Persona 4 Arena Review
Review by Shawn Denney
Persona 4 Arena is a sequel to both Persona 3 and Persona 4 but unlike those two games which are RPG’s, this is a 2D fighting game. It comes to us courtesy of Atlus, the makers of the Persona games and Arc System Works, the fighting game gurus responsible for the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series.
The fighting mechanics in Persona 4 Arena somehow have found a way to make it accessible to players of any skill level be it beginner or veteran. Each character has a plethora of moves with different inputs to pull off with cancels and timing, and extremely difficult to pull off one-hit kills, along with unique attack styles for every character in the roster. You may be saying, “These all sound like things for fighting game pros! You just said it was accessible to beginners.” On the beginner front, Persona 4 Arena offers the “one button combo” approach. By continually pressing the basic attack button the game will chain attacks and even special attacks together however it comes at the cost of some of your health. This health is not permanently gone but slowly regenerates until the opponent gets a clean hit on you. A skilled player can effectively pull off the same combos without the potential loss of life but a new player can do the same thing and still be very effective in combat. Its a deep, rewarding, satisfying, combat system for all.
Persona 4 Arena is one of the most beautiful games around. It uses highly detailed hand drawn animation for its character models and attacks. It is the same style used in the BlazBlue series if that helps you understand. The environments are rendered in 3D and ooze with personality. Outside of the mesmerizing beauty of the battles, the menu’s are sleek and crisp. The character close ups for the character select and the story mode are vibrant and detailed. The color palettes and the silhouettes used to accent characters only add to the charm and make the visual presentation a treat at all times.
Persona 4 Arena has a plethora of modes to keep you busy for a long time. Their is the Lesson Mode, Story Mode, Arcade Mode, Score Attack Mode, Training Mode, Challenge Mode, Versus Mode, Network Mode, Replay Theater and more. Lesson Mode is there to easy you into the game by having you perform all the different basic skills in the game. Arcade Mode is the more traditional mode associated with fighting games where you go through a series of opponents one after another. Versus Mode is for when you and a buddy want to lay down the smack on each other. But their are three modes in particular that are likely to suck up most of your time.
Challenge Mode is not unique to Persona 4 Arena as it has been done in several other games but it is where you will hone your skills if you want to become good at the game. Each character has a set number of different combos that it asks you to perform (I believe it was 30 per character) that continue to get more challenging. Lesson Mode gave you the basics of the game but this mode shows you how to play effectively.
Network Mode is the online fighting mode with leaderboards, lobbies, and all sorts of settings to customize your experience. In reality though, these are all just niceties on what really matters: the fighting. Network Play worked without a hitch during my playtime with no lag and extremely fast matchmaking. If you are a fighting game fan, you will be happy with what you find in Persona 4 Arena’s Network Mode.
Then their is the Story Mode. Story Mode in Persona 4 Arena is something special, and frankly unique to fighting games. Story Mode plays out like a visual novel with occasional bouts when the story dictates it. The story itself is rather massive taking probably 30 hours to complete in its entirety. Yes, you read that correctly, 30 hours for a story mode in a fighting game! It comes with some good and some bad points though. Starting out with the bad, Persona 4 Arena does have mini-recaps about the plots of Persona 3 and Persona 4 however it seems to me that the story may be quite confusing if you have not played the prior games (having played the previous entries I am making this as an assumption from what I saw. I could be incorrect though). Also the text can get a bit wordy repeating the same thoughts in different phrasings.
Now onto the good parts of the story mode. The story is really well planned out how it incorporates the cast of both games as well as providing context and motivation for the encounters. The game has a lot of very well done voice acting with people reprising their respective roles. The story itself is pretty interesting and sets up some great things to come for the future of the Persona franchise.
Persona 4 Arena is flat out one of the best fighting games ever created. It is deep for those who want it and accessible for those who don’t. It is beautiful and exhilarating to play. It has the most robust story mode I have ever seen in a video game with a plot that matters to the franchise. I cannot recommend this game enough to fans of the Persona series, fans of fighting games, or to anyone just looking to find out how special a fighting game can be.