Since the release of Persona 3 the long running series from Developer/Publisher Atlus has been receiving well deserved attention over the years. With the release of Persona 4 the franchise was taken to a whole another level with concerts being dedicated to the individual title, an anime series, a revamped PS Vita port releasing soon, and what this review is about, Persona 4 Arena. Persona 4 arena is a direct sequel to Persona 4 centered around a tournament called the “Grand P-1″ which puts 12 notable characters of the P4 and P3 titles against each other.
Persona 4 arena takes places over two years after the events of Persona 3 FES and 2 months after the conclusion to Persona 4. The main character from P4 Yu Narumaki recently returns to Yasoniba and conveniently his friend Chie begins to hear rumors that the “midnight channel” is airing again. Chie informs their compatriots Yosuke and Yukiko and the four begin on their quest to find the cause of the midnight channel’s airing. The overall plot is really just a sequence of events that lead up to a final boss battle as is the norm in the genre of fighting games. There were some interesting plot points in the game but if you’re a hardcore Persona fan reading this I will not include any of them in this review
Now on to the most important part of this review and Persona 4 Arena the game-play. With the development of P4 arenas engine beings spearheaded by Arc System Works one would assume we would be receiving a game similar to Guilty Gear and Blazblue. P4 arena is influenced heavily by its parent titles using typical ARCSYS features such as bursts, instant block, and air an ground recovery options. What ARCSYS brought to the table though in terms of unique features is a game changer to their typical formula. The use of each characters own Persona in VS mode is definitely the most complicated part of the overall game-play in P4 Arena and may take some time for players to get use to. Players can call their Persona into battle at any given moment to start a combo, counter, block and many other interesting combinations that have yet to be explored this early on.
The use of a Persona though has its own rules and restrictions; first of all each persona has a limitation set on how many times they can appear on screen. The limit set on the Persona’s are one appearance per button input for each character at one time. Once a player has called their respective Persona into battle they will have to a few seconds to call it back in. Another interesting balancing affect implemented into the Persona assist feature is their life gauge. Players and their Persona’s can damage an opposing players Persona while it appears on screen. If a player brings down said Persona’s life gauge to 0 a Persona break occurs and the affected player cannot call their Persona into combat for an extended period of time. This puts more emphasis on proper execution and timing when it comes to utilizing your Persona. Further more other notable game-play features are awakening mode , SB commands, dash,all out attack, auto combo’s, status alignments and instant kills.
Awakening mode is a state your character will automatically enter in when you fall below 30% of your max HP. This state endows you with a full special meter to spend on your supers and SB commands. SB commands can be described as pretty much EX moves from Street fighter 4. Dashes are movement oriented commands that allow you to phase through your opponent if your in a tight situation such as a corner trap. All out attacks are attacks that launch your opponent into a stunned state where you can combo them into the air fairly easily.
The auto combo system is exactly what it sounds like a system that allows you to do a preset auto combo; most players may find this to be a “cheap” feature but ARCSYS made sure to balance it out. Auto combo’s first off do not do a substantial amount of damage and every character has the same preset command sequence so if one person can do it you can do it too.
Status alignments were something I didn’t expect to come across. But they are a fun feature that not only keeps you the player on your toes but also allows you to use some nefarious tactics when playing against a friend or computer. Each character has their own set ability that contributes to a status alignment. Lastly instant kills are commands that can only be executed on the final round of a match and when both players life gauges are below 30%. The player may then enter the instant kill command which results in a cut-scene and an automatic win if you catch it.
ARCSYS chose to use a fairly simple button configuration for P4 arena. P4 arena uses a four button set up A being a weak attack B being a strong attack C being a weak persona attack D being a strong persona attack. Each command varies differently in the amount of time it takes for an execution to occur on screen and in their overall animation and damage. Typical combinations like A.A.B can be done on either a controller or fight stick whichever is your personal preference.
Persona 4 Arena features some very interesting and refreshing quirks to the fighter genre of games. The collaboration of Atlus and Arc System Works is definitely a deadly alliance if there ever were one. Most players may find the game to be difficult to pick up at first and obviously you will have the FGC thrashing the game for being good. But this shouldn’t be discouraging to any consumer wanting to try something new. ARCSYS provides enough step by step instructions on how to familiarize yourself with their system in the form of lessons and trial mode. This game should definitely be on your must get list for this summer’s video game releases when it officially debuts on August 7th in NA.