Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is back! The Midnight Channel picked up the P-1 Climax again, apparently. Which is good for people who love a competent, robust Arc System Works fighter or Persona in general. The game remains as well-executed as ever, with the complete edition offering a pretty and tidy package to enjoy.
Like the original Persona 4 Arena, Ultimax involves someone using the Midnight Channel to again hold the P1-Climax tournament. Both the Persona 4 Investigation Team led by Yu Narukami and Kirijo Group Shadow Operatives led by Mitsuru Kirijo are dealing with what’s going on. All of them end up ascending a tower at Yasogami and fighting Shadows while trying to work out what’s going on. It very heavily ties in to both Persona 4 and Persona 4 Arena. Which means people unfamiliar with those games might feel a bit left out. Fortunately, the latter’s story mode is included, due to this version offering that DLC right away.
As for the array of modes, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax includes a range of options that exceed expectations. Which, well, is to be expected from Arc System Works. Everything you could want and need is here. Do you love the characters from Persona 3 and 4 and want to find out why they’re fighting? The P4A: Story Mode and Episode P4 and P3 have you covered with the tales from both the original installment and this sequel. Playing online? There are ranked and casual modes, with rooms and lobbies in the PS4 version. Want to fight? Arcade, Score Attack, Golden Arena, and Versus are all there to offer different options. You can also learn what you’re doing in Challenge, Lesson, and Training Mode. There is something for everyone at every skill level. (Especially considering the story modes have an “auto” option.)
Speaking of that auto mode, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is truly designed with everyone in mind. Which is very wise, given people who love the Persona series might not be as well versed with fighting games. Likewise, people who love tight fighters might feel exhausted by the prospect of tons of text. The design strikes a good balance. People who are coming from the games and have no experience can easily keep pressing a single button to chain a combo.
Not to mention characters’ movesets all make use of 214+attack or 236+attack for specials and 236236+attack for supers. It’s pretty easy to learn when every person’s using the same inputs. Not to mention when Challenge is holding your hand. But if someone is having trouble, letting autopilot take over so you can watch the story or learning through Lessons and Challenges, and using the RPG elements of Golden Arena let you build yourself up are there.
For the people who are veterans or familiar with fighters, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax offers plenty of depth. For example, this version includes the 2.5 update that never appeared outside Japan until now. This means that the Shadow characters can be a bit more versatile. Their Shadow Frenzy uses burst and SP to dictate how much you can do and for how long. They also can pay more attention to SP used to determine how much damage they’ll use. They can take advantage of the Skill Hold to deal more damage. You might also spend more time thinking about the status ailments available and which ones you’ll use to hamper an opponent. Not to mention the more traditional fighting game technical elements like counters, Fatal Counters, canceling, and playing around with combos.
So yes, everything is on as strong a foundation as before. Better, thanks to a few other bonuses. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on the PS4 is essentially a “definitive” edition. That means all of the DLC from the original game are there. Which in this case the highlights are the P4A: Story Mode, Adachi Story Mode, and Adachi, Margaret, and Marie DLC characters. All of them absolutely add to the experience. As does the being able to go with English or Japanese voice overs. Pair that with Arc System Works’ 2D fighters always being gorgeous and the touch up for its resolution, and it looks amazing. Everything is smooth, fluid, and true to the series’ identity.
There’s also the subject of online offerings. Given I was playing ahead of launch, I wasn’t able to see and test everything. For example, the lobbies were empty when I’d visit and I certainly wasn’t happening upon anyone for Ranked matches. But I did happen to find myself in a room with at one point five people playing. While there, clear indicators let you know everyone’s WiFi signal quality. (Both colors and numbers appear in the icon next to their name.) Occasionally, the introductory clip showing the stage stuttered, but conditions were great ahead of launch. I fought three matches and was a spectator for nine others. There wasn’t any lag, inputs worked well, and things worked exactly the way one would expect. Considering we also have rollback netcode coming to the PS4 version post-launch, it seems like a solid situation.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is another example of the incredible work the people at Arc System Works can do. It perfectly captures the spirit of both Persona 3 and 4, all without pandering or feeling unnecessary. It’s incredibly robust. It looks and plays well on the PS4. It is considerate of people coming to it who aren’t well-versed with fighting games, yet also ready to challenge people who know what they’re doing. The only thing that might deter some people from getting invested is how heavily it relies on the source property. It really does mean knowing and loving Persona 4, at the very least. But even if you don’t and just appreciate a solid fighter, it is worth someone’s time.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will come to the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC on March 17, 2022.