The Shin Megami Tensei sub-series Persona has grown in fame quite a lot in the last few years mainly because of Persona 3 and 4, a pair of excellent JRPGs for the PS2 (later remade for PSP and Vita) that gained the respect of gamers worldwide. Now, the series has changed completely and in the hands of Arc System Works (Blazblue, Guilty Gear) has turned the newest console game into a 2D fighter, and one of the best the industry has seen lately.
Persona 4 Arena is a game more similar to Blazblue or The King of Fighters XIII than its own predecessors. It features beautiful 2D sprites to make the characters of Persona 4 and 3 come to life in a new way to kick, punch, shoot and summon their powerful Personas in battle against each other. It’s a fantastic-looking fighter that resembles the crazy and colorful art style of Blazblue (made by the same developers).
The animations are incredible, they feel smooth and look like one of those fast-paced fights we sometimes see in some of the best Japanese video games and anime series. You’ll see characters throwing fireball, shooting guns, jumping around and summoning their huge Personas to fight for them. While the game shares the same genre as other orthodox fighters like for example SSF4AE, Persona 4 Arena is more about flashy attacks and combos that may not look as elegant but still require quite a lot of skill to learn.
The game has a story of its own, taking place a few months after the end of Persona 4. It mixes in some Persona 3 characters and manages to mix nice cutscenes with a fight here and there in each character’s own storyline. These take about two to three hours to complete and they’re very entertaining though they don’t focus that much on the fights themselves but rather on the storytelling. If you’re familiar with the events of both Persona 3 and 4, better yet.
Pretty much all the modes you want in a fighting game are there. You can go straight from Story to Arcade Mode to practice against the AI, Versus Mode is there to fights friends offline and you can also use Free Training and Combo Challenge to polish your skills and find good combos and effective ways to use your limited number of special summoning attacks. In the online scenario, I got to say Persona 4 Arena is possibly one the best fighters I’ve ever played. The Xbox 360 version (after the patch) has a fantastic netcode, I don’t have the best internet connection in the world and I never have lag on it, unlike in other similar games like Dead or Alive 5, Blazblue or Tekken Tag 2.
Just like the JRPGs that came before it, Persona 4 Arena has an amazing soundtrack. Most of the songs are completely new but some iconic themes like “Your Affection” and “I’ll face myself” make a return both untouched and in remix form and they’re more than welcome. Persona games never seem to stop delivering excellent music, no matter if they’re a fighter or an RPG. The voice acting is also fantastic. I played all the way in English and the same voices from the RPGs are present in Arena and they fit, feel nice and the lines they say are very cool and funny.
In gameplay, Persona 4 Arena works differently than other more classic 2D fighters. There’s an auto-combo button that works with all characters and gives a nice chunk of damage if you land it. This might give a fake impression that the game is easy to learn and not very good competitively, but the truth could not be farther than that. P4A also takes a lot of skill to learn, each character needs to know how to administer his/her own meters for specials, they have exclusive skills and of course, each one excels in a different kind of gameplay style.
If you’re familiar with the cast in Persona 4 and 3, you’ll notice that Yosuke is extremely fast but he needs to land a lot of hits to deal a lot of damage. His movement is confusing and hard to defend against but other characters like for example, Kanji, focus on slower but stronger strikes. Kanji doesn’t have Yosuke’s mobility but he can still use other skills to emerge victorious. Yukiko and Naoto excel in ranged attacks and others like Yu and Chie are more balanced. The cast in this game is excellent and there’s definitely someone for you.
In short, Persona 4 Arena is a fantastic 2D fighter that joins the ever-growing number of games available in this nice revival of the genre. It might not be as popular as say, Street Fighter 4 but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the contrary, Arena is flashy, fast, takes a lot of skill and always offers something new to learn either with character skills, meters, match-ups and different playstyle each player might apply to a certain fighter. The graphics are incredible, probably the best sprite-based 2D out there and like all other games in the series, the soundtrack is simply amazing. Even if you’re not an RPG enthusiast, Persona 4 Arena will cater to the tastes of everyone who enjoys a good and solid fighting game.
- Excellent sprite-based graphics and animations.
- Easy to get into it but hard to master.
- Fantastic soundtrack and voice acting.
- Story Mode is actually very nice.
- Extremely solid online netcode.
- Auto-combos are easy to abuse.
- No frame-data in training mode.
- Graphics and Visuals…….…..9
- Music and Sound Effects….....10
- Replay Value………………...9
- Overall Score……………….. 9 / 10