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Persona 4 Arena
 

 

STORYTwo months after the ending of Persona 4, Yu Narukami and his friends face a new mystery. The bizarre serial murders that rocked Inaba have been solved, and peace has returned to the quiet countryside town... but it doesn't last for long. During Golden Week, a new rumor begins spreading in town about a mysterious program, the P-1 Grand Prix, that's visible if you look into a turned-off TV on a rainy night. On this televised fighting tournament, high school friends fight one another to the bitter end.

When Yu and the others test this rumor, they see Teddie announcing the beginning of the show: "May the manliest of all men come on down!" With that, the participants are shown, one by one... The Investigation Team is horrified to see their own faces introduced with twisted catchphrases. Could this be another of Teddie's pranks!? The members of the Investigation Team decide to dive into the TV once again to solve the case! What is behind this mysterious TV show?
 

Welcome to the Velvet Room... this place exists between dream and reality.

 
REVIEW
Based on the respected JRPG series, this crispy HD-2D fighter quickly turned heads in the 2D fighting game realm. Known as Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka in Japan, and simply Persona 4 Arena in North America, the title was produced by none other than the BlazBlue team at Arc System Works, and it certainly shows in the game's vivid visual style and robust 2D character sprites. The game's 12 playable characters hail from both Persona 4 and Persona 3, offering solid variety for fans of the series and also presenting a diverse line-up of fighters for newcomers. 

Hot off the heels of the console release of Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend, the ambitious Persona 4 Arena is yet another wild 2D fighter seemingly setting out to distinguish itself from other more traditional fighting games. The gameplay system is expectedly reminiscent to the likes of Blazblue and Guilty Gear, but also presents a plethora of unique mechanics. After running through the games Tutorial (AKA Lesson Mode), you'll realize P4A is chock full of detailed gameplay systems. Seriously, if you think of a gameplay mechanic off the top of your head (besides gems), there's a good chance that it's in this game (or at least something like it). While intimidating at first, the mechanics do offer some interesting options and make for a pretty cool 2D fighting experience.

Similar to the likes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (where Persona likely takes its inspiration from), every character in the game is accompanied by their "Persona," a summonable entity that fighters can call upon at any time during battle. Each character's Persona has a variety of different attacks, which of course will assist or help extend combos. Personas themselves can also be attacked and rendered unusable for a period of time after taking a certain amount of damage. The designs of these Persona creatures will probably look unlike anything you've ever seen before, and are as original as they are bizarre. They all interestingly seem to "compliment" their respective characters, not only in terms of appearance, but their play styles as well.
 

Persona 4 Arena brings new meaning to the words "anime fighting game".

  
Blazblue's casual player-approved "do-something-cool" button allowed new players to easily perform cool-looking (and sometimes effective) moves and combos right off the bat. P4A takes this idea a step further, with a full-fledged "auto combo" system. Basically, repeatedly tapping "A" after a successful first hit will result in a awesome-looking combo, starting with priority attacks into special moves, and ending with a flashy super move... and it's effective. Yes, even a chimpanzee can perform a full combo in P4A with ease! Of course, the deeper elements of the gameplay system do reward the most skilled and studious players. However, as in Blazblue... every character in seems to have their general "gimmick"... strongly suggesting you should play them a certain way. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of that concept or format these days, but thankfully there is some creative breathing room available with plenty of new strategies & combos to discover.

The 4-button layout is a bit odd for a 2D fighter, and can end up feeling a bit clunky if you're using a standard pad... especially considering some of the ridiculous simultaneous 3-button presses. After some practice, the movement and combo system will start to feel intuitive, smooth and responsive. A lot of combos in the game are actually fairly easy to pull off, but of course more advanced ones require very precise timing. Besides the variety of flashy super moves each character can perform, every fighter can execute a Guilty Gear-esk "Instant Kill" move when their meter is completely full and they're low on health. It's one of GGXX's most memorable gameplay nuances, and transfers over to P4A's system pretty well. Some of the Instant Kill moves are cool-looking, but others seem a bit rushed and less inspired.

Persona 4 Arena's large sprites animate very nicely, rivaling those from Blazblue. The 2D sprites overlay interestingly designed backgrounds featuring mainly 3D elements. With eye-catching hit effects and other "anime-esk" visuals to top it all off, Persona 4 Arena is a very sharp looking game.
A lot of things about Persona 4 Arena can just be described as "snazzy". Like Blazblue, it's pretty much impossible to play this game and look bad as a player. At any given time, there's a lot going on on the screen at once, and I'd imagine that a novice onlooker could hardly follow the action (and probably wouldn't imagine how easy it is to pull off some of the flashy combos). If you like your fighting games with a shit-ton of flashy lights to compliment all the completely random shit going on, Persona 4 Arena is your game.
 

The fighting genre short on HD 2D fighting games? Not anymore!

 
Yet again taking a page out of Blazblue's successful recipe, P4A's Story Mode weighs in at nearly 30 hours all together. The story is a direct sequel to Persona 4, so anyone who has played through the original RPG (like myself) should be able to understand what's going on at least. P4A's story mode is your standard fare (for this type of game), featuring sharp, mostly-stagnant character artworks on top of many different hand-drawn 2D backgrounds. As you might've guessed, there's a lot of reading.... A LOT of reading. In fact, Story Mode could better be described as "Reading Mode". There's text, more text, modern Japanese scenery, well dressed Japanese kids, some animated cut-scenes sprinkled in, and... a lot more text!  Then once you finally get to a fight, it's a laughably easy battle and one round. Then it's right back to reading text.

