My love for the Persona series is no secret. I’ve been shouting at Atlus for ages to finally give us Persona 4 Golden on Switch, as I write this I have a Joker amiibo staring at me, and my bookcase is full of Persona anime’s and art books. So I like me some Persona! And one thing I especially like were the two fighting game spin offs that appeared two generations ago. While a new entry in said series would be most welcome, I’ll certainly take a port of said game if it helps drum up interest in a potential sequel. It also helps that Arena Ultimax has certainly aged like a fine wine.
P4AU is managing to do something quite incredible, it’s catering to both fans of anime fighters and those with a deep love of the story and characters of Persona. Firstly though, it’s a damn fine fighting game. Everyone from P3 and P4 are accounted for (including new characters) so there’s a good roster, bolsted by the PS4 port of the game coming with all the DLC. And each one plays exactly like you’d expect them too. Chie is fast with kicks aplenty, Kanji is a bruiser who batters people with his chair, Naoto and Adachi make use of their guns etc. Mechanically too it understands that there will be a good portion of people coming to this as a Persona game first, fighting game second, so it has included some easy, quick combos. By just pressing the square button continiously will produce a multi-hit combo that can sometimes end in a special depending on how much meter you have shown in the bottom of the screen. So even if you struggle with your half circle forward motions you can still pull off some fantastic looking moves.
It’s not just mashy mashy either, there are deeper mechanics, such as throws, all out attack moves, air dashes and a variety of other combos that cater to the more hardcore fighting game community. It’s seriously impressive and might just be Arc System’s best feeling fighting game. It looks nice too. Okay, it’s no Guilty Gear, but the developers have translated the characters to this world well. And the music! The Persona series has always had fantastic music, and Arena Ultimax brings some of these across wholesale, mixing them with some just as good new tracks. It’s a well presented package all round.
While you have your usual assortment of arcade and score attack modes, there is also a pretty lengthy story campaign. More visual novel than fighting game, there are fights that play out during certain sections, they are just one round and incredibly easy. This is definitely the mode for those that just want to experience a new story with these characters. And it’s a decent story. It may not have the twists and turns or revelations as the main P3 and 4 games, but it’s a decent continuation. Moreso than say the dancing game spin offs.
The only blemish on an otherwise fantastic package is the online. Rollback netcode is not coming till the summer so at the moment it’s a little laggy and so far I have yet to encounter anyone who with a green connection. This may be because there aren’t that many people playing. Hopefully this is just a case of people concentrating on the single player aspects and it’s not just a dead game already.
It’s because of that reason you should hold off on getting Arena Ultimax till the Summer netcode update if it’s only online you’re interested in. But if you’re a fan of local play, a solid story, and just love hanging out with these characters then I recommend this game 100%. I just hope it does enough sales to show there’s still an audience for these fighting game spin offs.