Pass the remote, it’s fight night…
It’s been a long time coming this one. After getting a US release almost a year ago it’s finally time for us European types to get our hands on the fighter off-shoot of one of the most critically acclaimed JRPGs of recent times.
And it’s that JRPG background that may be it’s stumbling block for many of the usual fighter fans. The world that this game inhabits relies heavily on that encountered during Persona 4 (or Persona 4: Golden if like me you got hooked on it on the PS Vita) for both it’s premise and the characters on offer, so for starters there’s no familiar character to grab on to. Then the story itself will have you reaching for the “What the hell?!” button. To give you a brief idea, two months have passed since the end of the events of Persona 4 and the re-activation of the Midnight Channel means that it’s time for the Investigation Team to step through and find out what’s happening. Once inside the television world the team are forced to fight in a tournament being run by Teddie (for those that haven’t played P4, this is a BIG deal) and once again nothing is quite what it seems…
Still with me ? Excellent, because under this very niche wrapping is an incredibly capable fighter. Mind you, coming from Arc System Works, the force behind the Blazblue series, I’d expect nothing less. It also means that you’ll be treated to a very extensive story mode. Each character is given their own tale to follow through the madness of the Midnight Channel, and these tales are very detailed – at times you’ll find yourself reading for quite a while between fights. This could annoy some who are just wanting to bounce from fight to fight, but for those that are interested what’s on offer is a very well written story worthy of the Persona name.
There are 13 fighters to choose from, which may seem meagre when compared to the rosters of more recent titles in other series, but it’s how Arc System handle them that makes the difference. Each one has a distinct and very personal style to them, so finding a fighting style to suit your taste may take some experimentation but it’s a rewarding experience.
Combining attacks from the character you choose and their Persona is a joy to watch, and thanks to the control scheme it’s relatively quick to master the basics with only four buttons to think about – light and strong attacks for both you and your persona. As with all fighters though it’s down to what you do with them that counts.
Outside of the story mode there’s a Challenge mode to keep you occupied for a while, with a total of 390 combo based trials on offer. Delve in here and you’ll get your skills up to par in no time at all.
Then there are the online modes to test your skills. The usual ranked play is on offer as well as the more friendly matches, with highly customisable lobbies allowing you to specify character types and other options. The code that runs under the hood of all this is flawless, as was the case with Blazblue Continuum Shift, so those looking to blame a loss on “lag” better look for a new excuse.
Visually you’re in for a treat though, keeping true to the art style of Persona 4, what fills the screen is a feast for the eyes. The colour palette used by the game is anything but dull, and the animations for the attacks and just the menus themselves are wonderfully presented.
This is a classic example of the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Yes, the exterior of this game is a Japanese RPG that isn’t the usual fare of your average fighting game enthusiast here in the west. But look past this and the mechanics on offer and the depth of play revealed will keep fighting fans and newcomers alike entertained.
Heck, I suck at fighting games but I still had a blast playing this and even bought myself an arcade stick to aid my combo skills.
It’s also worth noting that due to the delay in release for Europe, the physical version that we get comes with a digital fan pack (wallpapers etc.) and a physical copy of the game’s soundtrack, which is a nice little bonus for fans of game music too.
So go on, flip on the Midnight Channel and step through into this hyper-active world of mayhem. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.