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Review

Persona 4 Arena Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: August 7, 2012
  • X360

Persona 4 Arena is the latest fighter from developer Arc System Works and matches their high standard of quality while also being accessible for newcomers.

Fighting games generally center around two combatants squaring off one-on-one or in a tag-team format. Persona 4 Arena combines these styles, requiring you to control two fighters in harmony: your character and his or her persona, an imaginative creature that fights at your side. The mechanics are easy to grasp--while maintaining a level of complexity in keeping with Arc System Works' pedigree--and support a fully featured game with few setbacks.

As with any fighting game, the quality of the combat mechanics is paramount. The game's basics will be familiar to anyone acquainted with Arc System Works' previous fighters, such as the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series. Each round, two characters duke it out on a 2D plane using a combination of physical attacks and the abilities of their persona.

One of the most interesting features in this game is the personas: the unique-looking warriors who fight alongside your avatar. At first glance, these secondary combatants may remind you of the "stands" from the 1998 fighter JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. While this is an apt comparison, there are some key differences.

In JoJo's, most stands were toggled on or off, while in Persona 4 Arena, the personas are always active and ready to assist. Generally, a persona's attacks are situational tools--such as an anti-air grapple or projectile. The avatars handle the general-purpose, quick-hitting combos and are complemented by their personas. A few characters, such as Yukiko and Elizabeth, rely more on their personas to do the heavy lifting. Finding a balance between physical- and persona-based attacks, and using both of your fighters in harmony, is an interesting puzzle that's constantly changing depending on whom you're fighting. Plus, the personas' creative designs and outrageous attacks add spectacle to the fight.

Utilizing your fighter and their Persona in harmony is key to victory.

Similar to JoJo's stands, personas can be "broken" in combat if they take too many hits. The four cards below your health represent the persona's vitality. Each time a persona is attacked, you lose a card. Lose them all, and you must wait for a brief cooldown to expire before you can call your persona again.

Most cast members also have a unique fighting mechanic. For example, Labrys' massive axe increases in power as she fights, while Aigis has an ammo counter that depletes after certain attacks. Effectively managing these individual traits helps each fighter feel distinct from the rest.

The bulk of the remaining fighting mechanics are managed with a single energy meter. The most important one to master is One More Cancel, which lets you instantly reset your fighter's animation to extend combos or quickly block if you miss a big attack. This technique costs some meter, but its numerous applications add flexibility to the combat system with one simple execution.

The game's pace is quick, similar to that of The King of Fighters XIII.

For newcomers, Persona 4 Arena is very accessible, thanks in part to the auto-combo system. Similar to the boost combos in Capcom's Street Fighter X Tekken, auto-combos are a series of easily connecting hits that automatically cancel into a special move, and then into a super move (if you have the meter), simply by tapping one button. This combo is simple to execute, but is hardly the most damaging combo in any character's arsenal. More experienced fighters will find success using their own custom combos.

The plot of Persona 4 Arena is centered around a group of high school students. After seeing a strange late-night broadcast, they travel to a fantastical world hidden within a television set where they experience hallucinations and are tricked into fighting each other for the amusement of a cartoon bear wearing a cape. Think this sounds bizarre? You're not alone. Thankfully, for those unfamiliar with the preexisting Persona lore, this game's narrative modes takes great pains to bring you up to speed.

Each member of the 13-character roster has his or her own story to tell, and they have a lot to say. The overarching tale is the mystery of the P-1 Grand Prix: a fighting tournament taking place within the television world. For those who really want to sink their teeth into this, there are branching story paths within certain characters' storylines. These paths can offer additional insight or lead to some strange alternate endings--which adds some extra replayability. Sadly, the presentation of this mode is not as interesting. It's mostly two character portraits talking back and forth in 15- to 20-minute text-filled blocks--a static (if not efficient) form that will quickly bore all but the most enthusiastic.

If you're looking for a slimmer single-player experience, Persona 4 Arena's Arcade mode is for you. This mode condenses each character's storyline into a few brief snippets before and after each fight, as well as a short ending. Playing through it reveals a few of the story mode's key plot points, but you can finish it in under an hour.

If you find yourself stuck in a fight, you can turn to the game's educational modes. The first, Lesson mode, introduces the fundamentals. This series of trials covers everything from movement to move canceling--albeit in a very basic way. These single-completion lessons do not match the quality of education offered by Skullgirls and only scratch the surface of fighting game theory.

The character challenges include demonstrations to help with timing.

The game's Challenge mode is more helpful once you reach the intermediate stage. This mode introduces the basic moves for the entire cast, as well as a long list of simple, and advanced, combos. It does a good job of providing some shorter, practical combos up front that help you understand how a certain fighter should be played. Once you feel comfortable, there are plenty of more advanced combos to learn, including a special expert challenge at the end--such as "Inflict more than 9000 damage at once!"--for you to puzzle out.

Online, Persona 4 Arena offers most of the amenities fighting fans have come to expect. The basics of player and ranked matches are in place, with all the standard ranking and filtering options. Player match options let you decide how players are rotated out (winner out, loser out) and how many matches a player can play in a row--that way one person can't dominate the entire session, if you so choose. Unfortunately, at the time of review we were unable to download replays from the dedicated replay leaderboard--unlike in the PS3 version where the replay leaderboard is functional. However, we could still download replays from other leaderboards provided the listing included the green camera icon. This is a severe handicap for replay functionally.

Online performance was inconsistent. Matches against opponents within the same region suffered frequent spikes in lag, while matches against overseas opponents stuttered to an almost unplayable crawl.

Roughly half the dialog in the narrative modes is fully voiced.

