and has branching paths, which include joke endings. More importantly, the story is very long and very well written, with players getting a lot of insight into individual characters. I can say with confidence that Persona 4 Arena has the best story mode of any fighter past or present.
|Voicing a mute character is a practice I can get behind.|
Graphically the game is amazing. Sporting HD sprites the game is a joy to behold. The backgrounds are extremely well animated and add a lot of depth to the game. The animations are fluid and the colours really pop. The soundtrack is also a major plus. Boasting tracks from Persona 3 and 4, it is hard to not enjoy the uniqueness that this brings to the fighter. I dare anyone to not love Reach out for the Truth. The english voice cast is back reprising their roles which is a major plus. Johnny Yong Bosch joins the cast as the voice of Yu Narukami, the mute, player named protagonist of the original Persona 4. The voice cast does a great job. Casts like this make me really wonder why there are people out there that hate all dubs even when they don’t understand Japanese.
To put it simply, Persona 4 Arena is at the pinnacle of what every single fighter should aspire to. It respects its characters and its source material, offers a great online experience that caters to both the casual and competitive crowd, and gives an engrossing story for the singleplayer gamers who don’t care for online. There is absolutely nothing bad about this game, and that is a testament to the world Atlus created and the skill of Arcsys.
– Diverse set of characters
– Good collection of modes
– Solid and innovative mechanics
– Great story
– Beautiful graphics
– Good soundtrack/voice work