Wait a second an RPG is transcending it’s genre and making the leap to…a fighting game? I couldn’t believe the precedent being created when Persona 4 Arena was announced. I had an even harder time believing that such a drastic leap away from the norm could turn out so well. Yes dear readers P4 Arena is not only a competent fighter, it is also a great one. Can you believe it? This sets the stage so that other fighters could possibly become RPGs or something completely different. Man we live in one exciting time. Well here we go let’s talk about how one of the best JRPGs released in the last decade made the leap to a tournament level fighting game.
So starting off with the visuals, they are simply breathtaking, developer Arc Systems of BlazBlue fame stepped up to the plate for an ambitious project. Using a wonderful anime style loyal to the source material Arc Systems brought P4 Arena to life. Character models and animations feel so much like Persona. Every attack, special move or combo you perform feels like a perfect translation from the RPG. The care that was taken to make sure each character looks and feels unique is incredible. Not only do they all have their own fighting styles, each characters voice acting is top notch. Characters quip at each other using the iconic voices that Persona 3 and Persona 4 made famous. I really can’t overstate this enough. This is a fighter that really feels like a Persona game. Throw in the best songs from P3/P4 and you can’t help but get goose bumps.[youtube id=”RbsAyGQ0k_U” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Now every game has it’s short comings P4 Arena is no exception. Surprisingly the weakest part of P4 Arena is it’s story. Now don’t get me wrong the story is actually very interesting, once again Arc Systems is loyal to the source material. The story explains exactly why and how this is happening, it explains how the characters that we know would never fight one another have been forced to do so. It also explains how and why Persona 3 characters are here as well. Each character has a unique story, but there is some overlap so you will end up experiencing the same bits of story multiple times. The real problem with the story is the god awful pacing, even as a Persona fan I realize I’m playing a fighting game. The fact that it can take up to 30 minutes to get to a characters first fight is ridiculous. There can then be 5-15 minutes between subsequent fights. Plus once you’ve figured out the twist ending it becomes a real pain to sit through that entire explanation again and again. I’m sure there was probably a better way to handle this, I just can’t think of one. As complaints go this one is pretty minor. I’d rather have the pacing be off and the source material respected then the other way around.
So we come to the core of this game: the fighting. P4 Arena much like BlazBlue is the definition of easy to learn difficult to master. The game gives new players the useful auto combo systems repeatedly mash the square button to perform an automatic combo. A more experienced player can create a far more devastating maneuver using cancels, bursts, all out attacks and, manually entering special moves. The auto combo system helps newer players stand a chance against hardened veterans. Attacks have four classifications weak/strong melee and weak/strong Persona attacks. Each can be used on their own effectively you can also combine them with characters special moves for devastating combos. Most high damage special moves rely on SP which is P4 Arena’s Super meter. Pretty standard build sp through successful combos and blocking unleash in devastating attacks. Each character also has a unique finishing move that can only be used in a round that will win you the match. It cost a staggering 100SP but should it connect regardless of the enemy players health you win. These finishing moves are fun to watch and are probably more satisfying then any fatality. There is nothing like being a single hit from death and landing one of these bad boys. You just can’t help but have a shit eating grin on your face.[youtube id=”AHnHNL9-0aU” width=”600″ height=”350″]
P4 Arena carries your standard fare for mode choices a very competent tutorial a challenge mode which is basically the advanced tutorial for each character. The aforementioned story mode, a training mode and the standard tower arcade mode. It also features some of the most optimized online lobbies that I’ve had the pleasure of playing in. I don’t always have the best internet connection and I never experienced lag during a fight. As with all fighters online the barrier to entry might as well be rotating saw blades, so prepare to lose a lot. The game also supports couch play which is always the best way to play. The only negative towards longevity is the lack of characters. They’re exactly thirteen, now they all play unique and are balanced incredibly. I just find myself wanting more. I mean I’m happy to see Mitsuru Kirijo and Akihiko back in action but there are some other characters from the series that would be amazing to see. Perhaps DLC? (Junpei please!)
Overall Person 4 Arena has made a great impression on me. It’s appealed to both my love of RPGs and fighting games. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you’re looking for a fresh fighter with a lot of interesting ideas then pick this one up. Persona fans buy this one. Fighting fans buy this one. For now I guess I’ll see you all on the Midnight Channel.