Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Switch Review

Arc System Works continues to be developing robust, enduring arcade titles because the 1980s, and has shown to be a flexible developer across multiple genres.  Their most impressive contributions, however, have typically belonged towards the fighting genre.  Arc System Works fighters are typically either original franchises similar to their long-running Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series, or their twists on popular franchises like Dragon Ball.

The Persona series was a fascinating concept to adapt, first displayed in Persona 4 Arena, which debuted about ten years ago, and lent its anime style and combat concepts well to some fighting game.  Then, 12 months later, Arc System Works attempted to top this accomplishment with Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.  The sport was initially released to arcades in 2013 and consoles a year later, but is now releasing and its latest updates and DLC on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Turn on March 17, 2022.

P4AU is really a 2D fighting game with anime visuals that has distinctive characters that cater to different playstyles and boast varying gimmicks.  It takes cues from the predecessor, Persona 4 Arena, although with significant balancing tweaks and overall seems geared toward being more competitive while remaining approachable to newcomers.  Ultimax has got the additional advantage of being the superior version while such as the story of Arena, which means you won’t lose out on the story content.  It is a game designed for the arcade, however with console players in your mind at the same time, with streamlined moves, you can typically use for any characters, while combos tend to get more specific.

P4AU includes a crossover between characters from Persona 3 (Shadow Operatives) and 4 (Investigation Team), working toward the same goal The characters engage in 1-on-1 combat and can summon their personas for aid in Arcade Mode, with each match’s winner based on whoever wins 2 fights first.  Additional modes include Story, Score Attack, and Golden Arena modes, as well as Versus for if you’re having fun with a friend.  Golden Arena and Story both feature 1-round battles, for smaller doses while giving you a taste of the other defining features.  If you take the time to play each mode you’ll find them distinctively rewarding as ways to enjoy the game as a whole.

P4AU, which directly follows its predecessor Arena, happens 3 months after the era of Persona 4.  The P-1 Grand Prix has ended after the events of Arena, which was a tournament inside the parallel realm referred to as Midnight Channel, and also the Investigation Team is bonding during Golden Week.  But this relative peace ends quickly, with ads showing for a new “P-1 Climax” event, with footage of captured Shadow Operatives being mounted on crosses, a one-hour warning from the world’s impending doom, and a blackout.

Inaba, the town in which the game takes place, is covered inside a red fog, and also the Investigation Associates remark on how similar this feels, to being inside the Midnight Channel.  The entire area is blending along with locations and landmarks from Persona 3, mixing the worlds rendered both in games.  The game’s cast spots a mysterious tower within the distance, appearing somehow over Yasogami High School, and they must fight through intricate shadow replicas of themselves as well as their allies and solve the mystery behind the bizarre occurrence.  What follows is really a ‘Bet on Death’-like gauntlet wherein the protagonists must confront their shadows and ascend the tower to save their loved ones and also the world.

An Anime Fighter With Signature Persona Flair

Arc System Works’ style applies well to Atlus’ sterling RPG franchise here.  Not only do the visuals pop in the anime sprites using their over-the-top attacks and animations, but they’re also incredibly responsive and fun to play.  It might easily happen to be a cash-grab but includes a heavy, perhaps sometimes excessive, amount of story and lore being built round the returning and new characters featured in the game.

While the sport is designed using its arcade roots proudly displayed, it plays satisfyingly well on other consoles, as any of the modern hardware is definitely equipped to handle this game.  The developers did not try to rename the buttons because they appear in the commands list (clearly an arcade pad layout) however the pause menu’s button settings option enables you to see which buttons stand in that.  The best part is, instead of having to push 2 buttons or more for attacks, the controller uses its additional buttons to create these moves easier to execute.  Whether you’re an experienced player or a newcomer to this kind of game, its controls, as well as special moves are rather easy to complete, prioritizing action above all else.

You can fight with weak or strong attacks from your character, as well as in basically one case, they have a persona who has got the same two types of attacks.  When using your persona to fight, they are susceptible to strikes in the opponent, and when hit, it can negate the attack.  Based on whom you play as you’ll have a certain quantity of times this can happen before you’re temporarily not able to use them.

Beyond that, you can use special moves and tactics which frequently consume SP, essentially Skill Points, earned during combat either by striking blows, getting hit, or blocking attacks.  The majority of the characters also provide shadow variants who can enter Shadow Frenzy states which lower the expense of skills, however your SP meter drains to zero within this state which means you must act quick.  Caused by all of these features isn't messy but in fact, an intricate, deep fighter that rewards different playstyles before you even choose a particular character.

The Visuals

Ultimax uses the anime fighter trappings known across Arc System Works’ other developed works, and due to the eye-grabbing visual style of Persona being featured here, it looks great.  The characters are animated satisfyingly well, with nuances like body gestures in response to hits or executing attacks as well as facial expressions placed on display.  This can be a game that puts to make use of the arcade fighter mechanics of their veteran developer, on top of a character-driven visually striking ip.

The 2D fighter battles look sharp, with the anime character sprites brought to life by a lot of animations and colorful attacks.  The framerate of the particular battles is smooth, while the character animation is kept in the typical lower anime rates which helps result in the characters’ expressiveness pop.  You can customize your characters with various color skins, as well as those for the personas, and even put on custom glasses when you duke it using the competition.

The backgrounds are striking renditions of the Midnight Channel and Inaba along with how it’s impacted by the colliding worlds.  They don’t feature any environmental feedback like in some contemporary fighters beyond bouncing your attacker from the walls and floors in battles but serve simply as a backdrop, which is fine.  The strength featuring from the fighting mechanics more than compensate for this.

