Persona 4 Arena - Xbox 360 Review

It was pretty recently I wrapped up playing Persona 4 Golden, which I absolutely loved. It is still my favorite PlayStation Vita game to date. I have actually been sitting on Persona 4 Arena for a few months now - but I kept putting off playing it because the events of this title were set two months after Persona 4. It was a good decision to wait, because while anyone can pick up Persona 4 Arena and play it, I definitely felt a stronger connection to the characters I knew from Persona 4 Golden than I did to the ones from Persona 3 I did not know anything about.

Arena deserves a lot of credit. There is a lot of crazy storyline that went into Persona 4, and it is not something easily glossed over if you are a fan of that game. Thankfully a lot of time and effort went into scripting this new story, while touching on enough points from the original to help newcomers along. All of that being said, I definitely got more out of it knowing the history of Persona 4 Golden, and cannot help but think that would have been doubly true if I had played Persona 3 at some point.

Graphics - 9:

I absolutely loved the visuals in this game. Fighting games all basically attempt to create detailed characters and backgrounds, with fluid animations. Some games opt for incredibly flashy (Marvel vs Capcom comes to mind) versus convincing character movements or 3D visuals (Tekken). Arena goes for the former, with tons of electric bolts, ridiculously impossible jump attacks and just color soaked action draped over heavily saturated backgrounds that give a new perspective on a familiar setting (for those of us who played the original RPG). In terms of areas, my favorite has to be the room with all of the paintings with glowing eyes.

Sound & Music - 9:

There are a couple of language tracks - convenient for those who really like one over the other. I will go with the English one as that was how I listened to Persona  4 Golden. Many of the same voice actors returned - including one oddity that just kind of bugged me on and off throughout the game. The main character from the RPG, Yu, was a silent protagonist, only making a few sounds here and there during battle scenes. He shared a voice actor with a notable character from Persona 4 Golden, but you never really notice it there. Here, Yu has a lot of dialog in Arena. The other character is absent, but it just struck me as odd - took me out of his dialog quite a bit. Probably my biggest complaint on that front. The music is excellent, with a lot of tunes taking me back to the RPG game.

Gameplay - 8:

This is not the deepest fighting game ever, but it is still pretty solid. It does not quite require the technical precision of a Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter, but Arena also does not feel effective if you are simply button mashing away, like you can in Tekken or Soul Caliber. The vast majority of the time, the person with more skill will prevail over someone who just gets lucky. That does not mean that less experienced players cannot hope to win against the computer - because the combat is actually pretty easy to pick up and learn, and there are a wide variety of settings you can use to adjust your experience.

Intangibles - 8:

There are not nearly as many fighters as what you might find in other titles. It is not uncommon to see more than forty rolled out in a Street Fighter or Tekken game. Here you have about a dozen, and while they do feel plenty different from one another, you can go through all of their content in a fairly short period of time. Thankfully the story mode is quite good. It is broken up into lots of chapters and gives you some varying perspectives along the way. There is a ton of text to read here, but it is worth it - though I was far more interested in the Persona 4 cast than those from Persona 3. There are quite a few different modes - but nothing that surprises: versus, online (which did have people playing still, which was nice), versus, training, challenges, gallery, etc.

Overall - 8.5:

Were I not such an enormous fan of Persona 4 Golden, I suspect Arena would lose a bit of its effectiveness. The familiar voices, music and characters appealed to me though, making me want to know more about what happened to them. None of this would matter of course, if the combat did not hold up - but it does, providing fun, flashy fighting via several modes of play.



  1. Great review there, Nick!

    As far as 2D fighters go - I suck at them, and I sucked at this game. My wife, who is naturally better at fighting games than I am, beats me each and every time we pull this game out.

    But I do so love it because of the Persona association, and the story mode. That alone makes it my favourite 2D fighter, haha.

  2. Thanks Matt!

    I'm decent at the 2D fighters. Not great, though I won all of my handful of online matches in this. My buddy from age like 9 - he's really good at 2D fighters. He and I have been playing them against one another for years now, dating back to his preference for Ken and mine for Ryu in Street Fighter II. We have had lots of really good matches over the years, but he wins the lion's share to be sure.

    Kind of funny about your wife though - sounds like mine with me and racing games.

    But I do agree that the story mode and just the association with Persona really did wonders for me personally on this game. Though, knowing your affection for Rise, were you bummed she wasn't a playable character? :P

  3. The art style reminds me of the Wii game that Capcom brought over, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom I think? Haven't played this or that though, but have been eyeing Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the Wii U here recently since it's finally under $20.

  4. Tekken Tag 2 is a blast in my opinion. My son spent almost a week straight of his summer vacation playing it (on the ps3) - and on that console at least there was still a pretty solid online presence as of a few months ago.

