'Persona 4 Arena' Brings Gorgeous Fighting to PS3 and Xbox 360
CREDIT: Altus USA
Over the past few years, Atlus USA has earned a reputation for quirky role-playing games (RPGs) and action titles. Perhaps the most notable is the 'Persona' RPG series. This week, Atlus introduced a very different take on the series with "Persona 4 Arena."
The ranks of fans for this long-running saga have been growing, thanks to the top-notch treatment of its storyline, which focuses on devil summoners and the Personas (spirits) they resurrect over the course of each game. "Persona 4 Arena," takes an alternative approach, one that'll be startling for some – but keeps the essence of the series intact.
Rather than requiring players to cast spells and form battle parties, "Persona 4 Arena" instead resorts to 2D fighting action similar to the classic "Street Fighter" and "Mortal Kombat" games. However, it does so in a 3D sense, with realistic backgrounds that keep up with the action as you move back and forth. Players choose from a number of combatants, ripped straight out of the fantasy-based "Persona" universe, and compete in a tournament.
Fans of the series will recognize familiar faces like Kanji Tatsumi and Rise Kujikawa, but if you don't, there's no reason to worry. "Arena" does a great job catching you up to speed, explaining why some combatants need to enter the tournament, hosted on the mysterious Midnight Channel, part of the TV World, in an effort to rescue their friends. Just be warned, though – it's a little weird.
"Arena" comes with a plethora of modes to get you comfortable with the action, including an extensive tutorial to introduce the basics. Once you've mastered them, you can hop on either Xbox Live or PlayStation Network and battle through various challenge modes, or just fight in a quick match or two. There's plenty to do.
The creators managed to do something remarkable with "Arena," recreating a familiar universe that longtime fans will appreciate while introducing the kind of non-stop fighting action that newcomers can dig. The gameplay is excellent, with plenty of light and heavy attacks that you can mix together, using Personas (the demons we spoke of earlier) and weapons. Charge up your "Burst Gauge" (which sits at the bottom of the screen) and you can unleash a devastating Super Attack. It's typical fighting game stuff, but done very well.
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"Arena" comes alive with gorgeous hand-drawn animations and backgrounds, along with plenty of flashy fighting effects. The voice acting is superb too, as each character has a tale to tell (including the very weird teddy bear-like Teddie). The music's fun to listen to, as well, consisting of a solid mix of rock and techno tunes – some even inspired by past tracks from "Persona" games.
Fans of "hardcore" role-playing experiences might be thrown off by "Arena's" approach, but it's nice to see Atlus USA try something unique for the series, maintaining the storytelling arc while throwing in splendid brawling action. If you're looking to pick a fight, this is the game for it.
RATING: 4 / 4