Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is Arc System Works and Atlus’ Persona-centered fighting game which was released as a sequel to Persona 4 Arena in 2013, but is now ported to PC and consoles for all to enjoy. The game pits the fan-favorite characters from the Persona 3 and Persona 4 series against one another via the in-game fighting tournament known as the P-1 Climax. To uncover the truth behind this turbulent tournament, the members of Persona 4’s Investigation Team and Persona 3’s Group Shadow Operatives have decided to team up.
Those with little knowledge or experience with Persona 4 Arena or Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will be happy to know that the game features both story modes for players to enjoy, each with its own rich narrative that essentially serves as a sequel to Persona 3 and Persona 4. Additionally, these modes also feature challenges, bonus characters, and story backgrounds for each playable character. While Persona 4 and Persona 4 Arena story branches heavily feature the Persona 4 characters with some Persona 3 Characters consistently making appearances, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax features both, but with more attention on the Persona 3 characters and lore.
The game also highlights several characters including some that have never been playable in the franchise, and several narrative branches with playable characters, including Yukiko, Chie, and more. Additionally, the game also features the voices of the Japanese and English cast, who do an excellent job portraying their respective characters. Combine these features and you have an overall delightful narrative experience for Persona fans, especially those unfamiliar with the Arena Games.
In terms of gameplay, players who have played other anime-like 2D fighting games like the Under Night and BlazBlue series should feel at home with Ultimax. Characters can use melee attacks and weapons while simultaneously using their Personas for long-range and mid-range attacks. Other than their own weapons, each character also has their own fighting styles and mechanics. For example, aside from her wide variety of ballistic attacks, Aigis, (one of my favorite characters) also has an Orgia Mode where she is significantly more mobile and able to quickly close the distance between her opponents with high damage combos, at the cost of a significant portion of her SP meter.
Additionally, this version of Ultimax comes with Shadow characters which are almost infinitely more versatile and fun to play compared to their regular counterparts as they have access to mechanics like Shadow Burst and Shadow Frenzy. The former lets you Burst into Shadow characters while the latter allows players to use unlimited meter attacks until said meter completely runs out, a mechanic regular characters cannot use. This more or less renders regular characters comparatively useless, save for a few attacks only regular characters can use, which admittedly still pale in comparison.
Outside of these unbalanced characters, combat in P4AU is fluid, fast, and fun. Attacks feel weighty and satisfying, and intricately piecing together combos is incredibly effortless. The game’s multiple modes also gives players a bang for their buck. These include the aforementioned Story modes, Golden Arena mode, an Arcade mode complete with dialogue and plotlines, the standard Versus modes, Training modes, Time Attack mode, and more. However, I found the most enjoyable part of the game to be the Golden Arena mode, which provides players a very Persona-esque RPG-like experience where players move through several dungeon floors (of varying difficulty), fighting characters several times while leveling up and attaining customizable skills. Players can even play through dungeons with another character on the roster as a social link to get access to support skills.
The only mode I found unsatisfactory was the online mode which disappointed me with how few players I found online and how many times I was disconnected mid fight. Thankfully, we will be getting rollback netcode sometime in summer, which will hopefully improve the experience.
Visually, P4AU has incredibly detailed and highly colorful sprites and models. While the resolution is locked at 1080p on PC and consoles, with most illustrations showing their age through their artstyle, it still doesn’t take away from the game’s pleasant aesthetic. Performance-wise, the game runs incredibly well on PC with no glitches or frame rate dips, but it is worth mentioning that said frame rate is capped at 60fps, which isn’t too bad for a 2D fighting game.
Overall, the latest release of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the definitive version of the game as it includes every piece of content and DLC ever released for the series including extra story content like the Adachi Story mode, all color variants of each character, and more. In addition, it also provides content not previously available outside Japan like the aforementioned Shadow characters. As such, the quality and sheer amount of content available make it an easy recommendation to both fighting game players and Persona fans alike.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax’s modern port is the definitive version of the game as it provides a good amount of quality content Die-hard Persona fans and fighting game fans will undoubtedly enjoy.