Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3) Review
- Fighting fun that improves on Persona 4 Arena to bring more story, more characters and more play modes – enough to keep you occupied for hours.
Not so much?
- Overpriced DLC leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The tournament is not over yet! Several days after the events of Persona 4 Arena, the town of Inaba is suddenly enveloped by a red fog and a mysterious tower appears on the site of Yasogami High School. With the Shadow Operatives captured and the sinister General Teddie warning that the climax of the P-1 […]
The tournament is not over yet! Several days after the events of Persona 4 Arena, the town of Inaba is suddenly enveloped by a red fog and a mysterious tower appears on the site of Yasogami High School. With the Shadow Operatives captured and the sinister General Teddie warning that the climax of the P-1 tournament is now on, it is up to the heroes of Persona 3 and 4 to band together once more and confront the mastermind behind recent events. And they’d better hurry up about it, because the fate of the world is at stake!
After all the fuss, EU delays and region locking issues surrounding the original Persona 4 Arena (P4A), Ultimax managed to make a far quieter entrance onto the world stage – perhaps because we’ve all become a bit jaded about the continual milking of the franchise. Cynicism aside, Ultimax is actually a decent title – more than just a remake of the original with a couple of bells and whistles tacked on, this game actually proves to be a proper, solid sequel.
As with the original, this is a game of two parts. For fans of the characters and world of Persona, there’s a brand new story mode that follows on from the events of Persona 4 Arena. In place of original character stories, this time around there are two main episodes – one featuring the Persona 4 characters, and the other following the Persona 3 characters, including some who didn’t get to feature in P4A. As before, story mode plays out predominantly like a visual novel, interspersed with the occasional not-very-difficult one-on-one fight. Although not the best storyline the Persona universe has to offer, fans of the franchise will no doubt enjoy having P4A’s loose ends tied up.
If you’re keen to dive straight into the action, however, then scroll straight past Story Mode to sample the game’s various battle modes. As well as the standard Arcade Mode, Score Attack, and local and network versus modes, the game offers a “Golden Arena Mode”, a sort of RPG hybrid where your character levels up and gains useful battle skills with each passing fight. With all these options, there’s certainly plenty to get stuck into.
That’s all very well and good, but is the fighting aspect of the game actually worth it? The answer, fortunately, is yes. Persona 4 Arena was already a decent 2D fighter, but Ultimax goes one step further, adding new characters, some extra control features and some tweaks to balance the power of physical and magical based characters. You can even play as Shadow versions of each character, sacrificing the balance of normal mode for a more berserk attack form. Overall, the fighting scheme lends itself to all abilities – those who struggle at fighting games can rely on auto combos and a few defensive dodges, whilst beat-em-up aficionados will find enough depth in the possible moves available to keep them interested.
Visually, Ultimax uses many of the same assets as Persona 4 Arena – character designs are clean and crisp, sprites are detailed, and heavy spell attacks don’t slow down the action. Pretty much all of the background music is from Persona 3 and 4, with the few new tracks fitting in well – when the music is this good, re-using tracks is no sin.
Unfortunately, whilst the main game is a solid enough package, Ultimax does let itself down in one area – its overpriced DLC. For some extra cash, you can unlock three new characters, an extra chapter of Story Mode told from Adachi’s POV, the story mode of the original P4A, and various other character recolours and tweaks. Not only does all of this start to add up pretty quickly, but a lot of it isn’t great value for money. Want your characters to wear glasses in battle? Why not shell out an additional £4.99 (UK) or $5.99 (US)? Can’t be bothered to unlock various in-game icons and extras by playing the fighting stages on the hardest difficulty? Just throw some money at it, and you can unlock it straight away. If the DLC was more reasonably priced, it might not feel so galling, but as it is, it’s hard not to feel like Atlus are laughing all the way to the bank.
Far from being a slightly retouched remake, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax stands as a proper sequel to Persona 4 Arena, building on the fun factor of the first game with more story, more fighting modes and some new characters to play with. It’s likely that Persona fans will have had this on pre-order from the get-go and will have long since got stuck into this, but anyone who likes fighting games in general will find much to enjoy here.