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Veteran Member - Level 13
Let me preface this quickly: I am a huge Persona fan. I like the first two games in the series, and I absolutely adore Persona 3 and 4 and all of their updates. So you could take this blog with a grain of salt. I love Persona, and this likely equips me with a pair of rose tinted glasses.
That said, I am also a huge fan of fighting games. I currently play Street fighter 4, Skullgirls, Killer Instinct, King of Fighters XIII, and Persona 4 Arena (P4A). I am also currently enjoying UNIEL/Under Night. I wouldn't claim to be great at any of them, but I am at least competent at all of them. As far as 3d fighters go I haven't played one seriously since Soul Calibur 4, so while I do have knowledge of them I am far behind the times with that type of fighter. All this to say that I am a decently credible source where fighting games are concerned.
Now, on to my piece. P4A is the greatest thing ever to happen to fighting game newcomers because of the story mode. I am sure just about everyone on this site has tried a fighting game at some point. If they turned you off, I am willing to bet it is because of the immense amount of time you have to spend to be competent at them compared to most other games. Most people just want to be able to sit down and have fun right away since their gaming time is limited. I won't deny that all fighting games require lots of practice time, P4A included. What sets P4A apart is the story mode. In nearly every fighting game the story mode is nothing more than arcade mode with some cut scenes thrown in and maybe a rival fight if the mode even exists. Once you finish the tutorial you are usually going to be forced to head to the training room and spend hours learning how the game's various systems and your character of choice work.
Not in P4A. With a 40+ hour story mode that will keep you interested chances are high you are going to come out of it competent with at least one character. You will certainly come out of it with a solid understanding of how the various systems in the game work together and how to manage them, which is half the battle. Once you know how the game works it is much easier to figure out how to best make your character work within those systems. In addition, there are many gamers out there (including me) who will play a game only for the story, even if they don't like the gameplay. Anyone can get through P4A's story mode on easy, and even if you only came for the story you may find yourself staying to get better with your favorite character.
Once you are competent with a character is when fighting games start to pay you back for all your hard work. When you can play online, or even better with a person beside you without getting wrecked is when fighting games really become fun. The feeling of playing someone at the same skill level and winning a close match is a feeling I have not experienced anywhere else in video games. The sense of accomplishment is immense. Even if you lose, you are driven to get that rematch or improve your skills so that next time the two of you play you can win. I would also argue that fighting games are the most social of video games. I have made many friends by going to my local weekly tournament. The sense of comradery and the knowledge that you all are there because you love the same thing makes it easy to make friends. You will always have something to talk about. Start off talking about fighting games, and eventually you will branch out into other topics.
Now don't get me wrong. Some of the most fun I have had with video games is playing a party game like Mario Party or Towerfall with 3 friends next to me on the couch. I don't discredit the fun to be had with other people when playing other genres. On the other hand, they do not take the dedication to master that fighting games do. How long can you really discuss Mario Party with a friend? The depth just isn't there to facilitate prolonged discussion on the topic. I also know there are games that do the same thing I praised P4A for doing. Netherrealm fighting games, most notably Injustice, have great story modes that I enjoy immensely. Unfortunately they are just not long enough to give you enough practice to be competent with a character. Also, there are other ways to diminish the barrier of entry for the genre. The Killer Instinct (KI) reboot makes itself accessible by creating an easy to pick up but hard to master combo system. Anyone can perform combos in KI after 15 minutes of practice. The depth comes when you get to the mind games within the simple combo system. However, this method still requires that you spend many hours learning the game and does not include an engrossing story to push you to continue learning.
To conclude, I had more fun learning how to play P4A than any other fighting game. The barrier of entry is still high. Learning combos and the game's systems still require lots of practice. But once you know how one fighting game works you will be able to start any other game in the genre with at least rudimentary knowledge of how the game works. With a great story to keep you coming back for more I would argue that P4A is the best game to to start you on the path to discovering the immense fun to be had with the fighting game genre.