The most impressive aspect of Story Mode is that the character voiceovers can be heard in both English and/or Japanese. Considering the vast amount of dialogue, this is quite enthralling and all... but realistically, if you actually took the time to listen to the characters speak without skipping anything, I'd estimate you'd be waiting 30-40 minutes in between each actual battle of Story Mode... and that's just insane. Of course you can quickly and easily skip all of the spoken dialogue, but I'm just making a point here. I thought I was playing a fighting game for a minute... not a read-along storybook? I mean seriously, even most JRPGs I've played have more "action" in between such long dialogue sessions.

As someone who completed Persona 4 Golden, I find P4's characters to be likeable... but yet, not particularly exciting, at times. However, being introduced to the characters in Persona 4 Arena's Story Mode before playing the RPG doesn't really do the trick to draw you in. Alas, I'd say playing the RPG is pretty much a requirement to get the proper effect of P4A's story mode, but even then... it's a hell of a lot to sit through, and personally I'd rather be actually "playing" the game disc that's spinning around in my system. No disrespect Arc System Works, the effort behind P4A's story is definitely fascinating, and gives many Persona 4 / RPG fans another reason to come back to fighting games.

Persona 4 Arena's
other console modes include: Arcade, Versus, Score Attack, Training, Challenge, Network, Theater and Gallery... most definitely an impressive line-up for a new console fighter. Arcade Mode is reminiscent of (you guessed it) Blazblue, featuring cool pre-fight interactions and unique spoken dialogue after fights. There's also a semi-annoying announcer that commentates as the fight unfolds. Again, all of the character voices can be swapped between English and Japanese, both of which are entertaining to listen to. The Arcade Mode endings sadly don't offer much besides stagnant character artworks and reused backgrounds, but I suppose that can be forgiven considering the effort put into game's actual Story Mode. Even so, I expected a little more gratification after running through the Arcade Mode.

The other modes serve their purpose in breaking up the monotony of traditional 1-VS-1 fighting, and are all designed with heart. Challenge Mode is very similar to that of SF4's, providing combo challenges for each and every character. These challenges also offer a full video demonstration, which is very appreciated by players looking to master a particular character. Persona 4 Arena features the netcode as the console versions of the Blazblue series, which is generally considered good. I haven't played too much of this game online, but I did appreciate the cool online title feature where you can customize your own unique "title".

Page Updated: April 2nd, 2015
Developer(s): Arc System Works
Publisher(s): Atlus
Platform(s): Arcade, Playstation 3, PSN, Xbox 360, XBL
Release Date(s): Mar. 1st, 2012        ( Arcade)
July 26th, 2012
       ( PS3/360)
Aug. 7th, 2012
        ( PS3/360)
May 10th, 2013
      ( PS3/360)
Characters Yu Narukami, Yosuke Hanumara, Chie Satonaka, Yukiko Amagi, Kanji Tatsumi, Naoto Shirogane, Akihiko Sanada, Aigis, Teddie, Mitsuru Kirijo, Elizabeth, Labrys

Featured Video:

Related Games: Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax, Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend, Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, Guilty Gear X: Accent Core Plus, King of Fighters XIII, Arcana Heart 3, SSF4: AE, Sengoku Basara X, Hokuto No Ken, Skullgirls, AquaPazza, Yatagarasu
  

Gameplay Engine  8.5 / 10
Story / Theme  9.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.0 / 10
Animation  8.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  8.0 / 10
Innovation  7.5 / 10
Art Direction  9.5 / 10
Customization  8.5 / 10
Options / Extras  8.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  8.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  7.0 / 10
Characters  8.0 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

 8.5 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version

 

Final Words: Persona 4 Arena offers interesting characters, a catchy & clean art style, a gameplay system that's very accessible and in with the times, and the level of presentation you'd expect from the makers of Blazblue. It may not appeal to everybody, and although it's a through-and-through 2D fighter, the numerous and diverse mechanics are anything but traditional. It's potentially an intimidating game to get into at first, but even a casual player who's not interested in playing it "tournament style" can enjoy the game for reasons I previously mentioned.

I suppose that's where I am. P4A isn't the type of game I'd ever enter a tournament for, but I appreciate all the aesthetics, especially the "retro" visual flare, awesome artwork, and effort behind the presentation. After learning more about some of the characters when Persona 4 Arena was announced, I decided to pick up Persona 4: Golden for PS Vita. While I don't think the story or characters are the best I've seen from a JRPG, I do think that "overall," Persona 4 is one of the best RPG's I've ever played. On that note, I highly recommend P4: Golden to any RPG fan. Anyhow, this isn't a review of the RPG... so let's move on! 

Like Blazblue, the soundtrack of Persona 4 Arena shouldn't be overlooked, and manages to stand out in the genre. I actually enjoy P4A's music more than I thought I would... there are definitely some catchy tunes in this game. Getting a remix soundtrack CD for free with a pre-order was also a nice accompaniment... thanks Arc System Works!

Persona 4 Arena is so very... "out there"... but it's good! Many of its characters do share certain "qualities" of fighting game archetypes, but all of them are really unlike any characters you've ever seen. Watching Kanji whooping ass with his steel chair or Teddie (and his 73 facial expressions) flying around the screen is pure entertainment. If you're a fan of "off the wall" fighters like Guilty Gear, Arcana Heart, Blazblue... you might just have one more 2D fighting game to add to your favorites.
~TFG Webmaster
 

 
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