Let’s find out together, in this quick dedicated review, if and how much it is worth picking up Persona 4 Arena Ultimax: the return of the Atlus fighting game almost ten years ago
Atlus knows: the world is waiting. After the overwhelming success of Persona 5 Royal (and spin-off of various kinds) and the advocated Shin Megami Tensei V, the world is waiting for news from the company. The 25th anniversary festival of the Persona series kicks off in late May and, let’s admit, our hype is skyrocketing too. In addition to finally having some information on the sixth chapter, however, we also expect some flashback … like a new Arena chapter? In the meantime, however, we have dusted off Persona 4 Arena Ultimax: a real leap into nostalgia.
Released almost ten years ago in Europe, Persona 4 Arena was, to all intents and purposes, a phenomenon of its time. On the one hand, it was a great time for fighting games, even those intentionally more arcade, and Arc System Works (which obviously lent the muscles and head to Atlus for development) at the time depopulated for BlazBlue, another truly excellent product for all fans of 2D fighting. On the other hand, given the enormous success of Persona 4 especially in the homeland, it was at least obvious that a direct sequel (albeit a spin-off in terms of mechanics) could capture the general attention of the public. Recently, Atlus and Arc System Works have decided to take it back in hand and republish it on PC and PlayStation 4, rejuvenating it and putting together (almost) all the additional content released over time in a single package. Welcome to our Persona 4 Arena Ultimax review.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax includes, in terms of plot and playable characters, all the content of the first Persona 4 Arena and, precisely, of its sequel “Ultimax”. Although, as we said earlier, the story is actually a sequel to Persona 4, in reality, the events narrated intertwine the protagonists of the fourth chapter and their Investigation Team with those of Persona 3, the Shadow Operatives. We will therefore find ourselves living a rather bizarre story, along the lines of what Atlus has always proposed, in which there will be many known faces for fans of the franchise.
Yu, the canonical name of the protagonist of Persona 4, returns to Inaba to spend the Golden Week with his friends from the Investigation Team. Obviously, they won’t be able to enjoy even half a day of quiet before discovering that the Midnight Channel is back on and this time… it is broadcasting a real fighting tournament. Gathered and discussed what to do, our protagonists return to the World of Shadows in order to find out what is happening again in Inaba and put an end to it again. They will be joined by the protagonists of Persona 3who come to Inaba to investigate the suspected hijacking of a plane and to recover an anti-Shadow suppression weapon, Labrys.
We will not reveal anything else on a narrative level, if only because the long “Visual Novel” sections of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax have in all respects the scripty charm of the franchise. Although in fact they are stories told more hastily and with less impact than the main chapters of the series, it must be admitted that for a fighting game narrative it’s really deep and multifaceted. The only small drawback is always the same: if you have not played Persona 4 and Persona 3 it will be difficult for you to be able to figure out something both for what concerns the events and for the dialogues between the various characters.
Let’s move on to the beating heart of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax: the gameplay. The game has practically remained the same as when it arrived in Europe in 2013, except for the addition of a new mode and the inclusion of almost all the paid DLCs released over time. We therefore found ourselves in front of one myriad of characters, costumes, alternative colors and accessories of various kinds, as well as the almost complete soundtrack. We emphasize the “almost”, but without embroidering too much on it: we remind you that Persona 4 Arena Ultimax came out practically at a budget price, so we don’t feel like stressing it too much.
In addition to the two distinct Story modes, which will take about ten hours to complete, in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax you will definitely have several things to do. Starting from the very classic Tutorial, rather useful for novices of the genre and which, we admit, it also served us to rejuvenate our withered hands from non-expert players of the genre. Useful also and above all because … Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is an anime fighter, with all its strengths and weaknesses. The mechanics are many and truly varied, the pace of the game is frenetic and at high difficulty you will often find yourself dying for lethal combos, without even being able to try to escape them.
Each character will have available several quick attacks to chain in combos, along with specific skills donated by the Person available. Timing, reactivity and cunning: the classic triptych essential for all fans of 2D fighting in anime sauce who want to aim for the highest difficulties. Each character (and there are so many) has its own peculiarities and will obviously be more or less suitable according to the type of player you are. Some, such as Margaret, will focus heavily on using the Persona to often unleash ranged attacks, and will be more fragile in the short range. Then there are the bulls like Kanji o Akihikowhose Personas are certainly powerful, but on the short range they know how to be really fast and lethal.
Examining all the mechanics of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax during the review seems very useless, for two simple reasons: the first is that we should create a separate article, however long and detailed it would be. The second is even simpler: the game is not a new title, those who approach it probably know the original and, if not on the other hand, the Tutorial mode is really so complete as to be totally exhaustive. SP, Burst, Skill Boost Skill Attack, Suplex Hold System and Autocombo (love and hate!) these are all concepts and mechanics that you will get to know thoroughly, over the tens and tens of hours that Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will steal from you.
Let’s take a look at the most relevant innovations of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, in addition to the aforementioned paid DLCs already included in the package. There Golden Arena modefor example, it will allow you to face battles aimed at acquiring experience points and new skills to enhance your character, in a sort of RPG Beat ’em up that it will hardly leave its mark on your memory, but which still seemed like a pleasant pastime to break the long sessions in the always fantastic Arcade Mode. The other, fundamental, addition is actually something that is not yet available and concerns the online mode.
Atlus and Arc System Works have in fact already promised the implementation of Rollback Netcode on PS4 and PC, as done in the latest iteration of Guilty Gear, and which should make the online component much more playable and less frustrating. We admit it: we tried, we gave up after only a few games. The netcode rollback is scheduled for this summer and we hope, in the long term, it will become the norm for fighting games with online multiplayer components.
From a purely technical and graphic point of view, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is exactly the same title as in 2013, and that’s not bad at all. Some tweaks to the textures and a very superficial general rejuvenation has been done, and it shows, but more than a remastered version we can consider it a simple port on PlayStation 4 of a title that already had a lot to say, in terms of aesthetic and stylistic beauty, even ten years ago. A praise to the everlasting soundtrack, which mixes many original songs with some great Persona 4 classics. Too bad the tracks included are not all, but as mentioned a few paragraphs ago, considering the budget price … we have nothing to complain about.
To conclude this quick review of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, our dispassionate advice is to give a chance to such a multifaceted, varied and fun title, even if you are not passionate about the genre (exactly like the writer). Surely you will not aim for high levels of competition, especially considering that the online sector is still difficult to practice (we await the netcode rollback for this summer), but between a very rich Arcade Mode, two different Stories to follow carefully and all the secondary content that the title of Arc System Works offers, we assure you that the hours in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will fly by. And now come on, Atlus: we are waiting.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is currently available on PC and PlayStation 4. Let us know what you think below in the comments, we will continue to keep you updated with all the news, guides and reviews on gaming and tech themes! And if you are interested in game keys at advantageous prices, we recommend that you take a look at the InstantGaming catalog!
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