Written by Twisted Ideas
Atlus’s fan favorite Persona franchise is entering the realm of fighting games. Reuniting the cast of Persona 4 and four characters from Persona 3 they will have to compete in the P1 Grand Prix to find out the reason for the Midnight Channel’s return. With the game market becoming more saturated with fighting games each year does Persona 4 Arena stand up or should it stick with RPGs.
The main character from persona 4 (now offically named Yu Narasaki) is visiting Inaba for Golden Week, two months after the events of persona 4. Staying at his uncle and niece’s home out of curiosity checks if the Midnight Channel is still gone. To his surprise the Midnight Channel has returned announcing the P1 Grand Prix featuring him and his friends. Yu and the Investigation Team have reunited and proceed to enter the TV world to discover the resurgence of the Midnight Channel.
Persona 4 Arena is a fighting game rather than the turn based RPG’s that fans are familiar with. Arena follows the traditional fighting game rules: Health bars, timers, rounds, special moves, special meter and supers. There are 13 characters each with their own fighting styles and Persona. Arena is a four button fighter. You have two normal attacks (A Light & B Strong) and two Persona attacks (C & D). “A” can be mashed for an auto combo and assuming you have enough meter it will end in a super. Auto combo’s while useful do little damage. Persona attacks varies greatly between each character performing moves that they can’t do physically. Holding back allows you to block attacks, down back blocks low attacks and you can also block in the air. Tapping block the instant an attack will hit will instant block that move. This reduces the amount of block stun allowing you to retaliate quickly. Double tapping forwards lets you run continuously until you let go. Double tapping back does a back step. All characters have an air dash and a double jump.
There are special button combinations that will perform new common moves. Pressing A+C does a dodge which moves you forward and can avoid attacks. Pressing A+C in the air will turn your character around; useful when crossing opponents up in the air and attacking with downward hitting moves. Pressing B+D does a furious attack that has invincible start-up at the cost of some of your health which slowly recovers. Pressing A+B will start an all out attack. If you hit it on a standing opponent you can press A+B repeatedly for up to 16 hits. In the process you can press C to launch the opponent and air combo them or press D to push them away. If you hit C or D on the 15th hit you will get a furious counter that gives you more hit stun making some combos possible. C+D will throw opponents in range. Pressing C+D quickly enough will escape the throw.
Each player has a SP meter at the bottom of the screen . You slowly gain SP as you fight and is broken up into 25 SP segments for a maximum of 100 SP. 25 SP can be used to enhance special attacks to give it new properties. 50 SP can be used to use a powerful super attack or a “Once More” to extend combos or make a move safe. 100 SP can be used to for an Instant Kill attack which can end the round if connected. When your health reaches 35% you will activate awakening mode raising your Max SP to 150, grants 50 SP and enables more super moves. SP is not carried over on to the next round so you don’t have to by shy.
Awakened and standard SP meters.
Each character has a unique persona that you can summon at will. Persona varies between characters who have their own normal and special attacks. Persona are separate from the player character so they can act and be attacked independently. When a Persona is struck they will take damage. If struck four times they will break and will have to recover before they can be used again.
Persona’s health are represented in card form.
At the top of the screen, players have a Burst Meter. You start will full Burst at the start of a match and pressing A+C+D will activate “One More Burst”. One More Burst can be used in multiple ways. It can be used in your combos to launch an opponent in the air to extend combos. It can be used to escape a combo you are in. If you connect the Burst as a single hit then you will gain 100 SP. Burst will slowly recover as you fight and carries over to the next round.
There is a story mode that separates the fighting with visual novel style. Each character has a story mode that gives context to the plot but most stories have to be unlocked by completing the other stories. There is an arcade mode that will pits you against CPU opponent until you reach the end. Score attack challenges you with high level CPU characters with maximum boosts associated with that character. Challenge mode presents thirty combos for each character exploring their move set and simple and advanced combos. There is also a training mode that allows you to set parameters for not only meter but status effects and personal buffs.
Graphics and Sound
Persona 4 Arena has a hand-drawn anime style consistent with the artwork from Persona 3 and 4 and does away with the 3D character models. There sprite designs are more animated than with other hand drawn fighting games. They are fun to watch because their starting and ending poses and even idle animations are so detailed. The backgrounds do have 3D elements and have quite complex designs.
Most voice actors from Persona 3 and 4 reprise their roles for Arena. There is a lot of dialog in the story mode and as with the RPG’s they are high quality while keeping elements of Japanese speech in the translations. The music in the game is mostly taken from the Persona 4 soundtrack and some from Persona 3. There are mixes for some of the songs and some original compositions. The music is fast, up beat and heavily J-Pop themed
Persona 4 Arena stands out from the more mainstream fighting games. Persona adds new levels of strategy that you don’t often see. Persona can attack out of sync from your character creating situations that are difficult to block. Also having your Persona break limits some characters because they rely heavily on Persona attacks due to sub-par normals. There is a lot of variety between the 13 characters and while some characters feel stronger than others the weaker ones have moves that help balance them with the rest of the cast.
I haven’t had a lot of time with the game but Arena doesn’t really do a good job teaching you how you should be attacking. Challenge Mode shows you what is possible with your character but often times they are situational and/or requires high levels of execution. I have tried each of the characters and done a majority of challenges but I’ve been having a difficult time remembering what their bread and butter combos are.
From what I’ve played Persona 4 Arena is a fun game. The “Auto Combo” is good for beginners trying the game and there aren’t any complicated commands for any of the special moves. Watching high level play it seems that this game isn’t about long combos like UMVC3 or BlazBlue which is probably my problem in my approach with the game. I am looking forward to learning more about the game and getting better. Hopefully the community supports Atlus because unlike Capcom games this game feels complete from the get go and deserves attention.