Mortal Kombat. Street Fighter. Tekken. Persona? In a move that was strange, frightening, and exciting all at the same time, Atlus turned their beloved JRPG series, Persona, into a fighting game. Luckily for Atlus, and gamers, the Persona series has struck video game gold once again.
Persona 4 Arena (P4A)’s story takes place two months after the events of Persona 4. The Midnight Channel has returned with an announcement of a tournament involving the heroes from Persona 4. In typical Persona fashion, the story is well thought-out and touching. The story mode proper can last around 30-40 hours and is filled with internal and external struggles. There are some very minor spoilers for anyone who hasn’t played Persona 4 yet, but nothing that would give anyone reason not to play it. Most fighting games have very rudimentary storylines that revolve around defeating an evil empire of some sort or another. P4A’s story is more about believing in oneself. I found it to be very entertaining. Just make sure you’re ready to do a little reading.
Atlus enlisted the fighting game experts at ArcSystem Works, creators of the Blazblue series, to build the fighting system for P4A. The good news is it works. This is a perfect example of a system that is “easy to learn, difficult to master.” Two face buttons act as weak and strong attacks performed by the character. The other two act as weak and strong attacks performed by the character’s specific Persona. Each character has a handful of special moves, some of which even inflict status ailments on their opponent, such as poison and shock. As someone whose left thumb is calloused over from hours of quarter-circle and punch button combos, I was relieved to find out I could play P4A without the risk of blisters. The fighters are well-balanced, with no real “cheap” moves to speak of. I also appreciated the fact that there aren’t a ridiculous number of fighters to choose from. It makes learning the moves less intimidating as well as allowing the player to focus more on mastering more than just two or three characters.
P4A is packed with enough modes to keep the replay value high. There is the aforementioned 30+ hour story mode, a standard arcade mode that actually has snippets of story, training, online, and more. I tested the online portion on the PS3. Aside from the matchmaking taking a little time, the actual fighting was fluid; no lag. The Xbox 360 version had some online hiccups that Atlus has released a patch for.
The Persona series holds up surprisingly well as a fighting game. It’s beautiful to look at, fun to play, and challenging to master. The story is enjoyable, especially if you’ve played Persona 3 and Persona 4. It’s a fighting game with characters you actually care about. Atlus has worked their magic yet again.
- Easy to learn, yet difficult to master fighting system
- Beautiful art design
- Great story, especially for a fighting game
- A ton of modes that keep the replay value high
- The wait until Persona 5 is released
Note: This review is based on the PS3 version of the game, purchased by the reviewer. The game is also available on XBox 360.