E3 2012: Persona 4 Arena hands-on
The Persona series is no stranger to spin-offs, itself being a spin-off of another series, but Person 4 Arena is a different beast. Not only is it a spin-off, it also takes on an entirely different genre. It’s an oddity of a game with a combat system created by the makers of BlazBlue and a plot written by the original Persona team. It’s a game that the developers of the original series want you to play, a game that they have put stake into in order to make it canon with the series as a whole.
If you’re new to the Persona series, let alone the whole overarching Megami Tensei world, here’s the simple jist of what you’ll need to know to understand this specific fighting game. A group of high school students, some from Persona 3 and others from Persona 4, have the ability to summon their own soul in battle. This projection of their soul is referred to as their persona. Teddie, a creature that aided the main characters of part 4, has reappeared mysteriously, dressed in a pirate outfit announcing a tournament to prove who is the best persona user.
Like Arc System Works’ previous games, Arena is a highly stylized 2D fighting game. The art is bright and colorful, the animation is fluid and the presentation is amazing. The characters, and their personas, are vibrant, sometimes ridiculous creations, but amongst each other they fit in. And against each other, each individual stands out.
The combat itself begins with simplicity. Each fighter has two basic attacks, along with a small set of easy combos that seem to say, yes, you can do something cool right from the start. It makes for an easy method of introducing the combat mechanics in the game, followed by the most basic methods of utilizing your persona. Defensively, on the other end of said combo, the persona can be used as a means of breaking the combo.
It is the relationship between the basic attacks from your character, combined with the special attacks from your persona, that creates the depth within its structure. The reason to this is because the persona is less of an attack that moves in with immediacy, taking over your characters actions, but rather as a summon that occurs alongside your character’s movements. Time it just right and your summoned persona can act as a bridge in between larger combos.
There is a strong balance between the two methods of fighting, giving the act of combat a very methodical, tactical feel. Even when you fall back on mashing one button to victory.