Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Review – One More Round

    Title: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
    Developer: Arc System Works
    Release Date: March 16, 2022
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Atlus
    Genre: Fighting

Spin-off games are fun. Sometimes you just get ludicrous sequels to serious games. As such, the only proper way to follow up a 100-hour JRPG about solving a series of murders in a small town is with a canonical fighting game sequel that has an extremely convenient plot to justify the cast going at it.

Persona 4 Arena was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2012 as a sequel to Persona 4. It was a fighting game so solid that it got a whole sequel in 2014. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, also on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, carefully added some lines in its story to make itself a sequel to Persona 4 Golden, Persona 4’s updated rerelease that showed up on the Vita in the West in 2013.

And with the new console generation, these titles ended up left in the dust, partially due to lacking a PC release. Until now, that is, in which Persona 4 Arena Ultimax comes to PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4, with all of Arena’s content in tow.

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Persona 4 Arena stars the cast of Persona 4, who have entered the TV world to look into a strange midnight channel show promoting a tournament that they are the stars of. With some of their gang missing, they once again dive into the TV world to figure out what’s going on, only to be entangled in a tournament between the lot of them. Along the way, some Persona 3 characters were dropped into this mess too.

The story ends on a relative cliffhanger, followed up by the Ultimax story. This features the rest of the Persona 3 and Persona 4 casts and the original character Sho Minazuki, who brings the tournament to the real world and raises the stakes to the fate of the world. It’s a serviceable enough story, told in a visual novel style that will appeal to anyone who just wants to see more of the gangs.

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The real draw here is that it’s an Arc System Works Persona fighting game. This means the sprite art is excellent bar none, even without any real graphical updates in a decade. This port does, however, add anti-aliasing and can run at a smooth 60fps. It’s also backed by all your favorite songs from Persona 3 and Persona 4, with extra original tracks thrown in. All of the DLC from the original game is also included, which includes colors, navigator voices, and Adachi’s story.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a four-button fighter with two buttons for the character’s light and heavy attacks, with the other two buttons for utilizing Persona attacks, which also come in light and heavy forms. Motion inputs will trigger different attacks depending upon which button is used, with some Persona attacks allowing for simultaneous character movements as well. Persona attacks are more powerful but have a cooldown on their uses and come with additional risk, as if your opponent hits your persona, you can be completely locked out of Persona attacks for a length of time.

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Your special gauge, in this case, SP, fills in increments of 25, with both character buttons or Persona buttons being held to trigger more powerful variations. Upon reaching low health, you enter ‘Awakening Mode,’ which has your character’s cut-in flash across the screen, increasing your max SP to 150 and refilling your meter by 50 SP.

That’s enough to pull out a free super, while the damage you receive is reduced by 40%, allowing for that sweet, sweet last-second comeback should you make a combo that eats through your opponent’s HP before they can enter their awakening mode. It’s an extremely fun and satisfying mechanic that ups the intensity of the matches towards the end.

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That’s just a surface-level scrape at some of the mechanics this game holds because if I were to explain everything, we’d be here all day, and the tutorials will give you a solid understanding. As this game is a port, fighting game wikis like Dustloop already exist to provide you with the real relevant in-depth details you need should you care about playing the title competitively.

For the less competitive, besides the story, there also exists the Golden Arena Mode, which has you fight waves of foes, gaining XP, which you can use to boost your stats and gain more skills before setting you up to take on boss characters. It’s some pretty sweet casual fun.

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Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a great anime fighting game with plenty of depth for competitive players while remaining accessible for newcomers; all brought forward to modern platforms. More competitive players may want to wait until the eventual rollback update, but this new release easily revives this series for a few more rounds.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter