Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Review
Initial NA Release Date: September 30, 2014
Review Date: October 4, 2015
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
They did it again.
Atlus and Arc System Works have brought us yet again another outstanding 2D fighter packed with all the persona action and glory that the original JRPG fans of Persona 3 and Persona 4 wished for.
As a big fan of the original game in the series, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (P4U2) was going to be a game that wouldn’t have to change much from the original Persona 4 Arena formula to sell me on it. Arc System Works may have known that coming into making the sequel, but instead of playing it safe, they delivered an exceptional game that introduces new game mechanics as well as touching up the areas where Persona 4 Arena (P4A) needed improvement.
Presentation – Topping its predecessor in style was going to be a tough task for Arc System Works but somehow they managed to do so. Although not much change happened in the visual department of P4U2 from P4A, the addition of new animations, stages and supers make the game look even better than it did before. The pixelated art style is back as well as the flashy effects on-screen and new persona models. The dark aura look of the newly introduced Shadow-Type character fits perfectly as well as a more Persona 3 feel to the HUD and base colors of blue and red, whereas P4A definitely had a Persona 4 feel to it with the potent golden theme. Although different, P4U2 looks great and makes itself at home with the atmosphere of the game.
It wouldn’t be a persona game without a great soundtrack, well this game is no different. The sound in this game is just as good if not better than the original. An expanded soundtrack from both core JRPG’s P3 and P4 have been added as well as new character soundtracks that fit the bill for most if not all new characters. Sound design was also a big part of why the original P4A was so great and P4U2 follows suit. From the muttered dark sounding voices of the Shadow-Types to Junpei’s “Clean Hit” bat sounds to the return of the excellent voice acting cast who is mostly all back from the original fighter as well as the franchise JRPG’s. All in all this game picks up where its predecessor left off, sounding great.
Gameplay – As mentioned before, P4U2 didn’t have to change much of what it did in P4A to be great, but it did and succeeded in improving old mechanics and adding new ones. The addition of 9 new characters was enough to make me happy after the original cast was only made up of 13 but in addition to some new faces we get to see an alternate version of the old ones with the Shadow-Type characters. These characters are duplicates of most of the cast, but with some different attributes. They sacrifice going into awakening as well as a defensive burst and lower damage output for extra health and defense. They have the ability to carry meter over between rounds as well as a shadow frenzy, which is more of an offensive style burst, giving the character unlimited meter for a period of time in which they can use it to perform high damaging combos. The shadow characters of the original cast also make use of the old auto-combo that was used in P4A.
So with all of these new faces, the jump from 13 to 37 characters makes for a bunch of new match-ups to think about, adding more strategy and character knowledge to each fight than it did beforehand.
A new story mode that extends a day after the P4A story ends as well as two other story modes that although tell roughly the same story, shine the light on different characters. Though nice to have, like the previous game, the stories get a bit repetitive and overstay their welcome.
Score attack, challenge mode, arcade mode and the helpful tutorial are all back as well as the new Golden Arena mode which is a 1-round K.O style arcade mode except with the RPG elements from the original Persona games. As enemies get stronger, it’s up to the player to add stats like strength, agility etc. as well as skills that will help during matches.
New gameplay mechanics such as guard cancel roll, which acts like guard canceling out of pressure in exchange for meter except instead of pushing back the opponent’s character, it lets the player roll out of harm’s way. The S-Hold system is also a nice addition which lets the player hold a button to charge a special move instead of inputting them manually. Giving the player an option for offense during defense.
P4U2 keeps the fluid fighting mechanics we were familiar with in the original fighter and added to it by expanding the roster and gave us the tools to create some damaging combos with our favorite characters.
Final Impression – Putting it all together P4U2 is a well worthy sequel to the critically acclaimed fighter that was P4A. The improvements made from the original weren’t dramatic changes to the core of the fighter, but just enough to keep us happy with the additions of an expanded roster, stage variety, and added soundtracks. All in all, P4U2 has everything a veteran of the previous fighter wanted in new gameplay mechanics and different options to explore, as well as it caters to the new player who may have missed the original game with its informative tutorial, helpful challenge mode, and if online or offline versus mode isn’t your thing, the long story mode and Golden Arena mode are nice distractions.
In closing, P4U2 is another excellent iteration in the long tradition of 2D anime fighters made by Arc System Works as well as another great addition to the Persona franchise.
+ New characters, shadow types
+ Sound and visual design
+ Fluid gameplay, improved mechanics
– Story modes too long, suffers from repetitiveness
Final Score – 9.3/10 Excellent
P4U2 has experienced a patch in Japan for the arcade version of the game, making some significant changes to gameplay, for ex: Shadow Types receive a regular Burst and no longer carry meter between rounds, S-Hold system removed from multiplayer modes. No official date when or if these changes are coming to the home console of the game as of 10/4/15.