“Persona 4 Arena Ultimax” review
“Persona 4 Arena Ultimax,” the sequel to Atlus and Arc System Works’ “Persona 4 Arena,” is finally here and it is a vast improvement from its predecessor – full of tweaks, new additions and tons of fan service for the diehard fans while still being accessible to newcomers.
Released on Sept. 30 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, “Ultimax” picks up one day after P4A ended in the rural town of Inaba. A blackout sweeps the area followed by a mysterious red fog, starting a race against time to save Inaba, and ultimately the world.
Even though “Ultimax” is a fighting game it still supports the JRPG elements “Persona” is known for with its substantial story mode.
The story is told in a visual novel style, full of cheesy one-liners, stylish art and fantastic music that you will be humming after you turn the game off.
The story is structured so that after completing a few scenes it branches off and the player can see the story from another character’s point of view.
There are two sides to the story that focus on the cast of “Persona 4” and the cast of “Persona 3”. The story does a fantastic job of bringing the characters together and showing us what the cast of each “Persona” game has been up to since the end of their respective games.
For those interested in the story, there is a new option called auto mode that causes the computer to fight the opponent instead. The story can take between 20 and 40 hours depending on the player’s choices.
Every character has been tweaked. Some are stronger than before and some have had downgrades to their abilities that make them feel and play differently.
Eight characters from past “Persona” games have been added to the roster: Yukari Takeba, Ken Amada and his partner Koromaru, Junpei Iori, Rise Kujikawa, Tohru Adachi, Marie and Margaret.
The new shadow types offer a different way to play. They have less attack power than their counterparts, lack the defensive moves of their counterparts and rely heavily on their skill moves to win.
Because of this they are able to go into a shadow rampage mode in which, for a limited time, they can perform as many special moves as they are able.
The shadows carry a high-risk play style that newcomers should not even attempt if they plan on using the auto-combo system.
The persona cards that were introduced in “P4A” have been changed too.
In the original game, each character could call their persona at any time for an attack and they would lose a card if either they or their persona were hit. Once all four cards were gone, the player would have to wait a short time period before their Persona could be used again.
The card system remains, but certain characters may have more or less cards than others. Yukiko Amagi, a character who heavily relies on her persona, has six cards, while someone like Ken Amada has two because his attack depends on Koromaru more.
Characters with more persona cards now have to wait much longer while characters with less are able to use them much sooner.
“P4A” introduced the auto-combo system where a player could hammer on the light-attack button and their character would automatically do a special combo attack.
In “Ultimax,” the developers have added a new mechanic called the S-Hold system. Holding down the light-attack button will charge up an attack, and depending on how long it was held will determine the special move executed.
Returning game modes include the standard arcade mode, score attack and versus, which includes both local multiplayer and online.
The newest game mode is called “Golden Arena,” a mode that essentially turns the game into an RPG fighter. Players select a character and pick a dungeon (difficulty level), and each floor of the dungeon is a new opponent.
After defeating an opponent, the player gains experience and levels up, allowing them to learn new skills and upgrade their stats.
The online multiplayer is just as solid as it was in the predecessor with little lag and virtually no slowdown or interruptions.
“Ultimax” introduces the lobby system where up to 32 players can select an avatar and are dropped into a giant arcade room full of arcade machines that allow two to fight each other.
The avatars are honestly adorable; they use the chibi models from the upcoming “Persona Q” game and it makes me want that game even more now.
“Persona 4 Arena Ultimax” is faithful to its source material and is full of fan service.
Seeing rise attack with opponents with her microphone stand and even her special moves, one of which involves a rhythm mini-game, just brought a huge smile to my face.
There are many nods to the previous games and the anime as well. Yosuke’s stance when he is KO’d comes straight out of the anime while winning with shadow Yukiko causes her to appear in her [rincess outfit and make an air heart with her hands.
If there is one thing that surprised me the most about the game is the number of songs available. “P4A” had 25 songs while “Ultimax” offers over 60, both from the previous games as well as remixes Catchy songs like “Your Affection” and “Heartbeat, Heartbeat” can now be played during fights.
Atlus and Arc System Works have accomplished making another solid fighting game. The tweaks to the gameplay are happily welcomed and the increased roster is impressive.
The story mode is engaging and will be loved by Persona fans. The new game modes and online play will surely keep people busy.
By Symmion Moore