Persona 4 Arena may have less characters than other fighting games, but Arc System Works made each one of ’em feel unique. I started playing Persona 4 Arena with Yu Narukami, the once silent protagonist from Persona 4. He’s like the "Ryu" of the group complete with a horizontal fireball (OK, it’s an electric blast), a rising sword slash (that has one unblockable frame), and a straight forward projectile blast. Yu has some differences like a sliding attack to close distance and diving sword attack that hops over low enemy attacks. Yu, I think, is the base character for Persona 4 Arena so he’s the easiest to learn, but doesn’t excel in any particular area.
Chie is a beatdown character, which fits her kung fu fanatic personality. She’s pretty easy to learn too since her attacks easily link into one another. In the middle of most combos, you can use Rampage, an QCF + A or B attack that makes Chie do a double kick, and link that to Skull Cracker by repeating the same motion. You can also buff Chie by using Power Charge (QCF, QCF + A or B) to increase the amount of damage she does. The downside is Chie doesn’t have any projectiles until she triggers an awakening (meaning you lost a lot of life) and even then her super has limited range.
Yosuke is the fastest character in the game and is kind of like a ninja. Many of his attacks involve flipping in mid-air to continue a combo. You can also counter attacks with a dodge move (B + D) to set up a counter attack and can send opponents into panic status with Tentarafoo. Maybe the best way to describe him is a trickster? Yosuke can get another speed burst by using Sukukaja, a super move, after his awakening. Yosuke is good at launching his opponents too and can keep combos going ending with a spinning tornado super attack, Garudyne.
Yukiko specializes in throwing her fan, one of the attack buttons is just for fan throwing! Her other close range attacks don’t have much range so Yukiko is dependant on her persona to assault the opponent with Agi fireballs. Yukiko can also charge up fire attacks using Fire Boost or Fire Amp, but you need space to use these skills. If you find space to charge up (maybe after using a burst) you can really hurt an opponent with Maragidyne, a fire spell that takes up a large portion of the screen. Basically, if the other player isn’t already blocking you’ll probably hurt them. It’s possible to make this spell unblockable too using QCB + D.
Teddie is a wacky character with decent range and a Bearscrew attack that you can easily in link into or you can end a combo with Puppeteddie, which can inflict fear on an enemy. You can also use Puppeteddie to debilitate an opponent with rage. This status attack prevents an enemy from blocking so you can bombard the player with Tomahawk missiles. Teddie can also knock his opponent with a stack of TVs, which you can later use to warp out of danger. Teddie’s persona has two functions rushing the enemy or throwing an item. Items have different effects like freezing an enemy or rolling over them with an oil drum. Teddie can also restore HP (with a side effect or rage), but the problem is you have to keep cycling through items to get to one you want. That leaves your persona vulnerable to a persona break.
Kanji is the game’s grappler. While he’s slow, Kanji can counter attacks and paralyze the other player using B+D. A paralyzed opponent can still move by dodging (double tap a direction), but it feels like most newcomers are just confused by this leaving them open for a combo. Kanji can to move and slowing down an enemy makes it easy to catch another player. I’m not usually a grappling player, but online someone trapped me into a combo by throwing my character against the wall followed by catching them and throwing them again. Ouch.
Naoto has two extra stats you have to pay attention to. While she has a gun, Naoto only has a few bullets. After using a skill like snipe you have to use a frame of animation to reload. Fights with Naoto also add a skull counter underneath your persona meter. Naoto can whittle this number away by using some special attacks. If the skull meter is zero you can instantly kill an enemy with Hamaon (a ground trap) or Mudoon (an anti-air trap). Naoto can also trap the other player by using her person to rush while switching into her gun stance.
Aigis also has bullets, but she starts with a set amount each round and cannot reload. If you run out of bullets you won’t be able to use Aigis’ gattling gun or a regular attack that spams the screen with a projectile spread. While Aigis sounds like a long range fighter she can switch into a beatdown character when you trigger Orgia Mode. This supercharges Aigis close range attacks for a few seconds. You can also use Aigis’ persona as a shield since Athena specalizes in counterattacking. I’d say Aigis is the most flexible character in the group.
Being a boxer, Akihiko is a beatdown character. I don’t really have a good hang on Akihiko, but it feels like using his weaving move to stay close to the opponent is key. His persona, Caesar, acts like a magnet and pulls characters closer to you. Kill Rush (QCF + A or B) seems to be the start of most of his combos. From there you can do another special move like a corkscrew punch for extra damage or cancel straight into a Ken style super uppercut.
Mitsuru is a fast character with a decent amount of range using her rapier. Her furious attack (B+D) has a crazy amount of range – forward, backwards, up, and down. While most of the Persona 4 Arena characters have rolling controls, Mitsuru has charge commands. Mitsuru can knock opponents backwards after a sword thrust rush or trap her opponent with slow flying Bufula projectiles. Making ice traps uses a lot of SP, but you can steal the other players using one of her persona attacks. Artemesia can also extend Mitsuru’s range with whip attacks.
Elizabeth uses tarot cards to attack so most of her attacks have very little range. She’s slow too, so you have to use B to throw cards and draw another player near. Once caught in a combo you can extend the damage using one of her many magic spells. Elizabeth can fire an electric blast that reaches the end of the screen, close distance by riding a tornado or fry an enemy with two pillars of blue fire. Don’t worry about running out of SP, Elizabeth regenerates super meter automatically. One of the combos the game teaches you is how to catch a launched character from Maragidyne then you can follow up with even more spell combos. Elizabeth’s instant death supers are really tough to use since they take a few seconds to activate and Elizabeth can’t get hit (even while blocking) during that time. If you’re risky, you can use Mind Charge to trigger an awakening when a fight begins. Yeah, this burns through your health, but you can restore life using Diarahan. It’s possible to end a combo with Diarahan too widening the gap between Elizabeth and the other player. Since Elizabeth has short range you have to use Thanatos to rush the other player and use her persona to inflict fear, which ups the damage she deals. Elizabeth, in my opinion, has the coolest instant kill too.
Labrys has the unique ability of getting a damage boost if you keep putting pressure on the other player. Labrys can close damage by harpooning her opponent with a rocket punch. Her persona, Ariadne, gives Labrys a wealth of projectile attacks. She can create a string of energy swords and bombard the other player with arrows. Labrys can also make a blade appear out of the ground and pull in an opponent like Akihiko.
Shadow Labrys has the same basic attacks as Labrys. The difference is Shadow Labrys’ persona Asterios is always on screen. You can make him slam an enemy with heavy punches or charge up for a fire blast. Asterios can also swallow an enemy whole and move their position. I think Shadow Labrys’ specialty is taking up so much of the screen with her gigantic persona.