Ever since we learned about the existence of a new Persona 4 Arena game about a month ago through a sudden, unexpected location test, we haven't heard anything about it and it's been hard for me to stop thinking about it as well. I made a blog post previously detailing what I would want in a theoretical P4A2, but now that we know that one actually exists and have information on it, I wanted to post my current opinions of Persona 4 Arena: Climax as well as what I hope will be in the final game.
First point I'd like to address is the story. It was obviously an important element of the original Persona 4 Arena with its 15-20+ hour story mode and given the game's new characters complete with backstory in Junpei and Yukari, Shadow characters, new stages involving Tartarus and how it seems that all of the game content up until now has been in service of the narrative (which has been stated in interviews), I believe that P4A:C will directly follow P4A's story.
I'm of the opinion that the way Persona 4 Arena's story was conveyed was a mess. In concept, playing the story through each of the characters' perspective and noting how they approach each situation differently sounds like a good time, but the fact that the individual character chapters were not meant to mesh together to form a coherent, single plot was a problem. Instead, story contradictions are abound and, with the exception of a few distinct plot points, it's difficult to gauge what actually happened at the end of the game or which character's story we're supposed to be taking as "canon."
What I would prefer from P4A:C would be a Mortal Kombat 9 or Injustice style of storytelling where the story is conveyed in a linear fashion, but jumps to the perspective of different characters throughout it regardless. If the character chapter style is maintained, which I have a feeling it will, I do not want any confusion at the end of the story. Only two options would be acceptable: either the character chapters fully work together without contradicting the events that happen within them, or they contradict each other but there is a single chapter dedicated to telling the story of what "actually" happens.
The Story Itself
I'm not into writing my own fanfiction, so I won't. All that I'll say about Persona 4 Arena: Climax's story is that I want this to be the end, which would be true to the game's name (if Climax actually ends up being the title). I want every P4A cliffhanger to be answered such as: who the "Eerie Voice" is; who the "Malevolent Entity" is; who the mysterious girl the anti-Shadow weapons are based on is and so on.
I also want this to be the end of Persona 4's story. Funny enough, despite its title, P4A was more a story about Persona 3 than P4 itself and it almost seems that a similar trend might continue with P4A:C with the game's predominant color palette reverting to P3's blue from P4's yellow, with Tartarus apparently being a thing and with the new character additions.
So far, in terms of new content, we've seen 2 new characters (Junpei and Yukari), at least 3 new stages (one at least involving Tartarus) and Shadow characters (13 of them, since Elizabeth and Shadow Labrys won't have one). In bullet points, this is what I would want in addition:
- Total of at least 6 new characters from P4A. There are 2 so far and the previous loketest character select screen heavily suggests that there will be at least 2 more, making for a total of 4 new characters. I'd be fine with 4 and the Shadow characters should also count in a way, but I feel that 6 actual new characters would be great and not too unrealistic since there were 8 new characters added from BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger to Continuum Shift.
- Special character intros. Because they're awesome.
- Match-up specific themes. Because they're awesome.
- A mode similar to BlazBlue's Abyss mode. I think it would be appropriate for a fighting game originating from an RPG series to have a single player mode resembling an RPG where characters earn experience, level up, gain abilities/upgrades, earn money, purchase items and face "boss" characters.
- Better online lobby system. Persona 4 Arena's was fine, but there were some options in BlazBlue that were missing such as team battles within a lobby as well as some new additions in Chronophantasma such as an online training lobby which I would like to see added.
- Better online ranking system. Perhaps the one in P4A functions better when there is a larger pool of players to play against online, but it wasn't a great system and I'd like to see it revised.
- Other stuff: More selectable match music, more stages, special match-up dialogue and anything else that would make it feel like a complete package.
In some ways, it felt that the original game was bare bones, with its lack of an "actual" Score Attack mode, with no taunt button or other really minor things that I think P4A:C would benefit from.
There are a bunch of significant changes to the game's mechanics that I want to give my opinions on, of which we've only seen a few videos and have had access to precise but incomplete impressions (which can be found here).
One of, if not the most significant additions in the game are Shadow characters. How they differ from normal characters:
- Shadow characters are unable to Burst or enter Awakening mode.
- They are able to initiate "Shadow Fury" by pressing A+B+D which allows unlimited use of SP meter based on a timer.
- Shadow characters maintain their level of SP between rounds.
- Shadow characters use the auto combos of the previous game and not the new ones given to their normal version's.
- Possible attack property differences.
Shadow characters are obviously meant to be viable in terms of competitive play and offer players an alternative way to play their character of choice (or the primary way, if they choose).
