Persona 4 is the series that just keeps on giving, with Atlus finding every way they can to milk even more out of the rich characters and story. Normally, I might be a little bit put off by this, but like Final Fantasy Tactics, it never seems to get old. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a follow up to the hit fighting game Persona 4 Arena that released back in 2012. Developed by Arc System Works, P4AU brings new modes and characters in a fun fighting package.
P4AU takes place directly follow the events of the original. Like the original, Ultimax has a well fleshed out story that most fighting games out there just cannot match. Yu Narukami has made his way back to Inaba and with his return, weird things start to happen again. This time however, you aren’t entering the TV to do your fighting. The TV World has somehow taken over the real world and the Investigation Team is reassembled to save the day. The game reveals the culprit behind the events of the first game, as he has taken the Shadow Operatives (Persona 3 characters) hostage.
The Story mode plays out more like a visual novel than a fighting game and it is rather long. Playing through the story from the P4 characters was a good 2-3 hours to complete, which then opens up to play from the Shadow Operatives perspective for another 2-3 hours. I have seen some people complain about the length of the story and while it is rather long and there is a lot to read, I personally had no issue with the length. The characters are all so well thought out and designed, that it was really fun to revisit the town of Inaba and the Midnight Channel. The game even offers you the ability to auto-fight each battle, meaning you can sit back and watch the computer fight for you, then get back to enjoying the story.
P4AU offers a much more diverse cast than the original, adding in eight new characters for you to enjoy, as well as their shadow counterparts. This time around you can play as Rise Kujikawa from P4, Junpei Iori, Yukai Takeba, and Ken Amadafro from PS3, and the culprit of the game, Sho Minazuki. You can also find three DLC characters; Marie, Margaret, and Tohru Adachi. All of these characters give you plenty of different play styles to enjoy and their shadow versions offer a bit more of an offensive flair.
As someone who is not the most hardcore fighting game fan, it was nice to see how user friendly P4AU was for us newbies. The game features a four-button layout, with two basic attacks and two persona attacks. It’s a great way to win a few battles and get your feet wet, while learning more about the surprisingly deep combat. Every combination of buttons does something different and while newbies can just button mash weak combo’s, the game rewards those who learn all the different manual combo’s with more damage done. Again, as a rather limited fighting game person, it was nice to be able to get in and win matches without learning all those crazy combo’s.
A new mode makes it’s way into the game in the form of the Golden Arena. If you have played one of the past Persona RPGs, this should feel familiar. In the mode you are tasked with going from floor 1-50 in the Tartarus. Players will partner up with a navigator, creating a Social Link, gaining exp points, and unlocking new skills. The skills give you abilities like a chance to poison an enemy or restoring some of your health during the battle. If you want to play something else, you also have an arcade mode, versus, and a score attack mode where you go through 10 battles, trying your best to score as high as possible. There is also a challenge mode for each character, letting you take down various tasks with each character. The core fighting stays the same in each mode, but each mode brings a little something different to make them unique in their own right.
You can also hop online to try out player matches, ranked matches, and a lobby to walk around in. The lobby part of it was actually pretty interesting, as you select a character and you can roam around an arcade room, talking to other people and sitting down at arcade cabinets to player one-on one-battles. It was a cool idea to have that kind of lobby online, but I found it rather hard to connect to other players to actually get a fight in. The few times I did get a fight in, I was quickly dispatched of and then promptly looked down on.
As someone who is probably the farthest thing from a fighting game fan, I was surprised with just how much I enjoyed Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. It attempts to find a middle ground for hardcore and casual fighters, and for the most part it succeeds. With an interesting story, lots of character choices, and an inviting combat system, there is something here for everyone. The addition of Golden Arena and the online lobby that was fairly full, you should always have a good fight on your hand. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fighting game that you should pick up, even if you aren’t the most hardcore fighting game person out there.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.