Game Reviewed: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Date Released: September 30th, 2014
Developer: Arc System Works
Platform: [Reviewed: PlayStation 3], Xbox 360
Rated: M for Mature
Persona, which derives from Megami Tensei, is a very popular RPG series that’s been praised for its story arcs, and battle systems. But when you take Persona and turn it into a fighting game, the result is a surprisingly great fighter that received critical and fan praise. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax isn’t just an expansion to Arena, but a proper sequel which improves upon the original and offers plenty for diehard Persona fans and fighting enthusiasts.
Ultimax is a direct sequel taking place just a week after the events of Persona 4 Arena. Now for those who didn’t play the original, the game recaps the events of the previous game. The story is definitely the most content-rich, featuring two stories from the perspectives of the Persona 3 and 4 cast, a new antagonist, 8 new characters to fight as, and even the good old “true” ending unlock. For fans that love Persona to death, you get to catch up with old favorites and see what they’ve been up to. The flip-side is that there tends to be a lot of dialog (in a game based of an RPG granted), so there will be a lot of reading for a game that is supposed to get you into the action.
Just like any decent fighting game there has to be a balance of everything in addition to having it accessible to newcomers. Ultimax has found that balance. Players who just want to jump into the fray can easily do so; one button combos and a basic understanding of the controls guarantees a grand time, but if you need to get in some practice, a tutorial mode can be accessed at any time.
For you hardcore fighters out there, there are various special moves and combos to master. A couple of new features add a level of risk and reward; the new S-Hold system allows players to power up their attacks at the risk of leaving themselves vulnerable. Perhaps the biggest game-changer is the Shadow Types ability; with a weakened normal attack, lacking defense, and a different moveset, the Shadow ability is not to be used casually. However, implemented correctly and you can end a round in seconds; SP is kept throughout multiple rounds and players are granted the Shadow Rampage ability which gives your character infinite SP for a short duration.
The hand-drawn animations in both the cutscenes and in gameplay keep true to the essence of Persona. Each stage’s backdrop is lively and vibrant, yet plays second fiddle to the clashing of contestants that light up the screen with combos and finishers.
Ultimax does everything a fighter should strive to accomplish: engaging and engrossing gameplay that is fun for first-timers and satisfying for seasoned fighters, great personality that makes each character feel unique, and improves upon what made the original Arena a stellar game. If you’re looking for a good fight, you found one.