Persona 4 Arena | Review
Initial NA Release Date: August 7, 2012
Review Date: 7 April, 2020
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Spinning off from its JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) roots, Atlus with the collaboration of Arc System Works, combined efforts to bring forth the captivating universes of Persona 3 and Persona 4, respectively, into a fighting game arena.
However, similar to the ability of the Persona franchise in separating itself from the pack with its exceptional story-telling, its introduction to fighting games emphasizes unique individualism, all while still maintaining principal balance.
Presentation – Vibrant, but non-distracting. That is perhaps the best way to describe the way Persona 4 Arena (P4A) approaches its presentation. Adopting a bright color-palette similar to Persona 4′s heavy use of the color yellow, the gleaming visual effects are all well-adjusted to maintaining optic clarity.
Idle and active animations are well transitioned, and the clear markings of elements such as Burst gauge, Persona card stock, Awakening status, etc., are well implemented in distinguishing in-combat situations in what is predominantly a fast paced, high-octane fighting game.
Stages in Persona 4 Arena, although relatively low in number, are all well thought out and showcase creativity, be it visuals pertaining to the overall narrative, or optical movement that serve to more of an engaging background.
Character models and their animations are perhaps the two areas where the game shines its brightest. The ability to strike a balance with the unique individual characteristics each character offers, yet still fit it in a fighting game arsenal is an impressive demonstration of preserving property integrity.
The creative implementation of individual persona moves, along with individual character moves, provides excellent chemistry with regards to offense and smoothly transitions from one to the next.
In addition to the use of source material with regards to character specific command moves, supers, and instant kills, the general mechanics such as Burst and entering Awakening are all tailored specifically to each character, along with unique references to the JRPG such as the All-Out Attack animation and certain status ailments.
Audibly, in similar fashion to its visual presentation, the game provides clear cues for in-game action. Be it the sound of a Fatal Counter, approaching a Negative Penalty, or the action of Instant Blocking, the game leaves no question with regards to clarity of action.
With regards to voice acting and original soundtrack, Persona 4 Arena follows suit of its JRPG roots and provides quality in both. Be it in Japanese or in English the cast sounds excellent and fitting, and the superb soundtrack accustomed to fans of the JRPG’s does not disappoint even in a different setting.
Overall, it could be argued that if there is a blueprint of how to fuse visual and audible presentation in a fighting game of an already well-established property, Persona 4 Arena‘s final presentation has to be pretty close to it.
In almost every phase, the game does not miss a beat, be idle, moving, or in transition, the use of source material, clear visual and audible cues, superb animations and excellent voice performances. Persona 4 Arena hits on all marks.
Gameplay – Considering not being a legacy franchise within the realm of fighting games, the mechanics in Persona 4 Arena offer the surprising mix of simplicity, and straightforwardness, yet, without the sacrifice of depth.
Universal game mechanics such as two light attacks exclusive to a character, two heavier attacks exclusive to a character’s persona, the Burst mechanic, which can act as an offensive meter gaining tool on an unsuspecting opponent, a possible momentum stopping tool, or even an extended combination tool in the form of a 1-More-Burst.
Other mechanics such as the use of a 1-More-Cancel acting as either an offensive extension at times or a defensive countermeasure, and lastly, the use of Guard Cancel, which can aid as a defensive tool depending on the circumstance.
However, despite the cast receiving the same universal mechanics, it’s their individual uniqueness brought upon their playstyle and persona that separates one character from another.
Supplementing a grappling character like Kanji with the ability to shock opponents in place, or short-ranged character like Yosuke with extreme speed and mobility, all aid in complimenting the in-depth individual character match-ups.
However, the only real downfall of Persona 4 Arena’s character diversity is not with its quality, but rather its quantity, as the game only consists of 13 playable characters, with only two not being original characters from the JRPG’s in Labrys and Shadow Labrys.
Mechanically, despite having many components to mind both on offense and defense, the game’s system tutorial is helpful in breaking the game down to more novice players, who may need more help to adjust to a fast-paced fighting game.
Furthermore, other offline modes such as a standard training mode, with the ability to use a record and replay function is made available, as well as Score Attack mode—a high difficulty ladder playthrough, challenge mode—an extensive combination demonstrator, arcade mode—a quicker version of the story campaign, and lastly the game’s story mode.
While it is by no means as much of a captivating story to what fans of the series is used to with its JRPG history, the narrative in Persona 4 Arena does have a bit of intrigue to it, especially when considering the storylines of Labrys and Elizabeth.
The individual story chapters can overstay their welcome, primarily since the structure of the story mode is carried as a visual novel with some fighting sequences in between. However, pacing aside, the initial interactions between both cast members of Persona 3 and Persona 4 is quite interesting.
Final Impression – It is without question that while it does whiff on a few elements such roster size, and somewhat mediocre story, Persona 4 Arena gets the most important component in fighting games right, and that is gameplay.
Structuring accessible features such as auto-combos, modest execution difficulty, and a basics tutorial, along with the implementation of more strategical mechanics, lends to opening the door to newcomers, all while still accommodating to more experienced players.
In conclusion, Persona 4 Arena is carried by superb presentation, strong gameplay mechanics, and individual charm, and those qualities, along with many others, resulted in making the first fighting game appearance of the Persona franchise quite the respectable one.
+ Mechanically sound
+ Diverse offline modes
+ Source material implemented in presentation
– Poorly paced narrative
– Modest character selection pool
Final Score – 8.2/10 Great