In terms of design, Shadow characters are meant to be played more aggressively while normal characters are meant to be played more defensively. Shadow characters do not start matches with 100 SP as some had reported before, but the way they play evidently revolves around SP: They are meant to gain, accumulate and expend SP at the cost of not being able to Burst out of a damaging combo or benefiting from Awakening mode's defense boost.
Of course I love this addition, especially as someone who mained Shadow Labrys just because she was a Shadow. More options = good, in my mind, and this will hopefully mix up how people choose to play: whether they want SP benefits as a Shadow character or decide that a Burst and Awakening is more valuable.
Overall Damage Reduction
It's been noted that damage appears to be significantly reduced for all characters. I like this change, since it makes the result of a match less decisive when it becomes one-sided and makes characters with smaller amounts of HP such as Elizabeth, Shadow Labrys or Naoto less likely to die immediately because of high damaging combos and it also, in turn, makes Shadow characters more viable since they won't have to worry about not being able to Burst out of high damaging combos as much as before (though I'm sure Kanji or Akihiko Fatal Counter combos will still hurt a whole lot).
Skill Boost Supers
Players having the option to now use powered up versions of their characters' supers for the extra cost of 25 SP is an interesting addition. At first, SB Supers entailing stuff like Chie's God Hand summoning 2 God Hands from the sky or Labrys' SB Weaver's Art: Breaking Wheel super summoning gears that cover the entire ground sounds a bit silly but, again, more options = good.
Giving players the option to either use a normal, 50 SP super right away for the damage or waiting for 25 SP more to use the Skill Boost version adds unpredictability and flexibility to the fights and, once again, makes Shadow characters more viable since they will most likely be able to exploit SB supers more often than normal version characters.
Persona Card Variation
One of the simplest yet best changes in terms of balance is the fact that each character now has a different number of Persona cards depending on how important their Persona is to how they play. Akihiko, who mainly uses his fists instead of depending on Caesar, only has 2 cards while Elizabeth and Shadow Labrys, who depend on their Personae to fight optimally, have 6 cards.
What's great about this change is that characters who have a higher number of Persona cards are not necessarily better off. The time it takes for the cards to restore does not change relative to how many Persona cards a character has when a Persona gets broken. This means that once Akihiko's Persona gets broken, Caesar will recover within moments while Elizabeth, when Thanatos gets broken, will have to wait a while for him to recover.
In a way, this can incentivize a character with a low number of Persona cards to use their Persona more recklessly while this can cause a character with a high number of Persona cards to be very careful so that their Persona does not get broken.
S Hold System
Not much to say about this one since there's little information about it, even though it seems like it's a relatively big deal. Charging special attacks to use a powered up or changed version of that attack sounds interesting and, even though it remains to be seen whether the time it takes to charge up will be worth it for how the special attack is changed, more options = good.
So this is an odd concern, but a concern nonetheless. If one goes through all of P4A:C's character related changes, the changes make sense. Certain elements of certain characters are getting appropriately nerfed or changed, but every single character has also gotten some awesome new abilities to work with. Every character with the exception of Naoto, that is.
Looking at Naoto's list of changes, she only has these new things going for her: second hit of her AAA is low (which is cool, but a pretty small buff), a new move called Venom Zapper which inflicts poison and Double Fangs can be used in the air.
The rest of what she's got are nerfs. Her SMP Loop is gone (which is a good thing, but it was one of the only things she really had going for her), reloading bullets takes longer and setting up traps has more recovery time.
Meanwhile, we've got characters like Kanji getting a new shoulder move that beats projectiles, his Cruel Attack being usable in the air, being able to command throw while he's Persona broken and his 5C causing paralysis. I'm not singling out Kanji as though these buffs are unreasonable, especially since every other character except for Naoto has received some cool stuff, but it shows that Naoto mainly got nerfs and I'm unsure what her playstyle will end up being.
Of course, all of this was from a single loketest lasting only a few days, so maybe people didn't experiment with her enough to find some cool new things about Naoto.
Quick burst of some changes and how I feel about them:
- Longer Gold Burst recovery frames = good.
- Universal Short Hop attack buff = good. Short hops were useless before outside of paralysis.
- Attacks can be used after backdashing = interesting, but not sure.
- Counter-style DP (like Chie's High Counter) punishes always being Fatal Counters = good.
- Still being able to cancel a blocked DP into a super = not sure. Would have been against this a while back, but it makes for more options during a fight and it's something players need to think about.
I'm looking forward to this game. There are a bunch of stuff I'd like to see in Persona 4 Arena: Climax that weren't in the original game but, so far, the additions they've made make it seem like the game's on the right track to being a fantastic fighting game.