The Sound

Ultimax uses music across all of Persona 3 and 4’s main entries and spinoffs.  The OST for this game includes tracks for every character along with other memorable themes which help layer around the Atlus charm for that game.  Battles thus can be exciting and catchy to savor passively like a viewer in order to fuel you while you fight for dominance because the player.

Sound effects including attacks, character quips, and special moves are rendered with clarity and help keep the energy up in matches.  You feel the impact of successful attacks and straightforward touches like having navi characters cheering you on, or commentator Rise’s remarks at the end of fights, and they’re great touches.

The Characters

As previously mentioned, this game largely uses characters featured in Persona 3 and 4 but also features original characters like Arena’s Labrys and newcomer antagonist Sho and the alternate personality, Minazuki.  The entire cast features unique personalities befitting a Persona game, with their interactions in Story Mode being enjoyable, even reacting for their aptly-given nicknames as you may expect they'd.  These characters are delivered to vibrant life around the battlefield, such as the cartoonish Teddie’s wacky attacks or Rise Kujikawa, previously merely a support character, joining the battlefield and slapping the enemy around.  Coupled with their shadow variants, you will find 37 characters you can play as.

Each character accommodates playstyles for gamers of varying levels of experience, and eventually not every one is fully approachable for brand new P4AU players.  Characters like Sho, Yu, Yosuke, Rise, Marie, Chie, and Teddie could be acquired and played rather quickly.  However, many characters feature specific abilities inside a battle that you need to manage, and this can be distracting and hard for newcomers.  To illustrate Junpei Iori from Persona 3, who has a baseball scorecard above his SP gauge, where if you hit the enemy enough times you’ll load the bases and score a run, increasing your damage.  But when you receive hit, you’ll accumulate “outs”, after 3, you’ll have to restart your counter to get your boost.



This isn’t to say that particular characters are unplayable because of their features.  The truth is, it’s anything but, as Junpei is tons of fun to experience and you can still win matches without accumulating these boosts.  Kanji Tatsumi is a painfully slow character to move around with, but has powerful, punishing mid-range attacks that stop faster opponents in their tracks.  Plus, the guy wields chairs as though he were Fire Emblem’s Hector cutting down foes together with his ax, and may taunt players like nobody’s business.  Even though you wind up losing, it’s really fun to try different characters.

Unique Modes

On the surface of the obligatory story, arcade, and versus features, P4AU packs in other content, the most known which may be the Golden Arena mode.  In many ways, this makes the sport shine for the Persona and general RPG fans that don’t play fighting games as often.  The reason behind this really is simple, you play through teams of 5 1-round battles, fighting a boss character in the 5th one, as part of an ongoing gauntlet that scales in difficulty, and every victory awards you experience points.

Every 5 you clear is really a checkpoint across the path, with every difficulty setting scaling up from 100 to 200, 400, and finally infinite at the highest setting, as well as an event course, where during a short time you are able to clear it for a unique skill to increase your character.  You can play through this mode with any character, and you can level them up separately, with stat-building elements strongly reminiscent of mainline Persona games but aimed at how they’re implemented within this fighting game.  It makes sense a surprisingly addictive quantity of replayability, in how you can build whichever character to become however strong you want these to be.

They will have stat growths that play well for their respective playstyles, however, you may also spend the points you will get from level gains nevertheless, you wish.  If you wish to push Sho to be probably the most extreme hyper-offense end of things as his playstyle accommodates, that’s great, but you may also make him incredibly bulky and make up his SP quicker too.  You can customize your characters in powerful ways through this mode, and also the sheer period of time you can spend on this can certainly dwarf that on other modes, especially if you’re inside it for the single-player experience.

The Issues

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is, by its genre and spinoff from the JRPG, rather niche.  This isn’t an issue by itself, however the two overlap their known features with techniques that may somewhat clash, not ruining the knowledge overall but something difficult to dismiss.

The Story Mode is definitely the only offender in this, as it blends the excellent characterization and writing of multiple original Persona stories, with small 1-round matches following several dialogue scenes.  This by itself isn’t a terrible thing, however the story segments are lengthy similar to any Persona game, and much more for the franchise fans who wish to passively benefit from the game.  This, combined with matches being few and barely any distinctive ones to really outside of just playing Arcade Mode, makes enjoying the story a grind for the fighting game players.

You’re required to play through the story modes to unlock much more stories, which are genuinely compelling, but time-consuming.  You can even turn on auto-battle, which helps if you wish to just absorb the storyline without having to then concentrate on battles (specifically for anyone who has difficulty playing the sport).  It’s no problem with the quality of the writing or even the story, as it’s surprising how good Ultimax approaches even such things as the location the Imposter tropes which come up when characters fight their shadow versions.  It’s just a matter of lengthy exposition that sometimes lacks concision.

The Verdict

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is definitely an exceptional fighting game in its own right, with sufficient unique features in the gameplay and extra modes to set it apart.  The story may have some fluff and tropes which are hard to look past, but if you do, the thing is great characters being faithfully rendered within the writing, in addition to the way they act on the battlefield.  Moreover, this is an excellent port which should perform ideal for fans of hardcore fighters having a unique edge, and Persona fans on Nintendo and Steam who are able to now potentially even play the game on the run.  The good thing is, should you missed out on Arena, this is the definitive experience with more balanced gameplay, and you can even play its story within this.

Despite this game having moments where more experienced players could easily pull off oppressive combos and you locked in the corner, there are ways to break out of those attacks and retaliate while having fun.  The sport includes a home in the competitive fighter circles but additionally is a rich, rewarding experience for Persona fans and it has aged perfectly.  It’s also refreshing for players who want to have a robust fighting game that doesn’t depend on decades-old gimmicks and bleeding-edge 3D graphics to cover up shallow gameplay.  With this updated release visiting Three of the most massive install bases throughout video gaming, it’s an excellent opportunity for newcomers and veterans to check on that one out again.

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