- Publisher: Atlus
- Developer: Arc System Works
- ESRB Rating: “T" For Teen
- Genre: Fighting
- Pros: Great visuals; awesome characters; excellent music; fun and accessible gameplay but with lots of depth; tons of modes; story mode (if you're a Persona fan)
- Cons: Storytelling style; a million systems to remember; maybe you don't like super Japanese anime inspired stuff?
The story in Persona 4: Arena takes place two months after the events of Persona 4. If you haven't played Persona 4, you could always watch the Persona 4 anime (the first half of which is coming to DVD and Blu Ray in September) to catch up on the story. Persona 4's main character, now officially named Yu Narukami, returns to the town of Inaba to meet with his friends from the Investigation Team during Golden Week (several Japanese holidays all fall close together at the end of April and beginning of May, so the country basically takes the whole week off). Upon his return, however, the mysterious Midnight Channel appears on TV once again, only this time it is promoting a strange fighting tournament featuring Yu and his friends.
That is the bare basics of the story. It is a direct sequel to Persona 4, but also ties together with Persona 3, so playable characters from both games are featured here. It has to be said, that you don't have to have extensive knowledge of the previous games to enjoy the story presented here, but it will definitely help.
Features and Modes
The arcade mode is actually a compressed version of the story mode, so you don't quite get the full picture but you'll know the gist of what is going on at least. You get all the fights minus the walls of text in between.
Other modes include a lesson mode that explains all of the core mechanics that all of the characters use - and there are a lot. A training mode so you can practice everything. A challenge mode that tasks you with performing specific actions with each character, which also teaches you their combos. And a score attack mode that ramps the difficulty up significantly and dares you to get good enough to actually complete it. Seriously, it is hard! There is also, of course, online play either in player lobbies of 8 people or ranked matches. Online was pretty rough at launch, but a quick update fixed that and now online play is pretty darn smooth.
It can be overwhelming for a while. We had to play through the lesson mode a few times and still couldn't remember it all. But you eventually figure out enough to play at least somewhat effectively and it is possible to string together some pretty great looking combos and moves and you feel pretty good about yourself. Then you step online against people that know what they are doing or jump into the score attack mode and see how the game is really meant to be played and you feel pretty scrubby. That is what makes this game so fun, though. It is accessible enough that you can really have a great time even only using half of the moves, but there is a ton of extra depth there for players that want to take advantage of it. It all creates a fighting engine that is fast and crazy (though not as crazy as BlazBlue where there is just stuff going on everywhere and it is hard to follow) and fun to both play and watch that is good enough that the fighting gameplay can stand on its own and be worth a look even if you aren't a Persona fan.
The presentation in Persona 4: Arena is absolutely phenomenal in every area. This is one of the best looking 2D sprite-based fighting games ever with absolutely fantastic looking characters with flawless animation. The gameplay is fast and smooth and looks great.
The sound is also excellent all around. Both English and Japanese voice work is available, and both are very good. The music also really stands out as something special and certain themes will really stick in your head.
All in all, Persona 4: Arena is a fantastic fighting game as well as a heaping dose of Persona fan service that can appeal to a broad range of gamers. You don't have to be a Persona die-hard to enjoy it. Fans of the Persona RPGs will enjoy the story full of characters they already know and love. Fighting game fans will love the deep and satisfying gameplay. And anime fans will kind of just fall in love with everything about the presentation along with everything else. It is kind of odd to drop a game like this with such an established story and character roster as a multiplatform title onto a system like the Xbox 360 that has never seen a Persona game, but by bothering to do it all it hopefully means Atlus plans on making Persona 5 multiplatform as well. We can only hope. Until that announcement happens, though, we can play through Persona 4: Arena and soak up as much Persona a possible. This is a great fighting game that packs more than enough features and modes to make it worth picking up. We highly recommend it for a purchase.