Months ago, Gamestop had some weird-ass random sale where they were selling Persona 4: Arena for 20 dollars. Why not go pick it up? I had recently completed Persona 4: Golden, which ended up as my favorite game ever, and I heard that this…fighting game was somehow a worthy follow-up to the story that had forced me to stare at my PS Vita for over 100 hours. Sure, why not. I had heard about this game long before I even played Persona 4, and even then I knew it was a bit of an odd-duck. An Arc Systems fighting game, with all those insane bells and whistles; paired with the story depth of an Atlus RPG? On the face of it all, sounds like it’s going to be a mess. A horrible…pile of crap. Much to my surprise though, it’s not. It’s not the perfect distillation of a Persona style story, but it is more than competent. While this sounds like the start to a traditional review, I am not even going to bother with this game. While I do like it, and right now would rate it pretty high, that is because I bought it for one reason: the Story Mode. Maybe one day I would throw myself into actually learning the various systems, and playing online. After all, I do have some history with Guilty Gear, before the time of ubiquitous online play. But that is besides the point.
For the reason I bought Persona 4: Arena, I ended up not buying a fighting game, but a visual novel, with some sequences where I press the square button a lot. This is something of a rarity in American games. From what I can tell, in Japan, visual novels are a very common type of game, and sell well. However, here in the west, visual novel games tend to be extremely niche titles that you see on something like the Nintendo DS, that are never expected to sell in large numbers. They tend to be critical darlings often enough, but cannot hold the more action-oriented attention spans of Western audiences.
So…what if a visual novel was packed-in with a game that does well not only in Japan, but also in the West? What if…a deep Blaz Blue-type fighter came out, attached to a relatively popular JRPG franchise, that had a sequel to the last two games in visual novel form?! I don’t know what drug and booze-fueled meetings led to this choice being made, but I think it is a fairly genius idea. It is a way of sneaking in a game that would never be released on consoles out west normally. It allows for good production values to be put into such a game as well, making sure the quality stays on par with the source material.
Let’s be honest as well about Arc System fighters. People will buy them no matter what. They have their audience of very passionate fans who learn their games to a degree most other fighters wouldn’t even think of asking. It does help that their games have such a high level of polish in their systems. The depth typically provided allows for people playing their games to really sink their teeth in it, as no two characters are ever truly the same. Thankfully Persona 4: Arena keeps up this tradition, and what little I have played of the actual fighter provides a game as deep as any Guilty Gear title.
Now let’s combine the great fighting with Persona. The idea of throwing a well-known franchise into their game gets a whole new audience looking at their games, and the fighter fans looking at this RPG franchise. So in a great world, both sets of fans would then come to like what was initially the unfamiliar franchise. However, Persona 4: Arena takes it all one step further. In a perfect world, not only would this game turn Arc System fans into Persona fans, and vice versa; but it would also turn everyone who came to this title onto well-made visual novels. Boom. That is the plan with Persona 4: Arena come full circle; include everyone, even people who had no friggin clue what they were being included in, like me. I have to say I am happy I was included though. Good on you Atlus and Arc Systems. Let’s try and make this a normal thing, let’s sneak those visual novels into everything we can.