Persona 4: Arena

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: Aug. 7, 2012


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PS3/X360 Preview - 'Persona 4: Arena'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on July 1, 2012 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Backed up by an original, hardcore fighting engine from one of the most respected 2D fighting game developers in the industry, Persona 4 Arena represents the biggest, most noteworthy expansion of the esteemed series to date.

Fighting games have had a bit of a renaissance lately. From Capcom's revival of the Street Fighter series to Arc System Work's BlazBlue and Reverge Labs' Skullgirls, the genre has quickly filled up with new entrants. Then Arc System Works and Atlus got together to build a new chapter for the Persona series as a 2-D fighter based on Persona 4 and scheduled for release around the same time as the PS Vita version. We met up with Atlus at E3, and they wrecked me in a few rounds to show off some of the surprising features in Persona 4: Arena.

The game's story centers on the "P-1 Grand Prix," a tournament hosted by Persona 4 mascot and party member Teddie to discover the identity of the "Ultimate Persona User." Oddly, it's exclusive to the Midnight Channel phenomenon, which should have disappeared after the original game's events. The investigation team that resolved the incidents during Persona 4 agrees to enter the tournament to find out what's happened — and to find out just who is the best. Meanwhile, Aigis, Elizabeth, Mitsuru Kirijo and Akihiko Sanada from Persona 3 have also shown up to hunt down a stolen item or for unknown reasons. This group — 13 fighters and their respective Persona — provides the core cast of the game.

The gameplay features several core elements that will be familiar to BlazBlue fans, but it tweaks the controls to a new, four-button schema that consists of weak and strong character attacks and weak and strong Persona attacks. Persona attacks tend to be quite strong and combo nicely. However, Persona can be (temporarily) disabled by countering their attacks four times, so players who don't use them judiciously are at an intense disadvantage.

Persona 4: Arena has drawn some controversy for its unusual newbie-assist function. The Auto-Combo system allows newer players to string together a combo using any button. In practice, the system isn't as helpful as it seems, as auto-combos are predictable and punishable. Some special moves can inflict abnormality statuses on opponents, ranging from poisons to control-reversing confuse effects and Persona-disabling mute effects. All-Out Rushes, complete with the classically hilarious dust and sound effects, are available for every character, along with an array of cancels and one of the strongest desperation modes in recent fighter history, granting two extra super gauge segments and significant damage reduction.

All of this is combined with a signature-grade Arc presentation. The sprites are easily as detailed as those of Blazblue, alongside comparably detailed 3-D backgrounds, full English or Japanese voice acting, and a decent stack of sounds. Further, this is supplemented by a story about the size of newer BlazBlue entries, with a fully voiced plot for each character.

With Arc's netcode and design work supplementing Atlus' world, Persona 4: Arena looks to be a strong addition to the fighting game community.

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