Persona 4: Arena = Awesome

By Betsy Bradford

When I first heard that Atlus and Arc System Works were going to release a Persona 4 fighting game, I was skeptical. Okay, I was more than skeptical. I hated the very idea. As posted a few weeks ago, my love of Persona 4 knows no bounds. Over the course of 80 hours of game play, you grow to love the characters and the world. Now, they expect me to fight against the characters I love? How dare they!

I was completely wrong. Persona 4: Arena presents an elegant, and canonic, storyline, making it both an excellent fighting game and a welcome addition to the Persona franchise.

I could easily write 2,000 words on this game, so for today I'm going to limit myself to a mostly spoiler-free discussion of the story mode. (The fighting system will likely be the topic of a future Yelling.)

Persona 4: Arena is set two weeks after the Persona 4 true ending. The protagonist, Yu Narukami, has returned to Inaba during Golden Week to visit his friends and family. No sooner has he arrived than things begin to go awry. The TV world is in turmoil again. Three of his friends have disappeared, and strange videos have been appearing on the Midnight Channel. Yu and his friends find themselves once again entering the TV world to try to set things right.

I had worried that Arena would damage the Persona universe by forcing the characters I love to fight against each other. On the contrary, the story mode actually makes the universe richer. The entire cast from Persona 4 returns. In addition, four characters from Persona 3 join the cast: Mitsuru, Akihiko, Aigis, and Elizabeth. Finally, Arena introduces a new character: a mysterious student council president whom no one seems to know.

In part, this is excellent fan service. It's fun to see the connections build between these disparate characters. For example, we see Naoto's respect for Mitsuru, and perhaps a burgeoning romance between Chie and Akihiko. More important, the game developers use this as an opportunity to drop tantalizing hints that could point toward future games. Who are these mysterious operatives? And who was it who threw Miss Student Council President into the TV in the first place? With so many loose ends, we could be looking at Arena 2, or perhaps the long-awaited Persona 5. Only time will tell!

So if any of you Persona 4 fans are wary of Arena, don't be! At the very least, Persona 4: Arena gives you an opportunity to spend more time with the characters you love. Even better, the universe become deeper and more complex. Sure, it takes a while to play through the story modes for twelve different characters, but fans of the Persona series will welcome the chance to hang out in the TV for a little while longer. So what are you waiting for? Go play it!