Persona 4 Review: Arena

The Persona series, born as a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei, has collected thousands of followers over the years, so much so that it has become an independent strand in the variegated universe created by Atlus. We have the importance that the Japanese company has reserved for the series in the number of products related to Persona. In addition to the main chapters, we find enhanced versions with numerous additional content (Persona 3 Fes or more recently Persona 4 Golden on PS Vita), anime series and concerts that are sold-out on each tour date. Given the enormous media coverage of the series, Atlus has seen fit to exploit the Persona 4 franchise properly by creating a fighting game in collaboration with the authors of Blazblue and Guilty Gear, the Arc System Works. If certain experiments are seen by fans as risky, because not always distorting a winning product leads to good results, this partnership with Arc System Works has given us hope since the announcement of Persona 4 Arena, being in fact veterans in the field of beat'em up.

Tested Version: Xbox 360

Reach out to the truth!

The approach chosen for P4 Arena was to create a new story that continued the Persona 4 storyline by continuing from where it left off in the JRPG, starring Yu Narukami himself who together with his friends and schoolmates will have to shed light on a new mystery that hovers over the charming town of Inaba, after the tragic murders that took place in the previous months. Returning to visit his companions after the transfer occurred at the end of P4, Yu Narukami will sadly discover that the Midnight Channel, an alternate world populated by aberrant creatures called Shadows, is still in operation and that a bizarre tournament called P- 1 Grand Prix, which sees Yu and his friends as stars of the show. Without thinking too much, the P4 investigative team goes back to work trying to shed some light on this new case.
The structure of the story mode, which in itself is also substantial enough to keep the player busy for several hours, is articulated as a visual novel. We will therefore have to deal with numerous static screens where the more or less animated silhouettes of the protagonists will interact with each other or propose long soliloquies expressing their moods or their reflections on the current event. Only from time to time we will be faced with some multiple choices that in some cases will change the course of the story, while at the end of the chapter it will be necessary to face a fight in order to continue. Being a direct sequel to the events of Persona 4, P4 Arena contains numerous references to the original game, often only hinted at that make those who are not caught or appreciated by those who are dealing with the series for the first time, sometimes appearing as well boring. Unfortunately, the story mode does not shine either for originality or for narrative quality, resulting only pleasant for those who have appreciated the "first chapter" without touching its excellence.


Definitely better on a playful level where P4 Arena pours all the experience of Arc System Works onto the screen, offering the player a game system that manages to combine technique and immediacy, also opening up to that public not accustomed to fighting games, without compromising too much. with the purists of the genre. Before going into the details of the gameplay it is necessary to talk about the automatic attack that can be activated by pressing a single button and that will perform a predefined combo, which will end with a special based on the amount of energy present in the special bar, with more or less results. effective. This possibility has been inserted to bring all those people who love Persona but are far from the beat'em up field closer together. Fortunately, however, in support of a more hardcore audience there is a rather complex battle system that requires hours of training and dedication to be gutted in its entirety.
It all starts with the four buttons dedicated to the attack, two for our character and two more for your Persona, the avatar that accompanies and helps our fighter. As in any self-respecting fighting game, the combination of these keys, combined with the pressure of the directional cross opens a whole series of possibilities and lethal combinations. The greater your skill in playing and ringing more combos, the better the results. Obviously the key to the whole game will be the timing with which to execute the moves. Understanding the timing and the various attack and defense windows will be extremely important to survive a match, refining the basic skills to access more technical and vital moves such as dodging and canceling, which if performed incorrectly will will reveal a double-edged sword. Each move boasts an enhanced version that will subtract energy from the Gauge Bar at the bottom of the screen, which in case of need, once reached a critical level in the vital bar, will be strengthened allowing us to take advantage of the latest resources and turn the tide of the match. . The various Personas can be used not only to attack but also strategically as defense elements, absorbing enemy blows. This system, however, has limitations that prevent the abuse of this technique and knocking out our companion with the need to wait a few seconds before he can return to fight with us.

