Friday, January 2, 2015

Persona 4 Arena (PS3)

Persona 4 Arena takes the cast of Persona 4 and Persona 3 and puts them together in one setting.  Persona 4 Arena is a fighting game with your standard moves.  You control a character and duke it out on a 2D plane.  Directional buttons control your character's movements and the up/down buttons allows you to jump or crouch. There are four types of attacks each corresponding to one face button:  strong, weak, strong persona and weak persona.  Various combinations of these buttons will allow you to use special attacks such as magic seen in Persona 4 (Ziodyne, Dia etc).  Basically, it's your standard fight with a Persona theme.  However, it has been noted by many people that the combo system itself is simpler than other contemporary fighters.  I'm not a big fan of fighting games and so I'm somewhat unfamiliar with how well Persona 4 Arena stacks with others in its genre but it is easy to pick up.  Learning all the moves and strategizing will take some time; impatient players will be tempted to button mash.  The actions are responsive, animations slick and overall a great looking game that captures the essence of Persona well.

The music is a blend of unchanged music from the original games and remixes of these tracks.  Either way, they are perfect.  There are numerous modes, when you first load the game and the mode selection screen comes up, it's surprising to see the amount of choice that you have.  There's the self-explanatory Training, Lesson and Arcade modes, along with Story, Versus, Score Attack, Challenge and Online.  There is a Theater mode which allows you to view/replay your previous battles or other online battles as a spectator and a Gallery mode which shows all the pieces of artwork, sounds and events of the game.  Arcade mode pits you against other characters and in general, follows the story mode.  The difference here being that the dialogue is shortened and you can skip it, it is effectively one fight after another and it's a lot of fun.  In Challenge mode, each character has a selection of combos in which you might try and replicate.  It starts off easy and goes to some very difficult and awkward motions.  You will need to practice a bit before you can hope to clear all the challenges of even one character.

Nevertheless, Challenge mode is a good time sinker and once you execute a hard combo perfectly, it's satisfying.  Score Attack mode pits you against all the characters with the difficulty placed one up from the hardest (i.e. above "Hell" difficulty).  It's not easy and it can get frustrating as you get pounded, especially if you're not too good at fighting games.  The cast of playable characters only amount to thirteen which seems a bit less but all the main characters you would want are there.  Each character has unique moves and requires the player to adapt since they do not play the same way.  The story mode is probably the biggest draw for a lot of non-fighter fans since it continues two months after the ending of Persona 4.  Yu Narukami returns to Inaba but something weird happens and the Investigation Team returns into the TV world, meeting up with Persona 3 characters and facing a brand new antagonist.  The story is mostly text based, it is effectively a visual novel.  There are chunks and chunks of text to read and this way of storytelling is very different to Persona 3 and 4.  It can be hard to get into at first.

You play through each character's story from their perspective, which will interlock (somewhat) with the other character's stories.  I did find this to be annoying as various characters have very similar stories and it felt like a big grind playing through them all as until you unlock the antagonist's story mode, each character's story will finish with a "to be continued..." line, indicating you will be coming back to them.  It gets to the point where after playing through four or five character's stories, it doesn't get surprising and you can tell what is going to happen.  It would have been better if they could have combined it all into one big playthrough and just alternate viewpoints, to reduce the amount of repetitiveness.  The problem here is that each character's story IS just an alternate version of the events in which they are the winner of the P1 Grand Prix and are the one that defeats the final opponent.  It should be noted that depending on your reading speed, each character's story mode can last from anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours.  The ending doesn't provide a full resolution in that it doesn't reveal the true antagonist.

We are constantly teased by the true antagonist at the end of every character's story but never reveals who they are.  The events of each character's story become meaningful once you complete the antagonist's backstory and it presents a lot of interesting concepts.  It's just that the game doesn't go through to the very end of what it began.  On Normal Mode, the game is easy enough that if you only wanted to enjoy the story, you can.  You can also skip blocks of text if you're replaying story modes and can have the game play the fighting sections for you if you have no interest in the action.  There are some mechanics to try and reverse the tide of the battle if you ever find yourself into that situation, such as the Awakening mode in which you get a boost in SP and defense once your HP hits 35%.  There's also an auto-combo system in which pressing an attack button consecutive times automatically activates certain spells (instead of going through the motions).  Viewing other players who are good at the game verse each other is also a great spectacle.  Overall, Persona 4 Arena is a must have for any Persona 4 fan as it continues on the story, even if story mode feels repetitive at times.  It isn't a hard game to pick up and play but will take some time to master.

Persona 4 Arena Original Arrange Soundtrack:

Due to Europe's delayed release by almost a year and being one of the only PS3 games to be region locked which prevents people from importing, a soundtrack was included as a bonus.  It comes as a separate CD and contains six tracks:
- The Arena (Naked Mix)
- The Hero from Junes (Electro Mix)
- Like a Dragon (Girl Pop Mix)
- Princess Amagi (Traditional Taste Mix)
- The Wandering Wolf (Straight Mix)
- Missions for the Brilliant Executioner (2K Mix)

The six tracks go in total for approximately 22 minutes.  There are some great tracks but as a selection, I would have personally gone for a few other more memorable tracks.  Nevertheless, while it doesn't really make up for the super delayed European release, it is nice that they acknowledged it and tried to make up for it.  It's not a definite must have that others should envy over but it's pretty cool.


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