Welcome to the Fourth in our new series, Staff Picks: Retrospectives.
The games that should be mentioned and our main sources of gameplay granting us hours of inspiration and satisfaction.
Today’s title is one of a diverse set of titles that moved away from the standard jrpg formula, and yet kept its roots still true to the Persona / Megami Tensei franchise of games.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a fighting game co-developed by Atlus and Arc System Works. It was released in arcades in 2013 before releasing on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2014 by Atlus in Japan and North America and by Sega in Europe. Versions for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows were released by Sega in March 2022.
The game was received with much surprise and confusion from reviewers and gamers on its release on the Nintendo format. Whilst it was a fine example and homage to the Persona 3 and 4 titles with a huge chunk of story content continuing the stories from these games. The fact was that before this release, Persona 3 and 4 were not on the Nintendo Switch at the time, and without an announcement by developers that they were even coming soon.
That was then, and this is now, and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a perfect example of a “game that should be mentioned” as it realigns itself on the radar and up for consideration, now that the likes of Persona 3, 4, and 5 are readily available in the eshop.
The game itself is a very polished and solid arcade fighter game. All characters from the third and fourth instalments are available to play with a fighting system that’s easy to pick up but difficult to master against the very competent and fluid opponent AI in the vast number of game modes on offer.
Two lengthy story modes take up a big part of the game experience and presented more of a visual novel format with breaks for the fight segments in between. It’s a hefty amount of reading at an estimated 50-60 hours with alternate story paths and varied endings.
For those of us wanting to jump straight into the action, there’s a great selection of alternate modes including Arcade Mode, Score Attack Mode, Challenge Mode and the biggest draw for players wanting a more traditional persona experience, Golden Mode.
Here, you are involved in taking a specific character through 100 dungeon-level type fights with players able to acquire experience and the ability to level up and earn stat points and unlock new abilities as you progress through the roster, beating characters, their shadow variants and bosses.
The combat relies heavily on the supernatural abilities of your persona with two physical attacks for each character and two persona attacks requiring players to carefully balance each attack and defense move in order to gain combos, or block and counter.
It’s a deep and often complex system requiring your time, practice and knowledge but on the whole, satisfying once you get used to it.
To summarize, if you missed the game the first time around, this game hits the mark for both parties.
An essential piece for the persona fan to add to the collection, with the stylish new take on their favourite characters and new storylines and for the general arcade fighting fan, a very competent and challenging fighting game well worth their attention.