    Pesona 4's art is pretty fun - the visuals and gameplay remind me of some other fighters like Blazblue (I still need to play and get those reviews out soon too). I have no doubt that my fascination with Persona 4 Golden impacted my enjoyment of Arena. I have my doubts if it would be as impactful on players unfamiliar with the persona 3 or 4 titles.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Speaking of Tekken Tag Tournament you know if it has Tekken BOWLING?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mrs. Coffee and I used to play that a good bit, now that I think about it....if Tekken Tag 2 has it....SOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I would be curious to see how the fighting system is on the Wii U, only because of Smash releasing next year.

  6. Ah, I've been meaning to have a look at this review. I could always use a second opinion...or eight. Anyway...

    "That does not mean that less experienced players cannot hope to win against the computer - because the combat is actually pretty easy to pick up and learn..."

    Yep, that pretty nicely sums it up. I'm not exactly what one would call "good" at fighting games in a conventional sense, but I feel as if P4A is one of the definitive "easy to learn, hard to master" fighters out there. On the one hand, I played with my brother today and he hit me with combos that took nearly 80% of my health. On the other hand, I can shut him down with a mix of basic combos and fundamentals. All the mechanics I need to defend myself against his relentless assaults are there, and that's something to appreciate in a fighter -- and I'm hoping that others have picked up on those lessons as well. That said...

    "This is not the deepest fighting game ever, but it is still pretty solid. It does not quite require the technical precision of a Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter..."

    It's interesting that you bring that up, because from moment to moment I find myself agreeing OR disagreeing. Not so much with Virtua Fighter as with Street Fighter; the timing on that game's combos feels really rigid and counter-intuitive to me, while P4A's are a bit easier to grasp. But on the other hand, I at least have a vague idea of what a good combo looks like in SF4, while in P4A...well, I don't. To put it simply. Well, if nothing else I appreciate the robust training mode/trials. That'll get me up to speed.

    But that's enough ranting out of me. Good to see that you enjoyed the game -- and now I'd wager you're just about ready for the update. The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold...wonder how long it took to come up with that title...

  7. You know - my son's played it a lot more than I have - I'm not sure if bowling is there. My guess is no. That being said, if you really like that, Tekken Hbyrid for the PS3 has an HD remake of Tekken, with a preview of tekken 2 and a short movie. The HD remake was identical to the original Tekken Tag, including bowling.

    That is pretty awesome timing though - I'll have to keep an eye out for a post on it from you since I still haven't gotten around to playing it much myself.

  8. ROFL - Right? That game's got the zaniest title in quite some time, but I am in fact looking forward to it.

    The combos certainly don't feel as um... natural in this game as they did to me in Street Fighter, that's for sure - but I've been playing Street Fighter games for so many years that most of the combos just happen now. I don't even think about the controls to make the move happen, I just think of the move itself and I do it out of habit - does that make sense? hehe

    But yeah, in Persona the moves were a bit trickier for me to pull off, especially when trying to string some together. I mean, on easier difficulties, you can basically beat it by spamming the quick attack and nothing else - at least against the PC. And the one-hit kill move is amazingly simple with three downs and a button push is all. Playing against someone else though? That forced me to be far more creative when I was online.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. As one who cries at the mentioning of fighting games, Persona 4 Arena was surprisingly fun in short bursts. The basics are indeed easy, but the one-hit kills and the really advanced tricks (like ziodyne - or moving the d-pad, left and right analogue sticks AT THE SAME TIME) were a bitch and a half. On the rare chance I get the hard combo right, I have to walk on glass while blindfolded and not get a single cut to replicate it. Thankfully, you don't need to master the hard stuff to survive, even on normal mode.

    Having a background in both Persona 3 and 4 is ideal, but at least you were just unfamiliar with three or four characters, barely half the roster. But even if you do pick up Persona 3 (regardless of version), not much of it is highlighted in Arena - save for Elizabeth's story. ... That's a can of worms I don't want to open for irrational reasons.

    One thing to note with the sound is the two or three second audio delay when a song is on a repeated loop. It's like replaying a song on your iPod, only it herps and derps noticeably. It's a bit of a nitpick that might not bother everyone, but since there's more reading than audio dialogue, it can stick out very easily. Sometimes it kills the emersion and mood.

    A fun game regardless, though. And the sequel... just... Yay. Freakin' Yay!

  10. Hey, thanks for dropping by to comment!

    You know, I didn't really notice the audio 'herp and derp' so I went back to listen for it and I definitely noticed it once you pointed it out. You are right, that is a bit odd how they didn't loop it more smoothly. Though, I'll admit I was probably just happy to hear so many of the songs from P4 showing up in there. That was a soundtrack that I didn't take to right away when I played P4, but over time really, really grew on me.

    I do hope to one day go back and play both Persona 2 and the two different Persona 3's I have seen out there (though I'm still holding out hope for some sort of a Persona HD collection next-gen, lol).

    Yeah, the combat was rough on some of those super complicated combos. I pulled a few off, but like you said - doing so consistently was a challenge - but thankfully you didn't need it. :)


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