Persona 4 Arena
Game play - 8.5
Presentation - 9
Story / Creativity - 9
Lifespan - 7.5
Persona 4 Arena is a great medium-level fighting game, seemingly aimed more for beginners to the fighting genre. Anyone who enjoys fighting games more for their cool characters and story will find an excellent buy with this title, but the expert players looking for a greater challenge would be better off with something more along the lines of Blazblue. As a fan of anime and fighting games, I really enjoyed Persona 4 Arena. If those two things interest you as well, you'll find it tough to locate a better experience.
To let everyone know where I’m coming from, I may as well start with my history of the Persona games. Or, more specifically, the lack-there-of. I’ve never actually played any of the previous Persona titles, having said that I was always drawn to the art style and character appearances from the various screenshots and video footage I happen to come across. Even with the animated series that was recently released in North America, it was always one of those things that I thought looked interesting, but never got around to playing. After sitting down with Persona 4 Arena, I’m sorry I didn’t.
Persona 4 Arena was spawned from a creative pool consisting of developers Atlus, and the fighting professionals at Arc System Works. This collaboration works perfectly, with the previous developers of the sleeper hit Catherine, thrown together with the excellent minds behind fighting games like Blazblue and Guilty Gear. All mixed up into a marvelous final product, with a compelling story and satisfying gameplay.
If you’ve played some or all of the earlier Persona games, then you should be able to slid right into things without any difficulty at all. If you’re in my shoes, and this is your first time with this new world, then even you shouldn’t feel lost or confused at all during the lengthy storyline. This is something I quite enjoyed about the single player story. Characters are explained well, and it doesn’t take a lot of thought and back story to feel like you know one of them, and understand where they’re
coming from. The game does a great job at throwing you into what feels like a different world, so the characters are having to figure things out at the same pace that you are, leaving little need for previous establishment.
To anyone that has played Blazblue, the story takes a familiar cue in its execution. Very little of it is actually animated, with plenty of scrolling text and solid picture backgrounds taking the lead. The quality voice acting is pulled off quite nicely though, with the English and Japanese versions both having a solid performance, and the usual over the top anime personalities are fun to listen to. This is all put together to form a complex and deep story for every single character. Impatient players be warned though, as fighting takes a backseat in story mode, so be ready to read for a good chunk of time before you see any action.
When your finally ready to begin fighting, you can choose from one of many familiar but entertaining competitive modes. Atlus and Arc System Works spared no expense when creating fun and lasting content for any fans of the series. Anyone who is entirely about the fighting will spend most of their time in the arcade and versus modes, or by heading online to play against a real live person. Arcade and Versus are just what you would expect from a current-gen fighting game, Arcade being a line up of opponents to get through while following a characters story in quick form, while Versus is a place where you can play locally against a friend on the couch, or choose
a random CPU to go head-to-head with.
Newcomers to the scene are welcomed with open arms, as the developers have organized a series of tutorials and practice areas where you can learn the ropes and tighten your skills. Lesson mode should be your first stop if your new, and it does a great job of showing the player how to move,block, throw, and everything in between. Another mode I found myself entering quite often after lesson mode was Challenge mode. A great way to practice all of those long and tricky combos.
Looking back on my entry into Persona 4 Arena, I found it much easier to get into then say, the last Blazblue game from Arc System Works. Strictly speaking difficulty and control wise, most of the combos aren’t incredibly difficult to pull off. And there is even a nice “auto combo” feature that works well for newcomers, giving them the feel and inspiration to explore the fighting mechanics further. As with any fighting game, it takes a bit of practice, but I never felt that anything was completely impossible. Experts of the genre still have the option for complicated combos, but as for medium and first timers, there is a much larger middle ground to play in without getting turned off from the difficulty.
The presentation is bright and powerful, glowing yellows and eye popping shapes line the entire screen, giving it a very comic book/manga feel. The characters all look close to the same as they always have in the previous games, but the animated backgrounds is where the developers really knocked it out of the park. The maps you can fight on look great, and do a wonderful job of pulling you into the Persona world, making you feel like its a real place you can visit every time you enter a match. As with any Arc system game, the character style makes you feel like your playing an interactive anime, the voice acting and catchy music typical to the genre enhance the experience that much more. Anyone who likes manga, or anime will love the art style of Persona 4 Arena.