Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Review—Don’t Suplex My Waifu

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Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fighting game co-developed by Arc System Works and Atlus. It’s the sequel to Persona 4 Arena, which itself is a continuation of the stories of Persona 3 and 4. Featuring eight new characters, new gameplay modes, and a brand new story, P4AU aims to set itself apart from its predecessor, and not pull a Capcom while doing so. But does it succeed?

My first impression of this game was positive, as the artwork and music design leave little to be desired. The sprites are hi-def and quite detailed, and the music is once again composed by Shoji Meguro, much to my delight. I also noticed the sheer amount of new content, which is contrary to the way most fighting game sequels work, which tend to add a few new characters and not much else.

The graphics in P4AU boast well-rendered sprites and backgrounds. Slick-looking menus and UI underscore the high production values of the game. The animated cutscenes take the cake, though; they’re gorgeous and very well-animated. In short, there’s not much to criticize about the visuals, except for a minor complaint I have to level at the story conversations, in which characters’ faces are animated—but only their mouths, which looks pretty weird, honestly.

The Persona series, as an RPG, is understandably praised for its story. However, even in the form of a fighting game, the narrative still holds up. And it’s long. Like, 20-30 hours long. You’ll be playing P4AU‘s story for a while, and thankfully it’s an enjoyable experience. It picks up right where the first Persona 4 Arena left off, so if you haven’t played that, a lot of the plot points might seem arcane to you. I have heard that there will be a DLC of the original game’s story but, as far as I can tell, it’s just a rumor.

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The gameplay of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is quite good overall, but with minor to moderate annoyances here and there. On the positive end of the spectrum, the characters were all balanced, with previously-overpowered characters like Mitsuru being weakened considerably. There are also a wealth of new characters, and some of them have very interesting mechanics. Examples include Junpei (who uses a baseball meter to score home runs, which make him stronger) and Rise, whose whole kit is based around reflecting enemy blows.

Additionally, there are new gameplay modes. Golden Arena mode plays like an RPG, where you go through dungeons and level up. It also brings in the social link feature, allowing you to gain social links to acquire various abilities in combat. There is also a modified online lobby mode, which looks like an arcade. In this mode, you can interact with other players while waiting for a match. It’s a cool idea, but as of the time of this review, it was a bit difficult to test it.

Now, let’s talk about what’s not-so-great about Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. For one, it’s damn complicated, and difficult to learn. There are a laundry list of button combinations you have to keep track of, and on top of that, P4AU adds even more fight mechanics. There are new supers, and a mechanic referred to as “Ultra Suplex Hold.” I’m pretty sure “U.S.H” is entirely useless. Basically, you hold a button and it does a combo for you, without having to do any fancy button combinations. This sounds like a feature that would be helpful to newbies, but it’s incredibly slow. I never used it for that reason.

One More Burst is an ability from the original P4 Arena, essentially letting you use your burst to pop your opponent into the air mid-combo, which allows for some excellent attack chains. It’s pretty useful, but I can’t help but feel like I’m running out of buttons on my controller. This is a problem that some people have with fighting games in general, the fact that you have to memorize a ton of things in order to be even remotely competitive. However, P4 Arena Ultimax takes it to the extreme, in my opinion. I think it’s fun, but I don’t think I could put in the amount of time necessary to become proficient enough to go online, and test my mettle against opponents who actually know what they’re doing.

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Another arguable negative is the addition of Shadow versions of the playable characters. Not everyone has a shadow version, but they’re essentially riskier variations on the vanilla character. They lose the ability to burst, but have additional health and a slightly different moveset. There is also a mechanic that allows them to gain an infinite super meter temporarily. It’s nice to have variation, but from what I understand, they’re not particularly useful. The ability to burst out of chain attacks is far too useful to relinquish, even for an infinite meter.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax isn’t a bad game at all. It’s fun. It has great music, a strong narrative, and looks fantastic. It has a really intimidating learning curve, however, and some of the new content seems a bit superfluous. That doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable experience throughout. I can confidently say that this is not just an expansion pack to the original, but a complete sequel in every sense of the word. I’d recommend it to fans of the series, for sure, and the story and Golden Arena mode are fun enough to play even if you aren’t.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax was reviewed using a boxed copy provided by Atlus USA. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.

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I write articles and reviews. You're not Alexander!

  1. sanic
    September 27, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t even know why I read reviews on games I know I’m going to buy no matter what, am I some sort of fuckin idiot?

  2. Xanados
    September 27, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    No looking for alternative opinions is a great thing since it gives you a viewpoint you might not have otherwise known and could be the defining point in the game when it comes to you buying it or not.

  3. sanic
    September 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    The review could say all you get is a swift kick in the balls for $60 and I’d still dive in if it’s in the SMT game vein as sad as that is.

    September 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Going to pick this up on Tuesday. I wont be able to play it due to Ar Nosurge though.

  5. Firion Hope
    Firion Hope
    September 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Great review! I’m waiting for a sale on this one, I just can’t get behind fighting games too much.

  6. Cody Long
    Cody Long
    September 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Yeah, I think waiting on a sale is the way to go. I feel like it holds up to a 60 dollar price tag, but I can see why someone would disagree.

    Thanks for the kind words though!

  7. Cody Long
    Cody Long
    September 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Do it! B)

  8. Niko of Death
    Niko of Death
    October 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I refuse to buy this on principle. This entire game is pretty much a fuck you to Persona 2 fans.

  9. mgs2ss
    October 14, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Why is that?

  10. Niko of Death
    Niko of Death
    October 15, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    P4A heavily hinted that ME was Nyarly (down to having the same voice actor), then they go and completely ignore Nyarly or anything else P2 related in Ultimax

  11. Real Human Bean
    Real Human Bean
    October 17, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Grabbed this on release and wanted to give it a thorough test before I read any review. I think the author did a pretty adequate job of summing up my thoughts, single player withstanding. Fan of the Persona games and SMT in general, but I don’t get fighting games for the story.

    This series still just has too many fucking buttons, to be honest. The functions they perform are all worth it, but particularly the way the order of buttons is set up is unlike most other fighting games I’ve played, on top of the fact you have so many functions. If you go between a lot of fighting games, makes things pretty difficult. I play a lot of UNiB, so I’m still kind of hesitant to really dig in.

    Trials are kind of worthless as usual. Generally teaches you unoptimized combos that are much more difficult than things need to be. It has a lot more content compared to the first though, with the inclusion of the new characters. Speaking of, the new combatant all feel really good, perhaps with the exception of Junpei. Lots of varying and individual game mechanics, very much enjoying Ken’s ability to make his pressure safe with Koromaru in particular.

    That said, still think $60 is too high unless you’re aiming to compete. Then you kind of just don’t really have a say in the matter I suppose, the NA servers are already pretty brutal.

    Great review.

  12. Dimi Gronnings
    Dimi Gronnings
    October 31, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    This is a month late, but: even if you’re 100% sure you’re going to get a game, a review can make you notice things or see it from perspectives you otherwise wouldn’t have, and there’s value in that.

  13. Barret Somerville
    Barret Somerville
    February 4, 2015 at 10:00 am

    awesome thankyou for reviewing this game, btw is there any difference between the xbox and ps3 versions?

  14. Barret Somerville
    Barret Somerville
    February 4, 2015 at 10:02 am

    in terms of onlineplay, that is.