Welcome to the Velvet room

Given the JRPG nature of Persona, the programmers have well thought of going to insert some role-playing elements into the game. Rather than addressing this aspect by inserting it in the part of the story mode, they decided to affect the gameplay, throwing elemental attacks, altered status and malus typical of role-playing games into the game mechanics. This is another facet of the varied game system and on balance an aspect to keep in mind during the clashes, which by their nature will be hectic and chaotic, leaving little time for planning, asking the player to act immediately.
Going back to talking about the automatic combo, an introduction that may not go down well for many, this actually turns out to be a straw for the less experienced and an incentive to improve, a starting point for understanding and learning the basic dynamics, but which alone can reveals unable to rival the most experienced players.
Instead, it inherits from the DNA of Arc System Works an "instant kill" combo which, if used at the right time and once the appropriate bar is filled, allows you to immediately end the match by activating a short and spectacular animated sequence. This is perhaps the mildest aspect of P4 Arena, as the combination to be made will be very simple, without major variations between the various characters and without limitations on the part of the game, allowing it to be performed as soon as there are all the conditions in favor. The abuse of this move, especially in online matches, leads to unpleasant matches with players who focus their fighting style simply on filling the special bar. And although it is as easily avoidable as it is easy to perform it, in the long run certain attitudes become rather monotonous causing the opposite effect of what should be the spirit of the game, the fun.
One of the aspects that fully convinces P4 Arena is the excellent balance of the characters thanks to the commitment by Arc System Works and its years of experience in this field to put on a roster with extremely balanced wrestlers, each with the its strengths, special abilities and flaws, capable of offering any player a perfect and adaptable tool to their fighting style.
And if we really wanted to find a flaw we could say that the cast of the characters suffers a little in the number by proposing about fifteen fighters, available immediately, far in number compared to the competition of similar titles (Capcom and SNK above all). Moreover, there are also three "intruders" belonging to the cast of Persona 3 and who here have their place within the story (although unrelated, the two titles share some elements in the plot and the world of Persona).

I'm a shadow… the true self…

After having explored the training mode and learned the fundamentals of the game thanks to simple but exhaustive lessons we will be able to continue training with the Training or by completing the various challenges present for each character and which will be used to learn the complex game system and which will be handled increasingly difficult to achieve. Needless to say, in this case the use of an arcade stick makes the difference and in many cases determine a gap compared to the usual pad. Also present is the online competitive mode that offers ranked matches or player matches exempt from online ranking. Those who have followed the troubled development of the game or rather, its process that led it to go outside the Japanese borders will know well that Persona 4 Arena arrives in Europe after almost a year from the Japanese release, after touching a few months does the American territory. This wouldn't be a big deal were it not that each version has a region lock on the servers making it impossible to play with players from all over the world. This questionable choice, which on balance does not bring any advantage (if not minimal on the quality of the connections, but we will talk about this shortly) limits the gaming experience, effectively sawing the users that can be found, especially on a niche title like this, making it difficult to find even just a game despite the fact that the game has recently been released. To this is added the usual ballerina quality of the servers, which despite the closure of the servers sees unstable connections and difficulties in guaranteeing latency-free games, which is concentrated more in the first moments of the game and then settles down, but without the cleaning necessary to enjoy. the game fully, once again making this genre preferable in its offline version played with friends.

Thou art I and I am Thou.

On the artistic side, Persona 4 Arena blends together Beautiful characters made in 2D and animated in an excellent way on backdrops recreated thanks to the use of three-dimensional elements that trace the places already seen and loved in Persona 4. Rich in details and animated components, the stages are real arenas pulsating with life, with many references to the series and cameos inserted here and there with maniacal fan service. On the screen, during the various matches, there is an explosion of colors and special effects, without this affecting the fluidity of the game which always settles at high levels, guaranteeing fast and frenetic games. The quality of the title is on the same level as the last works of Arc System Works and is comparable in terms of production to that of Blazblue, which in the context of two-dimensional fighting games represents the state of the art as regards the technical realization. The same can be said for the soundtrack, which draws heavily from the last two chapters by proposing remixed versions of the songs created by Shoji Meguro & Co., as well as finding space for two new tracks, intended for the opening and ending of the game. Absent the Spanish localization of the texts, in this case present only in English while the presence of the original dubbing, selectable from the appropriate menu, is noteworthy.

Verdict 8/10 Beat the iron 'till is hot Comment What about Persona 4 Arena? It is a well-made title with a precious and satisfying gameplay, capable of giving great satisfaction to fans of the genre who are looking for a deep and nuanced title. Of course, being a spin-off / sequel to Persona 4, it makes the story mode not very enjoyable, especially for those unfamiliar with Persona 4 given the numerous references to the original story. One of the best 2D beat'em ups of recent times that unfortunately arrives in Europe almost a year after its first release and that is castrated in the online component due to the regional blocks made on the servers that make it difficult to find playmates. Pros and cons Versatile and technical combat system
Graphically sublime
Sumptuous soundtrack, it collects the best of Persona 4 x Story mode devoid of interest for those unfamiliar with the series
x Castrated online mode
x Limited Roster

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