Persona 4 Arena – The PS3 Attitude Review
Persona 4 Arena sees characters from Persona 4 and 3 return in a crossover fighting title to solve the case of the returning Midnight Channel, the place where the events of Persona 4 took place. With the return of the Investigation Team from P4, several characters from P3 and Arc System Works’ ability to make an in-depth and immersive fighter, can P4 Arena compete with the best of its genre?
A concern that many Persona fans may share is, “What if the story lacks due to it being a fighting game?” and it’s now safe to say that the story does not suffer due to this. Arc System Works have used their knack for weaving stories through fights and lengthy dialogue, similar to what they did in BlazBlue and the end result is an enthralling tale that does justice to Persona.
We follow Yu and his friends – dubbed the Investigation Team – as they work to solve the case of the reappearance of the Midnight Channel, a hidden world behind the TV. Some of their friends have gone missing and they’re all being featured on-air in a fighting tournament called the ‘P1 Grand Prix’.
The TV World is where Shadows can be found; Shadows are created by the repressed emotions that humans harbour, giving life to an evil entity that will kill you unless you accept your weaknesses. Once you’ve done this you gain a Persona, another side of you. This theme heavily plays again throughout Arena in each of the 12 individual storylines, taking place from each character’s perspective.
Many characters from P4 and P3 return and remain true to how fans remember them, with the original voice actors and actresses reprising their roles – bar the PS2 versions of Chie and Teddie who were replaced in Persona 4: Golden and the P4 Animation.
These characters are further developed as they are faced with new challenges during the course of the story. There is much dialogue to scroll through but it never becomes tedious, though those who have never played previous Persona titles may find it to be a little daunting.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure to play BlazBlue, one of Arc System Works previous games, then you know to expect fluid and gorgeous animation as well as an in-depth fighting system. This rings true for Arena but it is much more easily accessible so that those who don’t have the time to learn long combos can still enjoy it; I believe this choice was made so that P4 and P3 fans can join the fray and not feel as if they’ve been ignored.
Don’t worry though, fighting fans, as there are many combos to learn so that you can stand out online. You’re also able to give yourself titles online which can be mixed and matched, which results in quite a few laughs, and any silly titles you create may come back to haunt you if you watch yourself in Replay Mode.
The online itself has a great netcode, meaning next to no lag even when playing against fighters from around the world. You’ll come across many regulars due to the game being out in North America and Japan for roughly a year now, but hopefully it’ll be given a new lease of life when it releases in Europe on 10th May.
If online isn’t your thing then feel free to test your skills against the AI in Score Attack – where each character is ‘Unlimited’ and has intense strength and speed, and Challenge Mode – where you’re challenged to pull off different combos. You will need extremely fast hands and a lot of patience for both of these modes, and you’ll be able to experience a reprieve through Arcade Mode and Training Mode.
Arena is slightly different to other fighting games, as you can attack with both your character and their Persona. This means you are able to string combos by using them both to rack up a high score and take huge chunks of health out of your opponent. Once you reach 100SP on your round point, you’re able to do an instant kill move which features your character and Persona working together to destroy your foe, many of these moves are nods to special moves characters can do in their respective titles.
The game looks fantastic; being bright, vivid and a treat for the eyes. The in-game animations are slick and highly-detailed across all characters and the backgrounds are mostly recreated from areas in P4, giving you a wide variety to choose from when setting up a match. Some cutscenes are fully animated and look spectacular, giving certain scenarios an added punch. The menus are simple to navigate and show the characters in Inaba, the city from P4.
The soundtrack, composed by Atsushi Kitajoh and Shoji Meguro who helped to compose P4 and P3, features new and familiar tracks including unique themes for each character, as well as new themes for the overall game. Fans will enjoy hearing battle tunes such as Reach Out to the Truth being remixed, which stay true to the original, and will enjoy old favourites such as I’ll Face Myself and Mass Destruction to fight along to as well.
With many modes and opponents to sink your teeth in to, P4 Arena stands out among the fighting genre with its beautiful art, easily accessible combat which is both tight and stylish, a captivating story and unforgettable music which all seamlessly mix together to make one of this year’s best games. I’d advise you to at least play Persona 4 before Arena but it does a great job on getting you up to date with the characters and stories from the previous titles.
As most readers have probably realised via the weekly PlayTime segment, I’m a huge Persona fan and I can safely say that Persona 4 Arena goes above and beyond what I expected it to and I highly recommend it to those who love the Persona universe as it is a worthy sequel and a highly enjoyable fighting game that all fans of the genre would love. For those who are in it for the trophy-hunting, be warned that the Score Attack and Challenge Mode trophies are insanely difficult to achieve.
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