Video game series tend to never stray from their initial genre. Call of Duty will always be a shooter, Street Fighter always a fighter. Yet, Persona has done the unthinkable. In a complete change of heart, this famous franchise has gone from JRPG powerhouse to furious fighter. Was this change for the better, or was Atlus better off keeping its classic series to itself? Read on after the jump to find out
While Persona 4: Arena is not for the faint of heart, fans of both Persona and ArcSystem Works will feel amazingly welcome. The game does seem to have a slight learning curve though. To remedy this, ArcSys added a wonderful lesson mode which will have even the worst button mashers ready to take on the toughest challengers. Controls are maybe a little too solid however, with precise motions required for every move. This adds to the already demonic hardship this game brings to the table. Heck, one of the difficulty settings is called Hell. Persona 4:Arena oozes with a vibe of “easy to learn, hard to master.” This is exemplified by the basic tutorial being separate from the individual character ones. Essentially if you’ve played Guilty Gear or BlazBlue, you’ll know what to expect, minus the impossibly high barrier of entry. The netcode was fairly solid so it was safe to go online and not worry about dreadful lag. This is especially true now that Atlus released a patch for the Xbox 360 version. Before that, playing online was like shooting yourself in the head.
[+Tight Controls][+Amazing Tutorial][+Best Netcode of Current Fighters][*Strict Timing on All Moves]
Spin-offs usually attempt to distance themselves from the original series, either by changing the focus or the gameplay. While Persona 4: Arena wasn’t afraid to break the mold, it also has enough fan-service to make it like an inside-joke for Persona loyalists. I was particularly surprised with the day 1 DLC. While I expected the glasses to be in the game, there was some glee in seeing the color packs that make the characters look like familiar faces from Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, Guilty Gear and even the Blazblue games. While the rest of the series isn’t required for you to get the gist of the story, which was surprising since it takes place 2 months after the ending of Persona 4. The story has its high and low points. At its best, the writing feels like playing an RPG, rather than a fighter though this leads to large amounts of text that range from thought provoking to drool inducing. While it’s easy to do this in an RPG without hesitation, in a fighter it seems shoehorned in at times. Since the story is written from different perspectives, some of the dialogue and all of the cut-scenes get repeated numerous times. In order to see the full story, get ready to see the same acts time and again. If only they could keep the magic of seeing it the first time, but there is a slight remedy to this. There are three tiers of story characters, unlocked as you beat a story mode for the previous tier. It wasn’t until going back for the rest of the story that I managed to get annoyed with the repetition. The story ends in a cliff hanger no matter who you choose, so take that for what you will. Some of the music is reused from Persona 4, making this feel like the same game at certain points. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack of the previous game, reusing it so extensively seemed lazy. It’s surprising considering how much work they put into the rest of the game.
[+In-depth Story][+Tons of Fan-Service][*Cliff-Hanger Ending][*Reused Music][-Long Dialogue Scenes][-Repeated Dialogue and Cut-Scenes]
It’s hard to gauge just how much you’ll enjoy Persona 4: Arena. On one hand it was definitely made with the fans in mind. They were there first so they got served first. There’s quite a bit to learn, so it will take you a while to get the most out of the game. Story mode is a hit or miss, but overall it’s obvious that a ton of work went into it. If story is your thing you won’t feel ripped off, though my wallet clenched up after the ending. It just screamed: “we’re coming for your money!”. Arcade mode is usually randomized, but in Persona 4: Arena it’s just another story mode that’s straight to the point. Score Attack is more of the same but is set on the highest difficulty with no way to change it. As far as the fighting goes, the characters are all balanced to the point that none of them seem broken enough to make any unplayable. They all have their own unique trait, which is usually shown by a gauge or type of status affect they can inflict on the opponent. Online is bare bones but with silky smooth connection speeds it’s hard not to fall in love. There has been almost no lag when playing, no matter where the other players region. I don’t know what kind of satanic ritual Atlus did to make the connections sync so well, but I’m sure it involved sacrificing most of their interns. With that much already invested into the game, it seems as though they’ll continue to support the game after the day 1 DLC. My main concern is they’ll either charge an insane amount for one character or make us pay another $60 for a few more. It’ll be a waiting game to see what happens.
[+Variety of Content][+Unique Characters][+Low Lag Online Mode][*Day 1 DLC][-Ending is an Obvious Cash Grab]
Every once in a while a fighter comes along that totally engrosses me. All day all I want to do is play it. All night all i want to do is dream of fantastic combos to try later. A ravish amount of modes and likeable characters is what I stay for. Persona 4 Arena delivers, but manages to give off two distinct vibes in the process. Every time I booted up the game I saw more and more of the love poured into it. On the other hand they seemed to cut corners in quite a few places, like the music and some of the story. It almost feels like a crossover with how much these vibes seem to clash. I’ll admit I had fun gushing at the fan-service, but it’s not overdone. I doubt you’ll feel like you’re not in on the joke just because you haven’t touched the other games. This game has the potential to become one of the bigger fighter games out there as long as the community doesn’t abandon it.
[+Tight Controls][+Amazing Tutorial][+Best Netcode of Current Fighters][+In-depth Story][+Tons of Fan-Service][+Variety of Content][+Unique Characters][+Low Lag Online Mode][*Strict Timing on All Moves][*Cliff-Hanger Ending][*Reused Music][*Day 1 DLC][-Long Dialogue Scenes][-Repeated Dialogue and Cut-Scenes][-Ending is an Obvious Cash Grab]