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I Suck At Fighting Games: Persona 4 Arena and things you already knew

Part 3 of my ongoing series of trying and failing miserably to get good at any fighting game.

It's been a while since I've written one of these. My immediate positive reaction to Soul Calibur V lead me to try more 3D fighting games, and since then I've gotten a little better at that game and I'm trying to learn Virtua Fighter V. I've learned the "keypad" notation which I can't explain well here...just look at this. It's useful to know, I promise.

Before I get into what game I'm playing now, I have some advice for anyone else who is trying to get good at fighting games. If you're as green as I am, it could help probably!

1. Watch your game. Get on Twitch.tv, get on Youtube, and find gameplay commentaries of tournaments, casual play, whatever. This has helped me so learn games faster than I ever expected I could. By watching REALLY good players in Soul Calibur V, I learned some tricks to try out with my characters and how to improve my game. It helps even more if there are knowledgeable commentators who explain the tactics at play. It won't automatically give you muscle memory that you'll need to do the crazy combos they're pulling off; that just comes with a lot of practice. But in my experience, watching gameplay helped me learn things about fighting games I never would have just discovered on my own.

2. Don't force yourself to play a character. You should never pick your character based on tier or someone else's opinion on them. These games have a lot of characters with a lot of different moves, and you should try them all out to find out which one suits your style the most. And even when you find one that "clicks", try some more to see if they do too. Not every character makes sense to every player, and you shouldn't focus on becoming a master at all of them. Find the one that suits you best and practice with them until you're awesome.

So, back to the game I'm currently addicted to!

I don't know if you knew this about me, but I love Persona 4. It has a permanent place on my top five favorite games of all time list and I would legally marry it if that were possible. My fondness for that game, and knowledge that Persona 4 Arena continues the story of Persona 4 sealed the deal. I HAD to buy this game.

Persona 4 Arena was developed by Arc System Works, the developers of BlazBlue. At least, that's what I've heard. To be honest, I know very little about BlazBlue and Guilty Gear and I don't really care to play them. Those games seemed incredibly complex and impenetrable before I was even trying to get good at fighting games, and they still do now. I also don't care for the company's tendency to release multiple iterations of BlazBlue in seemingly short time periods AND put DLC characters in them...it's just a little off-putting to me.

I probably just lost all my street cred for dissing BlazBlue so bad. As if I had any in the first place.

On the other hand, Persona 4 Arena has excellent character design AND understandable gameplay. It's complex, but not overwhelmingly so. A big part of that is the multiple learning tools the game gives you.

I've said it before, but I love when fighting games actually try to teach you how to play them. These games are really complicated, and I want them to explain what the hell is happening in as much detail as possible. I praised Skullgirls for doing this, and Persona 4 Arena does it even better.

The first learning tool they give you is Lesson Mode. For a four button fighter, there are a LOT of commands to remember in this game. The Lesson Mode gives you all of them and has helpful text boxes that tell you why you should use these moves. I still haven't fully learned how and when I should be using certain techniques (the short hop and One More Cancel in particular), but I'm glad the developers went out of their way to explain why these things are useful.

I like how the commands are universal for each character, so even though there are a lot of things to keep track of, you always know what's going to happen when you press buttons. Your top two buttons are always gonna roll, even though every character has a different roll length. 236236 (double quarter-circle forward)+C/D is always gonna be your normal Super, and 214214 (double quarter-circle back)+C/D is always gonna be your Awakened super. Even though it works differently for everyone, B+D is always gonna be your Furious Action. And so on.

The second learning tool the game gives you is Challenge Mode. Each character has 30 challenges that get more difficult as they go on. These challenges are basically a list of combos every character can do. So not only does the game teach you basic concepts that apply to every character, it gives you tips on how to play them and goals to strive towards. I can do at least 20 challenges for each character so far, but some of them took a long time to get down and took a lot of practice. It's really rewarding to get the big "CLEAR!" message when I finally finish a challenge I've been grinding out for an hour, and as I'm doing these, I'm understanding how to use every character better. And since the roster is small, it is feasible to get a basic understanding of how everyone works and what combos you can reliably pull off with them.

How To Play Mitsuru: Always use this move.

