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.

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.

After The Fact: Reviews Revisited

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Update: Patch
Posted: Aug 10, 2012 11:35 pm GMT

Since its release, Atlus has released a patch that addresses the online multiplayer issues for the Xbox 360 version of Persona 4 Arena. The patch is an automatic update when you start the game, and vastly improves online performance and stability.

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.

Check out the flashy finishers from Persona 4 Arena in one convenient montage.

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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.

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.

By Maxwell McGee