Persona 4 Arena

 Persona 4 Arena is by no means the first fighting game to be created from an RPG franchise but it certainly seems to be the most competent – second only to the dramatic arena fighting offered by Final Fantasy Dissidia, a series that tragically still hasn’t found its way to a home console.

By using the Persona brand Altus have already secured the financial success of this project. The Shin Megami Tensai fanbase is about as dedicated as they come and within that the Persona series hugely revered. The pitch is a strong one; an established fanbase and franchise and a development team with solid experience in the target genre. But it’s still a big step, as the target genre is just about as fickle as they come. Fighting game fans will not stand for anything but excellence. You’re waiting for the twist right? Where I tell you the gamble was too large and that only rabid MegaTen fans will be interested in a game that ultimately can’t hold its own in the new age of fighting games? I would take no joy in delivering that news and thankfully I have no cause to. Persona 4 Arena is a game that manages to stand out in just about every area.

Look how pretty it is! Oh my eyes…

Having not played Persona 4 I have no connection to the characters featured here and while at first glance they appear to be a band of very similar disaffected youths they come into their own once the fighting starts and begin to show the personalities that the fanbase has such adoration for.

But personality alone won’t cut it. Fighting game fans demand proof of complex reliability from the mechanics of any game before they will invest their precious time in it. They both crave and detest innovation; new ideas are often met with derision until one of the elite has shown that the concepts are both usable and fair.

Believe it or not this is a pretty standard move…

Persona 4 Arena skirts the line of innovation well. The setting demands the use of terms that betray its JRPG roots but a couple of runs through the very competent tutorial will soon have you muttering more familiar words to yourself as the gameplay mechanics are presented to you. Supers, universal overheads, cancels and bursts are all here in a reasonably familiar forms augmented with the concepts of your fighter’s inner ‘persona’. Then there is the touchy subject of the comeback mechanic. Street Fighter IV has it’s revenge meter/Ultra moves, Marvel vs Capcom 3 it’s X-Factor and Street Fighter x Tekken the generally misunderstood Pandora mode. It can be tough to get this right. In Persona 4 Arena the comeback mechanic is taken out of the player’s hands.

When a fighter’s health drops below a third the character will ‘awaken’. This both enlarges and fills their super meter. It’s a very simple idea and as such has very little space for being abused. When you are nearly dead you get a boost. End of story.

Fair warning, in story mode these people never shut up talking, ever.

Speaking of story, Persona 4 Arena has a ton of it. Some might say too much. Although I like a bit of preposition in my fighting games but I found the story mode to be far too wordy and not enough fighty. Thankfully the arcade mode offers the standard level of story you would expect. Essentially it’s there if you want it and avoidable if you don’t. Also worthy of note is the presentation; from the loading screens to the menus and in-fight display this game oozes style.

The visually striking interface is surprisingly easy to work with.

As with all fighters time will tell if Persona 4 Arena makes it into the big leagues but for MegaTen fans with a penchant for fighting games this will be just about perfect.







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