The final learning tool the game has is a fantastic training mode. You can set the dummy to multiple states like jumping, blocking, etc. You can even record the dummy's behavior and play it back, which I've used to learn how to avoid certain attacks that always hit me. Like Mitsuru's Furious Action. Damn that move.

I won't really talk too much about the Story mode besides that I'm enjoying it a lot. There are some weird discrepancies between the stories though, because it is a tournament and not EVERYONE can win in the tournament. Therefore the endings for each character are different, and it's tough to tell WHO was really fighting that final boss or who truly "won" the tournament. Maybe it's because I haven't unlocked the True Final Path of Truth yet.

I can't speak about the Story mode in a wholly unbiased manner either. I can say that if you like Persona 4, the Story mode is a sequel to it and you need to see it. If you don't like Persona 4, maybe skip the Story mode. I think it's good, but if I didn't like Persona so much I would get annoyed at reading so much text and fighting so little. Luckily Arcade mode condenses the talking and has a lot more fighting, so that might be a good single player choice if you're not a crazy person who played Persona 4 for thirty-eight weeks.

To sum it up, and putting most of my feelings about Persona aside, I think this is a great game. It has many more options than most: Art Gallery, Sound Test, a RIDICULOUSLY LONG (for a fighting game) Story mode, Challenges, and lots of sweet unlockables. As someone who had never played a 4-button "anime" fighter in the past and is still pretty new in the world of fighting games, it does an excellent job of teaching you the basics with the Lessons, Challenges, and very detailed Training mode. Highly recommended if you're new to the genre or an old pro. It's just a really good game.

What I Liked:

-Lesson Mode and Challenge Mode actually doing a LOT to teaching how to play the game. If you're new to fighting games, this is one to check out. It'll ease you right in.

-Consistent rules for every character. Everyone shares the same commands for certain attacks/actions (Evasive moves, Sweeps, Furious Actions) and super moves. SP Skills are almost always Double Quarter Circle Forward (236236) + C/D, Awakened SP Skills are almost always Double Quarter Circle Backward (214214) + C/D, Furious Actions are always B+D, etc.

-It's a sequel to Persona 4!

-For the most part, the gameplay is pretty fair. You can Burst out of seemingly endless combos to get some breathing room if you need it. When your health gets low enough you get some extra meter and access to a REALLY powerful super move that could change the tide of battle. Throw escapes are really easy, and the game even tells you if you were blocking a move incorrectly so you know to do it right next time.

Even the Instant Kill mechanic (yes, there is an Instant Kill) is mostly for the person who is already going to win. Even then, it is possible to miss it so it's not even guaranteed.

Oh, and can I talk about how cool the Instant Kill is for a moment? Not only is the character doing some intense, visually ASTOUNDING attack, it plays that awesome final boss song from Persona 4. It's a strong candidate for the "HYPEST SHIT EVER" Award.


What I Didn't Like:
-Even as I'm having a huge fangasm about the Story mode, it really is a TON of reading. It's a cool story, but perhaps a poorly delivered one. And it's full of plot holes.

-THE MUSIC DOESN'T LOOP. For a game with such fantastic presentation in terms of visuals and audio, why is this even a problem? It's not a problem in any other fighting game I've ever played. The music just fades out and restarts from the beginning, as if it's a one-song CD with no Repeat function. It's a little annoying in Story mode but TERRIBLE during fights. Those awkward moments of silence before the song starts again. Wow. Terrible.

-No Rematch button in Versus.

That's about it! This game is quite accessible for newcomers but has such an absurd amount of depth that I'm not sure I'll ever really get good at it. It's really fun to play, and I'm personally glad it wasn't just a cheap cash-in on the license: this is a legitimate, tournament ready fighting game.

I'm trying hard to get started on another game, but I'm having too much fun with this one at the moment. And I've gotta see how the story ends! So I'll be back next time to talk about another fighting game that I might get good at. Maybe one of those BlazBlues since I sorta know how ArcSys games work now? Maybe one where the music loops (SERIOUSLY?!)

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About Perfidious Sinnone of us since 4:46 PM on 03.03.2009

I go by many names. Masterace, Perfidious Sinn, KD Beaston, Perfidious Syn...uh, that might be it actually.

Twitter: @PerfidiousSinn (https://twitter.com/PerfidiousSinn)

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