Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fighting game with a varied roster of beautifully animated characters, which continues the story of Persona 4 Golden.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fighting game developed by Arc System Works and Atlus and published by Sega. The game features a fantastic combat system that is easy to pick up but difficult to master, with the presence of Personas adding a level of depth to the experience, though people unfamiliar with the Persona series might not find it as welcoming as other fighting games.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a sequel to Persona 4 Arena, which itself is a sequel to Persona 4. All of the story content from Persona 4 Arena and Ultimax are present in the game, so players won’t be left behind. Yu Narukami returns to the town of Inaba during the Golden Week holiday season, to see his family and friends in the town. The Investigation Team from Persona 4 is quickly thrown into a new conflict, as the Midnight Channel returns and forces them to fight each other. The story continues with the Ultimax chapters, where a red fog falls over Inaba, causing Shadow versions of the cast to appear. The story is just a loose framework to explain why all of these characters are fighting each other, as well as dragging older versions of some Persona 3 characters into the conflict.
The story sections in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax are essentially a visual novel that uses Persona 4‘s visuals and voice actors. The real meat of the gameplay comes in the form of its combat system. Like in the mainline Persona games, most of the characters in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax can call on magical Persona spirits in battle. The cast can perform the regular fighting game staples, such as fast attacks, slow but strong attacks, and throws, but the Personas add a new layer of depth to the mix. Personas can be summoned alongside regular attacks and they tend to have a lot of range and have a variety of effects, The ability to chain physical hits into Persona attacks offers a lot of strategic opportunities, though it cannot always be relied upon, as damaging a Persona uses up one of the cards beneath the health bar and breaking them all prevents it from being summoned again.
The gameplay in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is easy for newcomers to pick up, as it’s possible to enjoy most of its systems by only knowing a few inputs. There is a massive amount of depth beneath the surface for the hardcore crowd to learn, however, broadening P4A‘s appeal. The fact that the tutorial contains sixty different lessons for mechanics is a testament to that. There are lots of technical options and super moves for players to learn, which means there is also a lot to keep track of when taking the game that seriously. The fact that the roster is so big and the characters feel so varied is also a huge plus in this regard, with many of the returning characters from Persona 4 Arena receiving new Shadow versions that play differently from their base forms.
The character sprites in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax still look great, which is no surprise, considering this is the same studio behind the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear fighting game franchises. What hasn’t aged quite as well are the static backgrounds and images that appear during the story mode, with many of them being grainy and not stacking up well compared to the character images. The soundtrack of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax features remixed tracks from Persona 4, so the music didn’t need much work to maintain the amazing quality of the songs.
The story mode will be interesting to fans of Persona 3 and Persona 4, since it acts as a sequel to both stories and gives updates on the lives of the cast members. The problem is that the story isn’t as welcoming to newcomers, and it actively spoils many of the story elements of Persona 3 and Persona 4. This is especially annoying on Nintendo Switch and PS4, as there’s no way to play these games on that system, while only Persona 4 Golden is on PC. The story of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is aimed squarely at Persona fans, whereas the other entries in the series are turn-based RPGs, so there’s also a lack of appeal in continuing the story in a fighting game. Luckily, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax has easy difficulty modes and even an Auto-Battle option, so people who are mostly here for the story can breeze through the tougher fights. There is also the Golden Arena mode, where the player can level up between bouts and learn skills, which is closer to the original Persona experience but doesn’t have any story content.
The big new addition to Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is rollback netcode. The problem is that this isn’t active as of the time of writing, and won’t be available until sometime in Summer 2022. Once that arrives, there will be a renewed interest in playing the game online. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a great fighting game for the casual and hardcore crowd, with a unique cast of fighters and a ton of systems to use in combat, though a big part of its appeal will be lost on people who aren’t Persona fans and who haven’t experienced Persona 3 or Persona 4.
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Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC, and PS4. Screen Rant was provided with a digital code for the PC version of the game for the purposes of this review.
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