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Persona 4 Arena Review

Mike Kayatta | 9 Aug 2012 15:00
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But even with a second fighter to manage each match, the game still feels immediately comfortable after just one run-through of the fifteen-minute tutorial. And even if you still don't feel confident trying moves that require more than one button after finishing it, you'll still be able to do some good each match, and more than qualified to give a fair go at the Arcade, Versus, and Story modes while you work to get in tune with the game's more advanced tactics.

When you are ready to delve into the tricky stuff, Persona 4 Arena has a robust second layer of metagame that should help keep even the seasoned fighting-game-enthusiasts engaged past one playthrough. The more advanced maneuvers focus strongly on deflecting, canceling or countering enemy attacks, with most requiring impeccable timing and quick decision making to execute properly. There are more than a few massive combos ready for study as well, with an inviting "auto-combo" stepping stone for would-be-Arena-champions to start with. Auto-combos, performed by jamming overly-simple sequences, look flashy, but do less damage than one that's been "properly" executed. The trade off allows more experienced players an advantage for taking the time to train without leaving newbies out in the cold.

Keeping these mechanics in balance are four separate gauges: a health bar with two sub layers, an SP counter that drains and fills as you use moves or soak up damage, a Burst meter that jumps around between a state of charge, completion, and disability, and a Persona gauge that keeps tabs on the health of your companion. Mash all of that together with two fighters each sporting a unique passenger that only appears sometimes, and eight different ailments ranging from "panic" to "charm," and there is more to account for during any given second of play than most people will be able to manage without some serious practice. Still, each of the systems works fairly well without your direct attention, rewarding you when you can utilize them without punishing you when you can't.

Using certain fighters seems to carry more risk than reward, with difficult-to-land attacks often providing benefits that seem disproportionate to the difficulty in executing them. When competing against human opponents, this can be a serious deterrent to learning or attempting the game's more advanced techniques. AI opponents suffer something similar; it's clear that the computer is better at controlling some characters than others, often making matches either too simple or too difficult.

Still, as strong entry to both the Persona series and the fighting genre, Persona 4 Arena remains an extremely worthwhile pick-up for fans of either. While it may not be exactly clear which party this was made for, those who give it a try from either camp may find themselves discovering new interest in the other.

Bottom Line: Persona 4 Arena is a solid, accessible entry point for both fighting games and the Persona series without disappointing hardcore fans of either.

Recommendation: Whether you're looking for a new fighter that isn't just the next Street Fighter or BlazBlue, or simply want a well-made continuation of the Persona series from a different angle, you should find yourself thrilled with this release.

This review was based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

Game: Persona 4 Arena
Genre: Fighter
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Atlus
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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