Persona 4 Arena Review

Persona 4 Arena Review

Initial NA Release Date: August 7, 2012
Review Date: October 4, 2015
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3

Flow. Persona 4 Arena (P4A) has a special flowing nature to it that sets it apart from old school 2D fighting games.

Everything from the way the characters move, to smooth mechanics, to how the soundtrack fits perfectly in amping up the player to put up a fight. Everything just flows perfectly.

Spinning off from its JRPG roots, Atlus with the collaboration of Arc System Works brought us a fantastic fusion of the characters we loved in Persona 3 and Persona 4 but in a different setting we are used to seeing them in. This time instead of fighting shadows together, they are forced into the arena and are pitted against each other.


p4 15
Teddie (Left) VS. Kanji (Right) in the announcement room.

Presentation – Vibrant colors, a gorgeous looking pixelated art style, a great soundtrack and voice acting that fits the script—all that makes P4A a staple title we are used to seeing from Arc System Works; the makers of the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series.

Persona and vibrant colors are not strangers, the series has had its world dipped into many color palettes in the past, however, P4A displays it about as well if not better as the original JRPG’s did.

Stages in Arena, although relatively low in number, are all well thought out and have a fun design to them that makes each stage feel different—whether it’s a scene moving in certain spots or how the colors compliment the characters on-screen. The style of both the characters and their flashy moves combined with the game’s unique backgrounds aid to the fantastic job of setting the visual tone of the game.

To go along with the vibrant colors this fighter has, its soundtrack is even more fitting.  For players of the JRPGs, the soundtrack should feel familiar with its upbeat and rhythmic style along with some more heavy sounding tracks that fit what you would think is a boss battle. The sound design on attacks and movement also fits the mold well, as few may sound familiar for some—like the multitude of attack sounds after landing an All-Out-Attack.


Character Select Screen
Narukami leads the way for the cast of 13.

Gameplay – As much as the game sounds and looks great, it also plays great.  As a someone who was not too familiar with fighting games, coming into P4A as a fan of P3 and P4 I was a bit intimidated by it due to knowing that many fighters have a bit of a learning curve to them.  However, P4A excels with its tutorial and challenge modes which made learning the basics easier than expected.

P4A makes up of four buttons, two normal attacks and two persona attacks, the combination of both ways of attacking are essential in how each character plays, while some characters like Yukiko and Elizabeth rather play the zoning game using their persona related moves, characters like Akihiko and Kanji will try to negate that by keeping the fight up close using normal attacks in dealing heavy damage.

The one thing that P4A has going against it is its small cast—a total of 13 characters, but even with its small cast, the characters in the game play different enough that it never feels the same when fighting them.  That being said, a game plan that works vs. one character may not work out vs. another character.

The cast of P4A feels balanced when looking at it as a whole, there are characters that have distinct advantages, whether its longer range or higher damage output, but no match up seems unwinnable when comparing character A to character B.

Along with the standard offline and online VS. modes, there are multiple modes in the game to keep the player occupied—from a Score Attack mode, which is an intense difficulty arcade playthrough, to the game’s slightly generic story mode but one that stays true to the characters and what we are accustomed to from the Persona series.


Labrys, the newly introduced character in which the story revolves around.
Labrys, the newly introduced character in which the P4A story revolves around.

Final Impression – Persona 4 Arena merges the characters of Persona 3 and Persona 4 whom some of us spent many hours with and have grown to love and care for into a smooth 2D fighter that features sharp gameplay and outstanding visuals and sound.

P4A excels in welcoming both new players to the series with its accessible tutorial and challenge modes respectively, as well as the Arc System Works veteran who will be familiar with the mechanics such as Burst and air dashing which have been made a staple in both the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series.

Persona’s debut as a fighting game fits better than anticipated and although not as complex in its mechanics as other 2D fighters on the market, its visual style, great soundtrack and its references of the JRPG’s it’s based off of make it a respectable fighter that can hold its own in the fighting game world.

PROS

+ Beginner friendly

+ Great soundtrack and art style

+ Smooth mechanics

CONS

– Generic story mode, except for Labrys’ and Elizabeth’s stories.

– Small cast of playable characters

Final Score – 9.0/10 Excellent

NOTES

The online component of Persona 4 Arena has been effected with the release of its sequel; Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. Which makes matchmaking vs other players a bit difficult to find, however the skills learnt in P4A translate very well to P4AU and although not a must, I do recommend checking out P4A for its offline features and overall gameplay.

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