Article first published as PlayStation 3 Review: Persona 4: Arena on Blogcritics.
Los Angeles based Atlus USA has finally brought the controversial RPG-themed fighter Persona 4: Arena to the Americas. Not controversial for reasons one would typically assume the niche publisher to be guilty of, Atlus instead bears the stigma of being the only publisher to region lock a Playstation 3 game. Since the locked Japanese release, Atlus has backtracked some, promising it was a onetime occurrence and was only for the purpose of preventing reverse importing back to Japan at lower prices. Somehow they felt that was a better explanation than what everyone assumed.
The explanation from Atlus aside, the whole situation really points to an issue with fighting games. Are they really worth a full price game purchase? In comparison to the entertainment offerings of other genres, they are probably not but, the same could be said of the annual sports franchises. Even 2k Games thought so, at least at one point. They’re games that are really only fun when you play them with others and if they have a story mode, it’s typically pretty weak. Ironically, Persona 4: Arena is not one of those kinds of fighting games.
Make no mistake Persona 4: Arena is a fighting game. Atlus provided the story and the art but Arc Software, the developer behind Blazblue and Guilty Gear was responsible for the gameplay. The result is really kind of bizarre but mostly successful product. Action fans and those with a short attention span should avoid the story mode as if were contaminated with the hantavirus. On the other hand, Atlus’ Shin Megami JRPG fans will love what Atlus has done with that very same game mode. Luckily, the fighting is tailored to both audiences.
The stories, in typical Shin Megami Tensei fashion are interwoven and to get the bottom of the situation and unlock all of the characters from both Persona 3 & 4, players will have to play through with most of the characters. As an indication of how lengthy these stories are, the game offers numerous save points throughout each character’s. There are not a huge number of fights rather the story is just that long. It can be 20 minutes of dialogue and scenes before your first fight and it doesn’t end there. Those not familiar with Persona’s demon summoning, high school themes should prepare for a bit of mind bending.