Persona 4 Arena is a fast-paced fighter that can be easily enjoyed even if you're not a Persona fan. With the auto-combo system, combat is initially accessible, but it quickly reveals its complexity as you explore the intricacies of each character's persona and individual traits. For those who are Persona fans first, and fighters second, the game's lengthy story mode will keep you intrigued, so long as you don't mind its dry presentation. It's an elegant game and a great entry point into the catalog of Arc System Works' fighters.

The Good
Fighting mechanics balance accessibility and complexity
Gorgeous visuals and animations
Extensive narrative modes.
The Bad
Inconsistent online play
Dry narrative presentation
Bare-bones tutorial mode
Problems with replay downloading.
7
Good
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Discussion

1 comments
SolidTy
SolidTy

This is exactly my kind of game, and the online being wonky on PS3 as well as the poor 360 Dpad is a bummer though.

avatarIVN
avatarIVN

Well, two weeks ago, I would not have cared for this game at all. Now, that I have seen the anime Persona 4: the animation, I just wonder how could I possibly survive without playing this game 

Falru
Falru

The online has been patched for the 360 and it's smooth sailing now. So this needs a second-look at the very least on the review.

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

I give this game a 0.0 for the simple fact that they want to charge me almost 500 points just to change the color of my outfit. Not a new outfit just colors. Or I can get glasses for my chars for another 500 points. Sorry but I already called capcom for trying to rip me off and these guys are doing just as bad.

slotheater
slotheater

latency issues are fixed as of today...

Locke_FF6
Locke_FF6

jajaja xD Comparing the ps3 with de 360 version =D

mo_77
mo_77

So this is great on PS3 with an 8 rating, and good on the xbox with a 7 rating, nice going gamespot, this shows how unreliable your ratings and reviews has gotten, bye.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

Glad to see a quality product come out of this, and while I do appreciate the quirky concept, I personally am to burned out on fighting games to really care. It would be great if Atlus would work on a REAL Persona or SMT game for the current consoles. All these rehashes on handhelds is getting ridiculous as well.

Legend002
Legend002

lol The 360 version of this game got decked for performence while Skyrim and Mass Effect 3 scored the same for both even though the PS3 version was barely playable.

Falru
Falru

Unfortunately the -1 for the online is entirely justified. Atlus has said they already completed the patch and are just testing it before release, but the fact remains that 360s online is completely broken at present. It is literally a dis-functional mess. I'm playing with a friend I've played thousands and thousands of games of BlazBlue with (he's in CA, I'm in UT) and the game runs at like 1/15th the actual speed. It sometimes randomly fixes itself and runs near normal speed but once a round ends it goes back to shittiness.

 

As for the actual game, it's definitely a really good fighter that could be enormous fun if (when?) the online worked.

GalvatronType_R
GalvatronType_R

I have no problem with GS's 1 point deduction.  ASW may have promised a patch but GS has to review what's in front of them and can't rely on what ASW might or might not patch.

 

It's like me telling my history professor than my paper will be better if he lets me "patch" it later with additional research.

zobi123
zobi123

atlus said they are patching the online lag, so the score should be the same! 

 

soxs
soxs

....Screw it, I don't mind that they dropped a point for the 360 version. This game rocks regardless, plus, we will all have our own opinions about it once we play it anyway.

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

The 7.0 for the Xbox 360 was not what I expected. I expected the same score as the PS3.

suplax
suplax

I think the reviewer is being far too generous with his grade.

This game sucks badly , i' ve bought but i'll return to Gamestop as soon as possible, if you want a real good 2d fighting game stick with Marvel VS Capcom or Street Fighter.

pqwoei
pqwoei

I guess I'm buying the PS3 version then

finalstar2007
finalstar2007

This got a whole point lower than the PS3 version.. wow

skinny_man_69
skinny_man_69

First time I've heard of a difference between the 360 and PS3 version. I wonder if it is an isolated thing with the online or everyone is experiencing it to varying degrees

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@GameNator147 And I hope you realize this is the only Persona game that isn't exclusive to Playstation consoles.

Runock
Runock

@GameNator147 Yet another pre-pubescent moron to remind us why we call them the worst generation ever.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

 @Falru I agree. They can give this an 8.0 just like with they give for the PS3 Version.

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

 @stan_boyd I know that sucks but at least is just optional things, colors and accessories is not something that affects gameplay 12 characters and gems 

noobody1
noobody1

The online in the Xbox is rally bad

Fooljeff
Fooljeff

Someone wasn't paying attention. (its you)

lime_93
lime_93

 @Legend002 It's an anime fighting game that isn't Street Fighter or MvC. What did you expect...good job gamespot.

clookoo213
clookoo213

 @Stealth_Knight_ how is 7 low? think of it as you high school grades, that's a 70% that's pretty damn decent 

Falru
Falru

 @suplax  Thanks, I have to go to the hospital now due to several cracked ribs.

keech
keech

 @skinny_man_69 Seems the difference in score is mostly due to the online issues for the Xbox.  Arcsys already confirmed there will be a patch soon.  But that doesn't mean much to anyone who wants to play online until then.

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

 @Fooljeff Multiple games have gotten different scores on different systems, some games run better on one system over the other. Fallout 3 for example was even buggier on the PS3 version than it was for the 360 version.

Persona 4 Arena More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Persona 4 Arena uses hand-drawn, high definition 2D anime-style fighters and colorful, over-the-top special effects to bring to life a roster of fighters from Persona 3 and Persona 4.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 207 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Persona 4 Arena
    Developed by:
    Arc System Works
    Published by:
    ATLUS
    Genres:
    Action, Fighting, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Language, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence