Sunday, January 13, 2013

Game Review: Persona 4 Arena

2D Fighting game; PS3/Xbox 360; Atlus/Arc System Works; 2012
Okay, I have to say something, Atlus can you slow down on the Persona franchise. I mean, I love the Persona games, they are an awesome collection of RPGs with a rich set of characters and a fresh world to explore. But seriously, Persona 3, FES, Portable, Persona 4, The Animation, The Golden, and now the Arena. I guess it's fine so long as they are all awesome (which they are) but eventually we are going to burn out on Persona. Please stop it before it's too late. In the meantime, here is my review of Persona 4 Arena, a 2D sprite based fighter spin-off of a 3D Dungeon crawler RPG/dating sim hybrid...There has been weirder games.

"The despite fighting program amongst High School Students!"
It has only been a few months since the Inaba serial murder case was closed and the sleepy little town has returned to its old peaceful state. Now, during the extended weekend of Golden Week, the young man who put an end to the bizarre string of murders, Yu Narukami, returns to spend time with the friends and family he became close to during his year spent there. However, when he arrives something strange is going on, the Midnight Channel, a supernatural program that comes on on a turned off TV at midnight of a rainy day, comes back. Previously, it showed an image of a person who became a target during the murder; however, this time it showed Yu and his friends taking part in a fighting tournament. Now, the old Investigation Team who solved the murder case is back together, returning to the TV world where it all started to uncover the mystery behind the return of the Midnight Channel and the fighting tournament, "The P-1 Grand Prix." But once there, they are not only separated, but are also forced to fight each other and other Persona Users. What is the "P-1 Grand Prix"? Who are these other Persona Users? And who is this girl inside the TV? The only way to the Truth is to fight in Persona 4 Arena.

Once again, Atlus proves to be masters of writing and story telling. The story is great, far better than what you usually see in these tournament fighter games. I mean, the game made me cry. You have to be doing something right if my reaction to what is happening on scene is to cry (true, part of that was because they where playing "Living with Determination" but still). Of course one of the main problems with the story is that you are pretty much required to have played Persona 3 and 4 in order to fully comprehend the events in Arena. The game does try to keep required prior knowledge to a minimum with each character's internal monologue explaining necessary details and character relationships, but this just serves to bloat an already verbose story mode with even more information. If you are going to play Story Mode, be prepared to read... a lot.

Another internet battle has been put to rest.
Before I begin talking about gameplay I want to make something perfectly clear, I do not play fighting games. I am a complete novice at combo, canceling, and combo breakers. Therefore, any nuances of different fighting game mechanics are completely foreign to me, so remember my comments are coming from someone who's fighting game experience is next to nil. Persona 4 Arena is a four button 2D sprite based fighter, the four buttons in question are the Weak Attack button, the Strong Attack button, the Weak Persona button, and the Strong Persona button. It is these last two buttons that help create P4 Arena's unique gameplay. Much like the core Persona games, each character has an entity called a Persona (their "Other Self") which they use in combat. Here, their Personas can be summon by using the two Persona buttons to create a kind of Tag-team combo with both the Player and their Persona. But be careful because when a Persona is summoned they are vulnerable to attacks which not only cancel said whatever move you are trying for, but also if they are attack 4 times in a match the Persona is considered "Broken" and can't be used for a set amount of time. This not only makes the two Persona buttons useless, but any special attacks that use a Persona are likewise unavailable. Persona 4 Arena also tries to make it self as accessible to new comers as possible, as nearly all of the special moves in the game consist of the same quarter circle forward or back plus button across all characters with only a few characters who break this trend. All Super moves likewise universal in their execution with double quarter circle forwards and Awaken Skills being double quarter circle backwards, and the grand finale of the Instant Kills are triple down and both Persona buttons. And even if that is too much to remember for new players Arc System Works add an "Auto Combo" where just by hammering the Weak Attack button, your character will run through an entire combo complete with Special attacks and even finishing with a Super Move if conditions are right.

Meet the new character Labrys, and fall in love with her Kansei accent.
While I feel inadequate to properly criticize this game given my lack of experience with fighting games, I do have some complaints. The one that doesn't have anything to do with gameplay, and thus I am comfortable in commenting on, is that in story mode there are a few mistakes. Most of these are errors in grammar and spelling that pop up every now and then like saying "ouf" instead of "out" and "embearassment" instead of "embarrassment" when Teddie ISN'T talking, but there is one voice clip that doesn't match the dialog on screen at all, and one error that creates a time paradox in the Persona continuity (The line in question states that the Tatsumi Port Island explosion happened 10 years ago in 2011.... What the F..). In terms of gameplay, I feel that the game is completely ill-suited for a controller, given how many moves not only require you to press two buttons at one, but also THREE buttons simultaneously. Unless you have enormous thumbs that can give proper coverage over all three buttons in question, you NEED to have an Arcade Stick to play this game. And lastly, this might be my own inexperience with Fighting games talking, but does the game really need to be so goddamn fickle with how quick you need to be in order to chain attacks together? Seriously, I can't figure out how the difference between 0.2 seconds and 0.21 seconds is the difference between executing a Swift Strike - Ziodyne combo and a Swift Strike hit and then a Ziodyne hit.

In the end of the day, Persona 4 Arena is a 2D fighting game that even I, a non-fighting game player, thoroughally enjoyed. Any fan of Persona or of Fighting games should definitely check this out, for different reasons. Persona fans will get a solid entry into Persona universe that seem to open into a future storyline (Whether this is for Persona 4 Arena 2 or for Persona 5 that we all KNOW is going to happen eventually, we just don't know), while Fighting game fans will have a new and unique game made by one of the best in the industry. If you don't fall into one of those two camps, then there is probably too little here to catch your interest; however, if you do then this game is Highly Recommended.

Until next time.

-Crescent, Yes, Elizabeth is here... We are all so screwed.

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