Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fighting game spinoff title from Atlus’ Persona series developed by fighting game powerhouse Arc System Works and published by Sega. The game is actually a remaster of the original Persona 4 Arena Ultimax that was in itself a sequel to 2012s Persona 4 Arena. This version of the game brings it to modern consoles with releases on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Another new thing this port brings to the table is the 2.5 update for the game that only released in Japanese arcades and never made it to other versions of the game until now. The game released on March 17th 2022.
The games story mode is a direct sequel to the original Persona 4 Arenas story which is also included in this game. The story is set after the events of Persona 4 which I wont spoil here as the story for that is best experienced blind. The story follows the cast of Persona 4 travelling into the TV world after learning of a mysterious tournament being held there. While in the TV world, they meet characters from Persona 3 who are attempting to track down one of Arenas original characters, Labrys. Throughout the story, the characters attempt to unravel the truth of the tournament.
The story is entertaining throughout and can be enjoyed even if you’re not great at fighters through the use of auto mode which means you don’t need to battle opponents. The ultimax story takes place directly after a cliffhanger from the original game and features Arenas other original character, Sho. These original characters feel like good additions to the game, particularly Labrys. The game is also packaged with all of the DLC Ultimax originally had, such as the extra dlc story episode. Overall, the games story is entertaining and definitely worth playing for fans of Persona 4.
The game plays out as a 2D fighting game similar to other Arc System Works titles. It does differentiate itself from other games in a few ways. One of these ways is through the use of status effects which cause various debuffs to your opponent if inflicted such as removing the ability to block or losing health over time. Another interesting mechanic the game features is in the use of personas. If you or your persona is hit by an attack during an attack where your persona is visible, you lose a card from the persona gauge. Lose all your cards and your persona becomes broken, locking you out from a significant portion of your characters moveset, forcing you to be careful when using your personas moves.
The gameplay feels fantastic to play and has a very high skill ceiling without being too hard to pick up if you’re a fan of the series wanting to dabble into fighting games. Each character brings something unique to the table so you’re bound to find something you like in the game excellent cast featuring characters from Persona 3 and 4. Each character also has a shadow form unique to Ultimax which plays slightly differently to the base character with a few extra mechanics. The game also features a great tutorial that gives you a rundown of all the games mechanics which really helps if you’re new to the genre along with a combo challenge mode to test your skill and learn a few characters more in depth.
The game features a variety of different game modes: Story, Arcade, Score Attack, Golden Arena and the Online Modes. Arcade mode is your standard mode where you pick a character and play through a number of battles until you reach that characters ending. Unfortunately, these endings are all essentially the same as they are designed to lead into the games main Story mode. Score Attack tasks you with racking up the highest score you can over a number of battles and Golden Arena is a mode where you can level up your characters to progress through dungeons almost like an RPG.
The Online mode of the game is split into Ranked Matches and Player Matches with Player Matches functioning as low stakes private matches whereas you can work your way up the leaderboard in ranked matches. The PS4 version of the game features a lobby mode where players can play matches against each other which isn’t present in the PC or Switch version unfortunately. At the time of writing, the games netcode is delay based which is not awful but can sometimes result in laggy online matches. However, rollback netcode is being added in an update sometime this summer which should solve any issues with online matches. Overall, the game is a joy to play and should appeal to fans of fighting games and Persona fans alike.
The games visuals have been given a resolution boost in this port to modern consoles but the sprites themselves appear to have been left untouched which could leave them feeling slightly dated compared to newer titles. I personally think the games visuals are great with each character looking great with vibrant colour schemes. The games arenas also look fantastic, with many areas fans of Persona 4 will be very familiar with. Each character also has a lot of different colour palletes included which lets you customise your characters look. You can even have separate colour schemes for your persona and your character. The games animations are fantastic and makes combos look incredibly flashy.
Persona games are acclaimed for their exceptional soundtracks and this is no exception. The game has themes for each character and a number of iconic tracks from Persona 3 and 4. This makes the games soundtrack fantastic and a great accompaniment to the games action. The original tracks for the game fit in well and represent each character. Overall, the games presentation is fantastic with a combination of vibrant visuals and a brilliant soundtrack.
Overall, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fantastic fighting game that hopefully will have a bigger player base now that it is available on modern platforms. The combination of smooth gameplay and flashy visuals with an exceptional soundtrack make for a worthy addition to the Persona franchise.
A great fighting game that fans of Persona and fighting games alike should enjoy.