Persona 4 Arena (XBOX 360)
Arc System Works
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
August 7th, 2012
After a few years on hiatus, the Persona series makes its return but in a new form. Fans of the series will be pleasantly surprised with this title as it returns with the same aesthetics and personality the RPG had, in a new fighting game candy coating.
Fans of the Persona franchise will be pleased to know that now they have another chance to visit the small Japanese town of Inaba and its memorable citizens. During their stay here, players will be tasked with figuring out why the mysterious midnight channel, a gateway to a mysterious land where a murderer once roamed in the last game, has returned and close this entrance again before more people die. The story is fantastic, continues from where it left off, and has the same charm the previous titles had. After two months of being separated, all of the previous characters are together again to dish out justice and save their friends.
Everything about Arena screams “PERSONAAA!!!” and will be instantly familiar to fans of the series. All of the visuals from the menus, the music, the options, and the humor are intact and ready to be loved by its rabid fans including myself. The whole presentation of the game follows the same designs and visuals from the previous titles in the series giving the game a sense of consistency with the franchise to welcome its fans.
The 2D sprites of the thirteen characters in this title are some of the best Arc System Works has made with flowing movements and great transitions. The whole world keeps a similar design aesthetic to Persona 4 with very detailed areas that have a thin layer of twisted imagery in every location.
The cut scenes for the most part resemble an RPG with static images, a voice over, and text in the text box. All of the designs are great and the characters themselves show charm and personality.
The developers use a number of static images used to show every emotion that conveys all the information needed but will be seen them often and frequently.
The characters are fantastic and detailed with a lot of time spent making them look visually alive and ready to fight; Even the idle animations look great which is quite a feat! All of the characters use a “Persona” to do special attacks, these attacks are very flashy and seldom show any missing frames in the animation which really adds to the quality in every movement.
My only nitpick about this game is the special backgrounds when you land that final blow with a super combo; it seems to be lacking some sort of satisfactory visual that says “Yeah! I just destroyed your face!” that we all love!
The Persona series has always been known for its great and captivating soundtrack. The music always manages to capture the emotion in the scene and set the tone for what is going on allowing players to better connect with the characters.
With a unique mix of jazzy melodies, poppy tunes, and a blend of other genres, the music is memorable and will have you tapping your feet along to the memorable beats.
The publishers are so confident in the amazing soundtrack that they even included a free CD with the music from the game which is a real treat.
The voice over is really well done with most of the original voice actors reprising their roles. All of the voices make the characters really come alive and shine as they speak about their friendships and their fears. So many different emotions are given to the players through just the audio from the music and the actors bring life to these people which really is an astounding feat in this genre that doesn’t often make you care about the people you are battling or why you are fighting them.
Fighting games have a history of either being too shallow or too deep where few can reach a good medium. Persona, at first glance, seems very easy and can be deceptive in this way with a lot of handicaps for newcomers to make combos out of the gate such as the “Auto Combo” button. When pressed repeatedly, this button allows anyone to chain together a 3-hit combo followed by a special attack then a super combo (if the player has enough of the super meter filled).
Other than this basic crutch for new comers and the standard fare of special moves seen in other fighting games, there are a lot of hidden higher difficulty moves. This is a game from the makers of BlazBlue after all so everything from cancels, super cancels, parries, no-hit guards, combo breakers, juggles, and a plethora of other expert level moves are included; this really adds depth to the combat for those who need a deeper and more complex system.
The fighting is fast and filled with a lot of variables thanks to the wide variety of characters who are all different and an immense number of attacks given making everyone unique from the rest. Mostly everyone has a move to counter everyone else’s attack giving every fight an even balance making the battles a bit tenser.
The online was stable most of the time I was on and often found several people with whom to play with. The connection seldom ever kicked me off and was really smooth for the most part; online competitive players will also be very pleased with the network code which allows American players to fight against Japanese players.
The online portion of the title is about what you would expect from many modern fighting titles with a typical lobby, players appearing in the queue, everyone customizing their titles and going up in rank. Not really “in depth” but it gets the job done.
The gameplay outside of the combat is much pretty generic RPG trappings. You tap the button to go on to the next conversation string, you read, you tap the button again, next scene etc. For those fighting game fans that never heard of the series and just want to brawl will want to skip the story mode entirely and get to the meat of this game.
The fighting aspect of this title might turn off many Persona fans with a larger focus on combat rather than character development, the same goes for fighting game fans with the narrative. and its focus on the different odd personalities. The game comes with a recap by each individual character with an intro to the story and themselves for a bit of background. However, with so much of the story based in the RPG experience this could leave first time Persona players lost trying to figure out why these people are entering a TV to fight their friends and even less so, who these other characters are.
However, to those like myself who are comfortable in both realms will find an excellent, hearty, game full of so much content and replayability that it is almost daunting how much there is to do. The story itself is a beast with two replays per character to get the full story plus the final chapter. On the surface this might seem like a cheap ploy to artificially extend the life of the story; it is also a great way to encourage players to try out different characters and really get the story line from all angles, helping new Persona players understand the story.
The amount of collectibles and stuff to unlock is enormous with videos, audio tracks, pictures, concept art, characters, and titles for the online mode.
The lasting appeal will depend on how much players are fans of either half of this unique title. Players who enjoy both genres or who cannot get enough of the Persona franchise will getting the most out of this excellent title.
To find a game that expertly handles two very different styles of game and pull them off in a way that does not sacrifice one or the other too much is hard to find. The RPG aspects pulled me into the story and really add substance to the fighting that many titles in the fighting genre often lack.
The audio is enthralling with many tunes you won’t forget and a lively voice over track that really sells the magic of the characters and their stories.
I was very pleased and happy that the gameplay is tight and fast, a must for any fighting title out there, the depth might seem a bit shallow in this pool but keep going and you will soon find great depth to challenge even the most seasoned of veterans.
This should come to no surprise to those who have spent many hours on Guilty Gear or BlazBlue.
If you are a fan of fighting games, good music, an excellent story, and do not mind a bit of craziness in the lore then you will find a lot to like and love about this title.