Hands on experience with the latest arcade iteration of Arc System Works popular RPG beat-um up tie in at Japanese gaming’s altar, Akihabara. Having recently moved to Tokyo (to provide you guys with the latest news of course), the first thing on my agenda was a gaming fuelled rampage through the multi story arcades of Tokyo’s electric district Akihabara (Akiba). I’m a huge Arc System Works and Persona fanboy so getting my first shot at the latest entry in the Persona Arena franchise was a priority.
The original cast of fighters return complete with 3 new additions in the form of Persona 3’s Junpei Iori and Yukari Takeba as well as new character creation Sho Minazuki, fulfilling a similar role to that of Labrys in the first Arena as the Investigation Team and SEES central antagonist. Each returning character also comes complete with new moves, mix-ups and alternate shadow version. Shadow versions do slightly less damage, and can’t burst or go into awakening, but they get more health, always have access to their awakening super, and get to keep accumulated meter between rounds. Shadow frenzy mode replaces their lost burst, allowing for nearly unlimited chaining of special moves into each other. It brings a significantly fresh approach to the old roster.
For my first run through I selected my best returning character Yu Narukami. I was very pleasantly surprised to find him not only familiar but also vastly improved with new feints, cross overs and specials that enriched the experience and let to a more tactical affair. I faced all 3 new characters during my run to the boss. Yukari Takeba is as pure a zoning (ranged) character as you will see in Arena and adapting to her flurry of arrows was a new challenge in a series I am greatly familiar with. Junpei Iori is perhaps the more interesting of the new Persona 3 cast members, with his baseball themed mechanics unifying perfectly into the traditional beat-em up style in a way that only Arc System Works can. I made the mistake of letting him ‘load his bases’ and took a shameful defeat that had me scrambling for my next 100Yen coin.
Making it through to Sho Minazuki on my 2nd run through gave me a taste of what the new creation was all about. His sword skills will be very reminiscent to anyone who has played Arc System Works other popular brawler, BlazBlue. I fought him in his persona less form and unfortunately couldn’t quite defeat him. He plays a very well rounded and fast style making him a very different final opponent than Person Arena’s Labrys. Multiple projectiles, rush downs and devastating specials make him a character to watch out for on the competitive scene.
The story for the title is still somewhat of a mystery to me unfortunately due to the quick scrolling kanji and loud arcade truly testing my Japanese ability. However for fans wondering whether this update is worth their time, trust me that it rewrites and then re defines the rule book on how beat-em ups and the Persona world is written.
The console version of the game will be due out on PS3 and XBOX360 September 30th in North America complete with console DLC fighters Adachi and Marie.