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Persona 4 Arena Review

  • First Released Aug 7, 2012
  • Reviewed Aug 7, 2012
  • PS3

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.

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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.
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.
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 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 all the amenities fighting fans have come to expect--and then some. 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. Replay support is the only area that falls short; while present, the dedicated replay board is simply a giant list with limited filtering options. This makes finding specific, or even quality, matches a chore.

Online performance ran smoothly. Matches against opponents within the same region ran without serious delay, and even those overseas stuttered at first but gradually smoothed out as the fight progressed.

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

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The Good
Fighting mechanics balance accessibility and complexity
Gorgeous visuals and animations
Stable online play with replay support
Extensive narrative modes.
The Bad
Sorting replays a chore
Dry narrative presentation
Bare-bones tutorial mode.
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Persona 4 Arena
46 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for NightKiller34

Persona is heavily influenced by JJBA, I like it.

Avatar image for flameon12346

@NightKiller34 Well I don't know about that but the fighting mechanics are similar JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

Avatar image for Sagem28

I'll be buying this once it hits Europe !

Avatar image for godofhell2

@Sagem28 let's hope it's soon

Avatar image for SolidTy

This is exactly my kind of game, and the online being better on PS3 as well as a far better Dpad makes my purchase easy.

Avatar image for xGodOfGamesx

they have terrible taste in games Period now. Transformers a 7? Ghost Recon 7.5? those games are easily 8.5 (which is what IGN gave them..ha funny right?). Time to take my video game research elsewere

Avatar image for RangerFirePower

I have a hunch that what Gamespot does for a majority of their reviews is they go to IGN and see what score they gave a game first and then deduct one point from that score and call it a day.

Avatar image for AQWBlaZer91

@RangerFirePower hmm.

Avatar image for raiden-94


Gamespot used to be great reviewers, but now its like they literally hate games.

Avatar image for bom12826

@raiden-94 i think someone shoot arrow in there knee

Avatar image for AQWBlaZer91

@bom12826 I wish you are joking.

Avatar image for Uesugi-dono

I'm stunned that, for once, someone praises the PS3 online over the Xbox.

Avatar image for AQWBlaZer91

@Uesugi-dono Well at least there's a patch coming out to fix it right.

Avatar image for No_SuRReNDeR

Must be hard to review games when everybody nitpicks your nitpicks...give him a break 8.0 is a damn good score.

Avatar image for saifssj6

@No_SuRReNDeR yeah but the game is better than good..its excellent..and deserve at least an 8.5

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for Uesugi-dono


Bye! Come back never!

Avatar image for bribiesca

@mo_77 did you know there are differences in graphics, speed and sometimes content... don't be to harsh, they are most of the time right!! give them a break!

Avatar image for yohmaru

@mo_77 It's likely because the 360 version is having online stability issues. He sort of mentions it

Avatar image for Daian

@mo_77 Have you considered the possibility that the 360 version is worse, it wouldn't exactly be the first time different versions have different quality. Seriously, are you new to gaming or what?

Avatar image for Yazu13

GS has terrible tastes in fighting games I guess. Everywhere else I look this game gets shining reviews. Arc System Works is a genius dev company and they've only produced gold in their entire existence. Don't believe this joke reviewer.

Avatar image for Uesugi-dono


Holy crap! This didn't get a 10/10? The reviewer must have hated it...

Avatar image for idontlivehere11

@Yazu13 I'm baffled. 8/10 (GREAT) is a mediocre score now ?

Avatar image for jack_is_cool

@idontlivehere11 @Yazu13 It is when the majority of games never get below a 7.

Avatar image for Sumna87

First of all, names with alliteration are for comic book characters and cross dressers. Secondly, how can you call the tutorial section bare bones? They give you an overview of the moves that are shared between all characters. The challenge missions teach specific moves and longer combos. It's worth mentioning that each mission offers a demonstration that helps with timing. Sounds pretty bare bones to me. Bad form sir.

Avatar image for koorkoor

"Sorting replays a chore"? Nice grammar you got there.

Avatar image for Kellzen

Wow, more proof that no fighting game can stand up to Mortal Kombat.

Avatar image for ForceofNature9


Mortal Kombat is rubbish though. Persona 4 Arena & BlazBlue take true skill.

Avatar image for soulless4now

Shocked GS gave it an 8.

Avatar image for No_SuRReNDeR

@soulless4now Shocked good? or shocked bad?

Avatar image for soulless4now

@No_SuRReNDeR Good kind. I thought it would score either 7 or 7.5.

Avatar image for Naylord

Damn, I love Persona 4 but I hate fighting games. So conflicted...

Avatar image for Uesugi-dono


This has an EXTENSIVE story mode. It really expands on the P4 narrative.

Avatar image for risako9

I will buy this game but my internet sucks like crap. So online is useless for me

Avatar image for chyng85

Would it be the best fighting game of 2012?

Avatar image for Bowser05

I didn't expect this to be quite so good. I mean I love the other games out of this studio but still. I'm definitely going to look at getting this now.

Avatar image for Iridescent406

"Sorting replays a chore"

Well THAT'S a game breaker...

Avatar image for Immortalsaiyan

I'm curious if Maxwell played Persona 4.

Avatar image for thom_maytees

The PS3, which is higher than the Xbox 360, is lower than the reviews posted by other outlets. I should not be surprised on GameSpot's score.

Avatar image for phatsanta

@thom_maytees other outlets like throwing high scores around gamestop likes to give the actually score.

Avatar image for MajahretDiviera

@phatsanta it's hard to take you seriously when you have bad grammar. Most other sites have been giving it a higher score, because that is what the game deserves. The whole story bit, is great for Persona Fans, which this is mainly targeting. So it having a plethora of text to sift through is just fine and dandy for those fans. Plus all the modes are thoroughly fleshed out, not to mention the actual combat mechanics are well design and well executed. Plus, Atlus and Arc System Works, show their pedigree with the lovely sprites.

Avatar image for phatsanta

@MajahretDiviera WoW it wasn't that bad **** o.o. Why are you yelling at me? I'm saying I don't agree with maytees because he's got some prejudice against gamestop for not giving it a 10.

Avatar image for Uesugi-dono


@thom_maytees - Guys, an 8.0 = Great. This is not a low score.

Avatar image for TheKeef

Niiiiiiiiiiiiiceeeee... This one flew under my radar... NO LONGER I SAY!

Avatar image for UnwantedSpam

Come on game developers, my pants cannot hold all of these awesome games! (Oh, and my wallet is crying, too)

Avatar image for Okamiiiii

Nice to see Arena is getting some really great scores. Hyped for Golden as well!

Persona 4 Arena More Info

  • First Released Aug 7, 2012
    • Arcade Games
    • PlayStation 3
    • 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.
    Average Rating217 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Persona 4 Arena
    Developed by:
    Arc System Works
    Published by:
    ATLUS, Zen United
    2D, Action, Fighting
    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.
    Language, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence