Square-Enix scored a hit with its hybrid role-playing / fighting game Dissidia: Final Fantasy and its sequel on the PlayStation Portable. In 2012, Atlus announced a similar venture for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, Persona 4 Arena, notable for being the very first region-locked game on the latter system, though fortunately, Atlus did localize it to North America to assure they would get in on the experience, which is solid for the most part.
Despite Arena’s basis on an RPG, it’s actually pretty much a pure fighting game completely devoid of RPG elements, albeit with several modes, among them being Story and Arcade Modes, the former actually doing a pretty good job picking up where Persona 4 left off, with plenty of cameos from Persona 3 characters. Certain character modes are locked until the player has advanced far enough in the modes that are available, with the game tracking the completion percentage of story events, which are occasionally repetitive but still good.
Battles in Arena are one-on-one and pretty much resemble those in countless prior two-dimensional fighting games, with each of the face buttons allowing each character to perform a different type of attack, used in sync with the directional pad and left stick for more powerful moves, some of which are fairly difficult to perform, and can make the completion of Training Mode, which requires players to perform specific moves without margin for error, difficult. Nonetheless, the game mechanics are sure to please fighting game enthusiasts.
Control leaves little to complain about, what with plenty of opportunities to save during each character’s story mode, although there are some unpausable points, such as the story scenes in Arcade Mode, although those are skippable if the player doesn’t want to view them again.
The soundtrack in Arena largely consists of tracks from Persona 4, although they’re still enjoyable and diverse, and the English voicework is passable despite the oddity of a bunch of WASPs voicing Japanese characters (though players can switch to the Japanese voices).
The graphics are nice as well, with the battle visuals containing decent resolution and three-dimensional scenery, with static character art (albeit with lips moving for all characters but Teddie) narrating the many cutscenes in Story Mode.
Finishing Story Mode can take a little over ten hours, although attempting to get every Trophy naturally takes much longer. In the end, while it doesn’t have RPG mechanics, Persona 4 Arena does an excellent job for the most part as a fighting game, sure to please fans of the genre not to mention those who enjoyed Persona 4.
+Great 2-D fighting game, even without RPG elements.
+Story is actually pretty good.
-Some battle moves are hard to perform.
-Story can be repetitive.
The Bottom Line:
All-around solid fighting game.
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Depends on Mode
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours