Persona 4 Arena

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9.0 Overall Score
Gamplay: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Aesthetics: 10/10

Great aesthetics, fantastic gameplay and wonderful story

Huge mastering curve, blocks of text that give the story

Written by on September 25, 2012 in [, , , , , , , ]

Persona 4 Arena is the latest fighting game from Atlus and Arc System Works. Based in the world of Persona, Persona Arena follows the exploits of a group of high school students as they venture into the TV World to solve the mystery of what happened to their friends.

P4A is a one-on-one 2D fighting game that is made by Arc System Works, the same company that brought us Guilty Gear and Blaze Blu, and P4A plays very similarly to these two games. The fighting focuses on combos. While each character plays differently from one another, most of the moves are executed in mostly the same ways. If you know one character, then you can easily learn how to execute most of the moves for most of the characters. Learning each play style will, of course, take a bit of time.

The distinguishing factor that P4A has over other fighting games is that each character has their very own Persona. Certain moves will summon the person’s Persona and that will execute the move. Only certain moves and abilities, including most of the higher power moves, can be used by summoning the person’s Persona. The summon fits nicely right into the mechanics and is integrated effortlessly into the gameplay. While the Personas’ attacks are some of the more powerful, if your Persona gets hit enough times, a “Persona Break” will happen and you will not be able to use your Persona until it recovers.

Some attacks require SP. The SP meter is on the bottom of the screen and slowly fills as you fight. The meter fills more when you get hit and when you get a hit in. After taking enough damage, around 30% or so, your Persona will awaken, allowing you to perform not only the most powerful Persona attacks, but also the instant KO attacks. Each character has a unique instant KO attack that, no matter how much health the opponent has, will KO instantly. Of course, You need to have an awakened Persona and the necessary SP to perform the attack.

There are quite a few game modes in Persona 4 Arena. Lesson Mode allows you to learn the basics of the game. Story Mode plays through the story of P4A through the eyes of each character. Arcade Mode is basically a set of 9 matches that move through an abbreviated story. Then there is Score Attack Mode which is unbelievably tough. It is basically you against a super fast and smart computer opponent. Training mode is what you would expect. You against an opponent. No time limit, no rounds, just practice moves and training. You can set the behavior of the computer to whatever you want to train on. If you want to work on counters, you can have the opponents just attack you. Challenge Mode is similar to lesson mode, except you can pick any character. It prompts you on certain moves that you need to execute to proceed. Finally, you have Versus Mode and Network Mode. Versus pits you against a local opponent or CPU and you can then challenge people from all over the world on Network Mode. In Network Mode, you can pick a Title from a collection of words, like Glasses-Wearing Captain One-Shot, or As Expected Fried Rice. As you play, you will unlock more and more words to use. You are then graded based on your performance and as you play more and get better, your rating will go up. Depending on how many people are online, you will most likely be against a player of similar skill level. Although it doesn’t always work that way and you may be matched with a higher level player.

I love the Persona series for its engaging stories and solid characterization. The greatest strength, which is also part of its greatest weakness, is that P4A introduces only one new character. All of the rest have been in the Persona games already (either Persona 3 or Persona 4). Therefore, very little characterization is required and a lot of nuances or side jokes work very well. To those who haven’t played the Persona games before, don’t worry. Each character has their own story line that you can play from their perspective. Each story gives substantial backgrounds and a solid introduction to each character. At first, you’re limited to four playable characters, but as you keep playing, more and more of the stories are unlocked. After you beat a few storylines, which will only take you a couple hours at the most, you will unlock Labrys’ story. She is, for lack of a better term, the main “protagonist” in P4A.

If you have already played the Persona games, you may see the ending coming, but even still, it does not lose its emotion. Each story ends pretty similarly with the confrontation with the big baddy, yet it manages to work well enough. Honestly, story is always the biggest issue with fighting games. Usually, they are a grab-bag of random fights with some sort of story that really only works for one or two of the main characters and make little to no sense for some of the “extra” characters. P4A is able to get around that with finesse and a well-crafted and coherent story. You never have to really ask, “Wait, why is she fighting him? Aren’t they friends? This doesn’t make sense.” In P4A, it does, at least it does in the world of Personas.

This does not mean that the Story Mode is perfect. As I said, it rehashes most of what happened in Persona 4 and a bit of Persona 3. However, most of the story is text based with a bit of conversation mixed in. Mostly, it is the inner dialogue of the person you are playing as. While it does cut down on how long each characters’ story is, it makes that short time more tedious. In no other story is this more prevalent than Labrys’. Her story only has a couple fights, and the first good chunk is all story and no fights. This makes her story very slow moving, albeit interesting. It’s one rolling block of text after the next. You can set the text to auto scroll, so if you are a decent reader, you can sit and read without messing with a controller. The lack of cut scenes and voice acting in most stories make an otherwise interesting story somewhat of a chore to follow. One of the saving graces is that you can save every few minutes and place a bookmark to pick up from that point later. Each battle has a bookmark right before and after which makes some of the harder fights a bit less irritating.

The final bit I would like to mention is the aesthetics. P4A is a beautiful game. The fighting graphics are crisp and clean. It is also very colorful, with lots of bright colors in the backgrounds and even in the character models and Personas. As I said, the story modes seem to fall a bit short in graphics, focusing on background scenery with the character portraits popping up to show the dialogue. However, its not worth nitpicking over it too much. Considering everything else, this minor “shortcut” is easily overlooked. P4A has an amazingly extensive soundtrack. It borrows many songs from both Persona 3 and Persona 4 and remixes them for a fighting setting while adding in a whole bunch of new music from the great composer Shoji Meguro. All of this music, which also includes screenshots and videos can be found in the Gallery which will grows as you beat more of the game.

A copy of Persona 4 Arena was provided to The Married Gamers for review.

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Author: Evan J Stark View all posts by

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