E3 2012: Persona 4 Arena – Welcome to the Velvet Room

During my visit to E3, I spent a very large part of my time playing a game I’ve been really looking forward to. Persona 4 Arena, I’m happy to say, is an absolute blast. It’s a very beautiful, detailed, fun, fast, and fluid fighting game from Arc System Works, makers of such beloved fighting games as Blazblue and Guilty Gear.

Based on the classic JRPGs Persona 4 and using characters from Persona 3 as well, P4A is not only a fighting game, but continues the story of the RPGs as well. Set a few months after the events of Persona 4, the midnight channel has returned, and Teddie, who has been missing, comes on a stage and asks “Will the manliest of men come on down!” Following this, the investigation team from P4 shows up, but with warped catchphrases sounding unlike themselves. The real investigation team decides to enter the TV world to discover just what is happening.

Visually, the game is stunning. With beautiful hand drawn 2D sprites, lively 3D backgrounds, and a very well done user interface, this game oozes style. Character cut-ins on supers, awesome effects, and plenty of colors make this game a visual treat. Sound wise, the background music is either newly done character themes, or remixes of older, but beloved Persona music, such as Aigis’ theme being a remix of Heartful Cry, Yuu Narukami (aka P4 Protagonist) having a remix of Reach Out to the Truth or Elizabeth having Battle Hymn of the Soul. The sound effects and voices are also well done, with most of the original English cast returning to voice their characters. Sadly, the original voices of Chie and Teddie were unavailable for the time being, but will return to voice their respective characters in Persona 4 The Golden.

In the gameplay department, it’s a very fast fighter, much more so than Street Fighter 4, or even Arc System’s previous work, Blazblue. Each character has their own fighting style, complemented by their Personas (sort of like the manifestations of the strength of their heart and soul). In my time playing, I fought a variety of the game’s cast, and I can say for a fact that fighting one character is never the same as fighting another. Different characters can inflict you with different status effects, such as Naoto causing Fear, which makes grabs untechable as well as all hits counter-hit, Kanji inflicting paralyze, which makes you unable to jump or move, or Yosuke inflicting poisoin and confuse, the latter of which swaps your left and right direction inputs for a short time. Getting good with a character will take some work, and mastering the whole cast will take someone quite a bit of time. Each character has their own set of alternate colors, as well as their Personas, and you can mix and match colors to create your own unique color set. Rise, the support character of Persona 4, can also provide in battle support and pep talks. She can be turned off and on, so you can fight with the adorable peppy cheerleader or not if you so choose.

Da best

The game is well suited for tournament play, and in Japanese arcades the game has already found a home in tournaments. You can set buttons on the character select screen, something that tournament goers know can be a pain without. It also has a decent amount of depth, such as manual air turning, universal tools such as an overhead and a reversal action, offense, defense, and comboing extending bursts, the game ending Instant Kill, and other things ensure that great players will have plenty of things to explore. For the beginners, to help ease them into fighting, there is the addition of the Renda Combo. To perform it, one simply has to hit the A button in succession to get a quick, light string of attacks that can have a super tacked on to the end. It’s very, very simple, sometimes annoyingly so, but it generally doesn’t give you much in return. It’ll do some light damage, but usually learning and doing an actual combo will give you more meter, better position, and of course, do much more damage. It can have its uses in high level play, but it’s mainly there for the new people who are a little put off by the task of learning hitconfirms and combos.

As far as actual gameplay footage, I personally took none. However, Gametrailers took footage of some of my matches and uploaded to their site. This one is my personal favorite, even if I lose in this one. Day 1 gameplay, never touched it before, I don’t even play this game, yatta yatta all the option selects in the world.

Game Trailers Persona 4 Arena footage of me

Persona 4 Arena comes out August 7 for the U.S. Keep it on your radar.

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