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E3 2012–Persona 4 Arena Hands-On Impressions

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It’s another E3 and another year for exemplary fighting games.  Arkysys games, creators of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, have released a brand new, accessible, and totally awesome fighting game based on the Persona franchise.  The game, titled Persona 4 Ultimate Arena, is a 2D fighter set in the Persona universe, drawing in characters from Persona 3 and 4 to duke it out in a supernatural brawl of epic proportions.  

The controls are simplified even by Akysys standards, using two buttons for character attacks (light and heavy) and two for Persona attacks (also light and heavy).  In a manner similar to BlazBlue’s drive attacks, the Persona attacks are easily accessible special abilities.  Players can call upon their character’s persona mid battle, in order to extend combos or deal situational damage. 

The persona is often very strong, using quick attacks and screen spanning special moves in order to do damage.  To balance this, Personas only have a few hit points and are fully attackable.  In case that the Persona does take damage, they lose a P card from the game’s interface.  After several successful assaults, the Persona is rendered unusable for a time.

Players also have access to a multitude of special, albeit easy, attacks per character. Characters can dodge using the top two buttons and can attack using a risky yet punishing multi-hit maneuver.  So in case your Persona is broken mid combat, outside of traditional mashy combo antics your character has several offensive and defensive abilities available. persona-4-arena

There is air-dashing and a roll of sorts which are greatly warranted in a game with so much crap flying around at any given moment.  When all four characters are on the screen at once things get chaotic, and the slow movement speed of certain characters, namely Kanji, make it very hard to close the distance without the use of a roll.  There are also instant kill moves, though I could not perform one mid game (and the line guaranteed I’d have no time to practice).  There’s also a Guilty Gear-esque burst in case rushdown characters trap you in a corner.

The game itself is gorgeous, utilizing high quality sprites for its animation.  The art design in Persona games has always been excellent, but seeing the characters as fully rendered sprites (and not chibi-esque) has really made me appreciate their costumes and characters.persona221

What seems apparent, however, is this game is being created with casual fighters and Persona fans in mind.  Since many JRPG fans may never have tried a fighting game, it was important that Aksys create a fighter that was accessible enough for them to pick up and play. I don’t know that the combos were entirely auto-on hit, but comboing in this game is a very easy affair – much easier than Guilty Gear or Blazblue.  Expect to see a lot of flashy damage for little effort.

The game launches in August and I’m very excited to say I’m ready to jump into the franchise.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even try one of the RPGS out for a change.

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