Persona 4 Arena is 2012's best fighter, and it's coming to Europe - Thought You'd Want to Know
- ZEN United
We don't do news here on Made2Game, that would be boring, but every now and then a small nugget drops that makes us think 'people need to know about this'. For that, there is 'thought you'd want to know'.
Persona 4 Arena is a one on one fighting spin-off of ATLUS' seminal social JRPG series Persona. This fighter is developed in collaboration with Guilty Gear/BlazBlue masterminds Arc System Works, and we received word today that Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game will be washing up on European stores in 2012. Crack out the champagne!
For those who don't know, Persona is a series that sees high school students attending classes and making cute faces at each other by day and then summoning ghastly alter egos known as 'persona' to fight back against unexplained horrors at night. If the social/nasty day/night thing is ringing bells then yes, you're right – Catherine is another ATLUS game, though one of a markedly different bent.
But yes, you're right again, we did say 'fighting game spin-off'. Persona 4 Arena (which actually includes characters from Persona 3 and 4) ditches the turn based brawling in favour of life bars and combos. But don't worry Persona fans - the plot and dialogue has all been dealt with by ATLUS themselves so the game is absolutely Persona. It's just a little more aggressive.
In an attempt to better understand this unique translation of RPG to Fighter we caught up with Geraint Evans, director of European publishing arm Zen United, to find out how it all works. We started, as you would, with the Persona powers and the fighting itself, which Mr. Evans dutifully explained;
“It feels very different to anything I've played - I think the crucial element here is the Persona system. You have two buttons for your character, two for your persona - so in effect, you're controlling two characters simultaneously.
It's a very interesting system in that your Persona can take damage, so it's like having a set of heavy hitting moves that your opponent can hit, damage and disable”.
From what we can gather your Persona is vulnerable but damage done to your character's doppleganger does not affect your fighter's main health bar. It's more an inconvenience as a temporary loss of your Persona is a temporary loss of half your moves.
Geraint promises that "[the system] introduces a very clever layer of strategy, and experimenting with how to link character and Persona moves together is really simple and very compelling”.
But we were more interested in how Persona 4 Arena could appeal to fans of the RPG series who aren't necessarily big into virtual fist fights. The idea of an RPG based on a fighter is more easy to understand, the slow pace is often used to make light of the source material. But Arc System Works make serious, tasty, impressive fighters. How can they appeal to fans of slow burning plots and calm combat?
Sir Evans was quick to calm such trepidation, “this game is canon in terms of the Persona universe - so expect a full blown Persona experience that Persona fans will definitely love.
From the fighting side, it was specifically designed to cater for both audiences - and Arc have really pulled that off...
A lot of this comes down to accessibility. Persona Arena is quite liberating to play - so much more immediately accessible. To give you a small example, there's now a dodge function, so you're not overly reliant on blocking, there are also more ways to counter a combo to relieve pressure - little additions and systems that really open up play, then of course, there's the much discussed Auto-Combo feature...
Simply put. Repeatedly tapping A will execute a simple combo. If you happen to have meter, that simple combo will link into a special. Have even more meter and the combo will grow. Using auto combo will also give you more meter, faster.
It's a much misunderstood system - you really need to play to understand how it works - but it's very smart.
It provides a simple backbone for players beginning to understand combos - and you'll be amazed how quickly players will unconsciously move away from Auto Combo, without realising it, as they learn to improvise and create their own attack strings.”
But at the end of the day Persona 4 Arena is a fighter. A fighter made by Arc System Works, and considering Geraint is a serious fighter fan himself his praise for the title thus far speaks volumes for its quality. But before we let him scurry away we just had to know, how does Persona 4 Arena compare to Arc System Work's previous work on Guilty Gear and BlazBlue? “A lot of what you would associate with an Arc fighter is in there, Atlus chose Arc to help on development for a reason, they're terrifyingly good at what the do.
Character diversity is key - you won't find anything resembling a clone here, [there are] very different play styles among all the characters and their Persona. There are also loads of moves with unique properties you won't have experienced in a fighter before - it's like a carnival of 'oh-my-god-that's-so-cool' surprises”!
Systems to help newcomers understand how to play. Dual character mechanics. A narrative and world created by practised storytellers. Things we've not seen in a fighter before. Persona 4 Arena is shaping up to be the best brawler for many a year and could, dare we say it, be even better than BlazBlue. And we really like BlazBlue. Thankfully we don't have to wait that long to find out - Zen United, we salute you.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
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