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Persona 4 Arena Review: Correctly Translating An RPG Into A Fighting Game
So, by now everyone knows that Persona 4 is a pretty great game. Did you know it’s also a damn good fighter?
Atlus teamed up with Aksys, makers of BlazBlue, to bring out a fighting game based off of Persona 4 back in August. A fighting game based off an RPG? I wouldn’t blame you if your initial reaction was sour. How can anyone truly translate everything an RPG has to offer into a fighting game?
I’d tell you to ask these guys because they did it. With extreme precision.
Best Friends. Better Enemies.
There aren’t enough villains in Persona 4 to truly split up the roster between good and evil. Instead we have the Investigation Team pitted against itself in a “Grand Prix” fighting tournament.
Just so newcomers know, this is set a year or so after the events of Persona 4. If you haven’t beaten that or Golden, I’d stray away from this. You will be very confused as soon the game even starts up.
Still, it’s a hell of an addition to the story. Bridging the game worlds of Persona 3 and Persona 4, you’ll encounter a lot of fan favorites with Chie, Naoto, Rise, Teddie, Elizabeth, Akihiko, Mitsuru, and even more. The story involves the heroes of Persona 4 getting sucked into another crazy mystery inside the TV World. They are made to fight each other and depending on who you decide to play as, you’ll get a section of the story that revolves around that character. You have to play through all of the character’s sections to piece the story together but it all adds up to more character progress for each of the Persona 3 and 4 characters playable.
In other words, it is worth it as a fan to play Persona 4 Arena for the story.
Music, Magic, Mayhem. Oh my!
Being branded as a Persona 4 game instead of a P3 game was a wise choice in my opinion. I feel that Persona 4 had a much better soundtrack (although the Battle for Everyone’s Souls was amazing). The music from the game is thrown throughout the game and in the right places. I say that because there is some new, original music here and it is great for a fighting game: very fast and upbeat. Still the sections where they placed Persona 4’s music is great. You’ll hear Backside of the TV while your character progresses through the story. I’ll Face Myself will pop up when a big battle happens. Even sections of Fog will play when you use your character’s ultimate move.
The skill system for each character is a great representation of their in-game persona, too. (heh, Persona) Let’s look at Chie, for example. Chie is able to use Rampage, Black Spot, Power Charge, God’s Hand, Agneyastra, and even Galactic Punt. That’s par for course with her RPG side. Looking over at Yu Narukami (the Protagonist for P4), you’ll see everything you would expect: Zio, Ziodyne, Cross Slash, Swift Slash, and his ultimate ability Myriad Truths (which in itself is a pure reminder that you must play Persona 4 before this).
As you can see, they really mapped out each character to take full advantage of what they know and learn during the RPG game. Everyone plays out just like you would expect them to in Persona 3/4 if they were in open combat.
Easy to get into. Fun to play. Intelligent Design.
Fighting games by Aksys, thanks to BlazBlue, have seemingly picked up a reputation that you must be a semi- or full-pro to really like their stuff. Persona 4 Arena breaks that by giving you plenty of opportunities to learn, experience, and get better. Every character’s move list is easy to learn and remember. Combos range from normal to moderately difficult to pull off. It is easy to feel good at P4A. That makes this game very accessible to casual fighting fans or even those who don’t like fighters but want more Persona. You don’t have to be afraid of picking this up just because it’s a fighting game. Get you some more P4!
That’s one of the biggest strengths of Persona 4 Arena. It can appeal to a lot more audiences than just fighting fans. This is a game that RPG players can pick up and feel like they are enjoying themselves instead of frustration. The dev team did a good job at continuing P4’s story and making sure they weren’t segrating their fans between “those who will want to play a fighting game” and “those who will not want to play a fighting game”. This is just another Persona 4 game that can be enjoyable by all fans.
However, that’s its own fault, too. This is a game for fans. Those obvious to Persona 4 will be lost. Either that, or they are going to roll into this game not caring and just want to play a good fighting game. If that’s the case, then all the power to you. If you want story and substance to your fighting games but have never touched Persona 3 or 4, then you may want to stay away.
Even with that said, it is a very enjoyable fighter that is jam-packed with features, tons of options, DLC that changes the feel of the game thanks to the Navigators, and challenges to push you to your limits. For fighting fans, this is a great game. For Persona 4 fans, this is a good continuation that’s easy to get into. For Persona 4 fans who like fighters, you’ll be in your glory.
A Perfect Translation From RPG To Fighter
Atlus and Aksys have done an amazing job at looking at what Persona 4 did right and bringing it over to the fighting genre. Just being able to do that correctly makes Persona 4 Arena a game to look at with awe. Even the beautifully crafted anime cutscenes go hand-in-hand with what made Persona 4 such an amazing experience.
I usually play fighting games sparingly. I pick them up, play a bit, and then don’t touch them for awhile. This game has been hooked as I want to learn everyone’s moves and be good with the whole roster. That isn’t too hard thanks to there only being 13 fighters. I was a bit upset that a few of my other favorites didn’t make it in. I’d have liked to have fought as Adachi and the main protagonist of Persona 3. Still, the game features key characters from both games and it does feel like a fleshed out roster thanks to how close they got the skills and abilities from the original games.
This is a very fun game to play by yourself, with friends, and even online. The online experience is smooth but trust me, those guys are good. They know the in’s and out’s of the game and you can tell Aksys’ fanbase picked this up.
Overall I have to congratulate the dev team on this one. It’s a fantastic addition to the Persona 4 story, great integration with P3, awesome features, easy to slide into mechanics, and although anyone can pick this up and enjoy it, it is a great example of fan service done right.
Note: This review was completed using the Xbox 360 version of Persona 4 Arena, which released in the US on August 7th, 2012. I played through everyone’s story, many online battles, head-to-head local battles, and spent many a-hours in the training room.