Also available on Xbox 360 and arcade
I'm a huge fan of the Persona series. I honestly like it much more than the base Shin Megami Tensei series. Why? Because of the characters. Don't get me wrong, there are great characters in the regular Shin Megami Tensei games, but the character development in the Persona games is on a whole different level. Naturally, I like the idea of anything that keeps using characters that I've come to know and love, and that's what this game does - bring back the beloved characters from Persona 4 and even a few from Persona 3 in an all new storyline taking place after but referencing events from both games.
Not many fighting games put storytelling above gameplay and flashy finishers, but being an Atlus game, narrative is at the heart of Persona 4 Arena. Honestly, it's not entirely fair to call this a fighting game. In my opinion, it's more aptly described as a visual novel with a fighting game packaged in because that's what the story mode will feel like - a visual novel. I spent probably around 10 hours with this one playing through the 5 of the 12 characters' stories that I did, and probably spent half an hour max actually fighting. You'll spent twenty minutes of dialogue to get to a fight that will be over in thirty seconds. Only once did a fight take me longer than a minute; it took me about a minute and a half. Many will say that's a major flaw, but I think it's this game's strength. If you're a fan of Persona, you're a fan because of the storytelling above all else, and this game gives you the full Persona story experience. The feel of the actual fighting shows that, too; it's apparent that the focus was on continuing the narratives from Persona 3 and Person 4 first and on the fighting mechanics second. It's not that the actual fighting is bad because it's not, but it feels rather...standard. It doesn't stand out as especially polished like Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter, for example. That may turn fighting game junkies off.
My favorite thing about this game - other than the brilliant story - is the music. It's the exact same soundtrack from Persona 4, and that should be all I need to say to tell you exactly why this game's music is so good. Persona 4 has, in my opinion, one of the greatest gaming soundtracks of all-time, and the used that same soundtrack for this game. Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. Now let's get to the one aspect of the game that I really didn't think was at ALL brilliant - the facial animations. More accurately the lack of any real ones. During the dialogue, the only thing that would move on the faces would be the mouths. That's not that uncommon, I know, but when you have a face that takes up a third of the screen and the only thing that even remotely moves is the mouth, it's creepy. It's even creepier when that mouth is just moving up and down repeatedly with no attempt to match any real words whatsoever. It's a minor gripe, I know, but it's REALLY creepy once you notice it, and once you see it, you can't ever NOT see it again.
Honestly, this is the first fighting game that's ever truly impressed me. I'm a very single player oriented kind of gamer, so for a fighting game to really suck me in and knock my socks off is completely unheard of. The fighting itself may just be so-so, but the storytelling and the unique perspectives of each of the 12 characters is absolutely phenomenal. Enough praise cannot be heaped onto this game.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.