For those in North America, Persona 4 Arena (Aka. Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena) on the Playstation 3 and Xbox360 may be a distant memory – with your attention potentially focused on what could very well be the announcement of Persona 5 later this month. If you are like me and reside in a PAL region, the game is a bit fresher in memory, due to it being one of the only region locked PS3 games on the international market today.
Nevertheless, for those who enjoyed Udon Entertainment’s design compendium books for Persona 3 and Persona 4, you might want to consider checking out their similar release for P4A which according to Amazon.com is set to be available for purchase from the 3rd December 2013.
Upon opening Persona 4 Arena: Official Design Works you are treated to several pages of solid artwork produced by artists Shigenori Soejima and Shuji Sogabe ranging from promotional artwork to poster artwork created for the arcade version of the game, with a brief comment from both commenting on their thoughts designing the artwork and being involved in the collaboration between ATLUS and Arc System Works. It was a nice start, although as with earlier releases may be considered a slightly misleading start for what to expect in the book. Infact the only real finalized full-page promotional artwork you will see in the book are nestled in the first twelve or so pages. After that, you can expect a dedicated insight into the design process of the fighting title.
As was the case in the earlier titles, a majority of the artbooks page allocation is taken up detailing each of the characters. To be more specific, pages 16-149 focus on the characters with ten pages set aside for each character and two additional pages for the side characters. While the side characters (Eg. Margaret, Igor, Nanako etc) are given mere descriptions for their role in the storyline, those ten pages for each of the playable characters are put to good use.
For each of the character profiles, the first double-page spread features an enlarged image of the characters full-body portrait (As seen in the character select screen) in addition to a brief profile, “battle title” and descriptions highlighting the events of Persona 4, the lead-up to Persona 4 Arena and the events that take place in their specific route during the game. After that you have another double page spread featuring standard artwork included in the final release.
The first four pages of artwork isn’t anything you wouldn’t have already seen if you have played the game, it is the other six pages per character where you get your money’s worth from. The rest of the pages focus on the design process ranging from concept art for each character to the movement of specific moves in battle. These were far superior to the P3 and P4 official design works, with not only their portrait designs to deal with but their battle sprites as well. They are highly detailed with commentary by the creators and little comments on each which have been translated from the original design notes. This continues for each of the main characters and made for interesting reading – especially the notes behind the redesigns of returning P3 characters Mitsuru, Aigis and Akihiko.
Below is an example of the level of detail provided on many of the pages in the “Characters” section of the book.
The second chapter of the book focuses less on the design process and looking at the final products in terms of background artwork of both the story mode and battle stages as well as the CG artwork. While the story and CG artwork felt pretty much tacked on, the different design changes in the battle stages were highlighted with brief 1-2 sentence descriptions summarizing the stages design – in addition to a few concept designs that I would have been interested seeing included as DLC or something.
Lastly there is what you could consider the “extras” including a list of all the various quotes and spoken lines used during combat (I can’t vouch for the reading size given I am basing this review off a digital copy), sets of localized interviews with developers “Kazuhisa Wada and Takumi Iguchiya” and “Yuichiro Tanaka and Kazuhisa Wada” and a few other pages added to the end with storyboards of animated cutscenes including the opening sequence.
While I am worried that some of the smaller text may be tiresome on the eyes once the physical copy of the book is available for purchase, the book is laid out well and lets the content shine. I personally wouldn’t have said no to a larger book with more room for some of the small pieces of draft artwork however. The localization job done by the team at Udon Entertainment was also of a high quality. The one discrepancy that may catch some lesser informed readers would be that while they refer to Teddie by his English localized name, some of the notes refer to “Kumada” which is the name he adopts of his human alter ego in the Japanese edition of the game. This is in contrast to the English release which keeps the name Teddie in both his forms.
While its lack of artwork may not appeal to some, Persona 4 Arena: Official Design Works made for an interesting read and in my opinion offered much more insight on the design process than its predecessors. The book was a good compliment for an enjoyable fighting game on the Playstation 3, Xbox360 and (in Japan) arcades, and one that I could happily recommend to fans of the franchise.
Check out my review of Persona 4 Arena while you are at it!
Commentary on the design process! Lots of finalized and concept artwork.
I am worried some of the text in the final release will be very small. Book should have been bigger for larger pieces of draft artwork.