You know in gaming it is very rare that you see two totally different games combine together into one amazing experience. Well that is what the folks at Arc Systems Works and Atlus are trying to do with Persona 4 Arena by taking Arc System Works’ great fast-paced 2D fighting then mixing it with the Persona 3 and 4 style, music, and story. To find out how it turned out Read More.
Not too often I come into a fighting game excited about the story mode, in Persona 4 Arena that is the first thing I did after taking a look at the awesome, stylized menus. The Story takes place two months after the events of Persona 4 with the main character Yu Narukami returning on an adventure to Inaba to celebrate Golden Week (holiday in Japan) with the friends he made solving the murder incident from inside the television world from last school year. When he arrives, it is a rainy night and rumors of the Midnight Channel returning are circling around. The Midnight Channel appears when you look at a blank TV screen at Midnight when it’s raining and what you see is what’s happening inside the TV world such as a person being murdered if fog sets in after several rainy nights. What Yu ends up seeing is something about a crazy fighting tournament involving him and his friends. The next morning, two of his friends are missing, most likely kidnapped, and thrown into the TV world. Yu along with the rest of the Investigation Team must go into the TV world and solve the case.
The story is pretty interesting, managing to pull in characters from Persona 3 and 4. There are several surprises, especially the first few times around, and I highly recommend you at least go through enough character’s perspectives to unlock the story from the perspective of Labrys because it’s the real focal point of it all. My main problem with the story is after seeing it from the perspective of about half of the available fighters, you are going to be seeing a lot of repeated information just from a different point of view. Another gripe I have is if you have played Persona 3 and 4, then the characters dealing with some of the same insecurities again can feel like filler, though new players will probably love how deep the characters end up being. As a whole, you’re not getting something as deep as you would get from an Atlus RPG or adventure title such as Catherine, but the story will keep you entertained with it’s believable characters and simple, yet compelling plot.
The overall presentation for Persona 4 Arena is great, but not without a few issues. The bulk of the story is told just like a visual novel, text scrolling on backgrounds with occasional character profiles in frame or anime cutscenes thrown in to break things up. Many of these cutscenes repeat themselves, so after a while you will be skipping them on your fifth or sixth time through with a new character. That said, the background art is very good and anime cutscenes live up to the high standard set by previous Persona games and Catherine. The menus all look sleek having the Persona 3 and 4 vibe while music from both games plays in the background. As for how the gameplay itself looks, I don’t think from an artistic stand point there is a better looking game this year. Bright colors are everywhere, the 2D character animation looks like something straight out of high quality anime, special attacks and instant kills fill up the whole screen filling you with a sense of awe. The music is mostly repeated from previous games which is perfect, I wouldn’t want anything else; what little new music there fits in with the rest. It all sounds superb because well it was superb five and six years ago when it was new. The sound effects are also great being pulled straight from Persona 3 and 4. The voice acting continues to be a high point for Atlus and the majority of the cast from the previous games return with stellar performances. The few characters who do have new voice actors do a solid job filling the void with only one change really being noticeable.
Now the catchy music, brilliant visuals, and a compelling story would not mean much if the fighting wasn’t top notch. Well, good news! Persona 4 Arena is right up there with Blaz Blue as a top 2D anime-styled fighter. It plays very similar to Blaz Blue in fact just with tweaks to add a Persona twist or to make it easier for JRPG fans transitioning over to the world of fighting games. There are four main attacks: light, hard, persona hard, and persona light. You have a quick dodge move, an instant block, and an all out attack that creates the cartoonish dust cloud effect from the Persona 3 and 4 all out attack. One twist from the Persona games brought to the fighting game world is aliments, so other characters can poison and paralyze you among other things to make the fight harder. The final big mechanic I want to mention is instant kills when it is match point and you have beaten your opponent down to a certain point, you can do an instant kill attack, if it connects, you go into a gorgeous looking cinematic of your character doing something awesome to finish the fight. Even with all these systems in place, it’s all fairly balanced with each character being pretty good at certain things such as Yukiko being great at range while Kanji is all about fighting up close. I would say that it is perfect for people new to the fighting game genre, the training mode is very deep and will walk you through everything you need to know; while challenges will help you master these skills with each character. If that wasn’t enough, there is an auto combo button to give new players a chance against veterans, allowing for the timing on most combos to not need to be super precise such as in most fighting games. These things seem minor, but go a long way towards making a fighting game that is deep, but can be picked up by anyone. The online works fine with plenty of titles to unlock with an easy to understand ranking system. As a fighting game, it really is the complete package for the hardcore fans and those who are just interested because of the story or characters.
Persona 4 Arena is a fantastic fighting game, though what makes it really special are the things it does that most fighters don’t. It welcomes new players and embraces having a good story. Yes, the story mode after you see it from a few different points of view starts to get dull and if you are not a fan of Persona 3 or Persona 4, some of the things in the game are going to fly right over your head. For those looking for a great looking, fun to play, easy to learn fighting game that actually has a story, you can’t go wrong with Persona 4 Arena .
Final Score: 9.0/10