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Critical Reception: Atlus/Arc System Works'  Persona 4 Arena

Critical Reception: Atlus/Arc System Works' Persona 4 Arena

August 9, 2012 | By Danny Cowan

Today's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Atlus and Arc System Works' RPG-based 2D fighting game Persona 4 Arena, which reviewers claim will "satisfy both long-time Persona series fans and fighting game aficionados." Persona 4 Arena currently earns a score of 86 out of 100 at

Destructoid's Dale North scores Persona 4 Arena at 9 out of 10. "Never in a million years would I have dreamed that I'd be playing a fighter based on a dungeon crawling role-playing game," he begins. "It's the weirdest thing and I'm still a bit confused, but I'm loving it anyway."

"Persona 4 Arena is a strange beast in that it has the ability to satisfy both long-time Persona series fans and fighting game aficionados," North continues. "I would imagine that finding a middle ground between the two was quite difficult, but Atlus and Arc System Works have pulled it off with flair."

Despite the shift in genre, the game remains faithful to its source material. "P4A is packed with fan-pleasing nods and familiar elements that will serve series followers who might not be as well-versed on fighting games," North assures. "You're getting tons of beautiful character art, top-notch animation, and Shoji Meguro's awesome music, pumped into storylines straight out of the Persona 4 world."

In addition: "There's a healthy mix of fighting types to be found among the cast to suit every style. I enjoyed playing the ranged type (Yukiko or Persona 3's Elizabeth) the most, but stronger, closer characters like Akihiko and Kanji were equally as fun. [...] Really, there are no duds in P4A's roster."

"Everyone wins with Persona 4 Arena," North writes. "This dream collaboration between Atlus and Arc System Works brings us a game that will easily stand out even in the crowded fighting game segment. It's also sure to serve as a gateway drug for both RPG and fighting game fans to cross to the other side. Really, there's nothing else quite like this."

Jason Oestreicher at Game Informer rates Persona 4 Arena at 8.5 out of 10. "Atlus and Arc System Works are specialists in their respective genres," he notes. "Persona 4 Arena is a collaboration, but each side sticks to what they do best: lengthy storytelling (Atlus) and deep fighting mechanics (Arc System Works). Little is done to blur the lines between the two, leaving a distilled representation of each."

The gameplay mechanics will appeal to hardcore fighting game fans. "Similar to Arc System Works' BlazBlue and Guilty Gear, P4A utilizes a four-button control scheme -- two for your fighters and two for their Personas," Oestreicher explains. "Thumb-friendly, simultaneous button presses combined with various directions perform mechanics such as throws or sweeps. The full array of simultaneous presses are hard to remember, but P4A does a great job of getting newcomers ramped up in the included Lesson Mode."

"Casual fighting game players will undoubtedly struggle with mastering some of the high-level mechanics, but those fans can still have fun here," Oestreicher continues. "Mashing the A button results in an auto-combo ending in a special move, so it at least looks like you know what you're doing."

"Persona 4 Arena's gameplay, while having a few hooks for casual players, is largely inaccessible to them," Oestreicher warns. "There's not a lot of middle ground. Mastering the mechanics of this engine involves a lot of time and effort in the training room. This game hits a lot of the notes that catch the attention of casual and hardcore fighting game fans, even if it won't necessarily bring them together."

Joystiq's Jordan Mallory gives Persona 4 Arena 4 out of 5 stars. "While my knowledge of Arc System Works' back catalogue is virtually all-encompassing, my know-how of the Persona series is substantially less-than, which is to say 'nonexistent,'" he admits. "What a shock it was, then, to be thrown head-first into a developed, storied world with characters I've never known and places I've never seen, only to come out the other side deeply invested and hungry for more."

The game takes a visual novel approach to its story mode. "While playing, a lot of time is spent reading -- the majority of it, in fact," Mallory explains. "A good 95 percent of the overall story mode is spent advancing text -- one sentence at a time, with about 50 percent accompanied by Atlus' terrific voice acting -- and watching the very occasional animated cut scene. The actual fighting fills in that remaining five percent: When matches do happen, they last for only one round and can be anywhere from 20 minutes to more than an hour apart."

"Adding to both the length and complexity of the story mode is the fact that the game must be 'beaten' with several characters before the true ending of each character's story arc can actually be accessed," Mallory continues. "Once the key to Persona 4 Arena's narrative climax is unlocked, however, everything changes. [...] What once passed as a confusing artistic choice revealed itself as the meticulously planned, well-crafted seed of a much stronger, deeper narrative."

"The experience was completely and unequivocally worth it," Mallory assures, "despite every single hour of reiterative storytelling that made a meaningful payoff seem impossible, and the fact that each character gets its own ending means that after dozens of hours of play, I'd only scratched the surface."

"Persona 4 Arena and its characters have a special place in my heart now, but not for the reason that fighting games usually take up shop under my left ventricle," Mallory concludes. "I am in love with this engine, true, and I probably spent as much time finding combos in Training Mode as I did finishing Story Mode, but it was Story Mode that got me honestly choked up. [...] Atlus has raised the bar for mature, coherent storytelling in the fighting game universe."

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