Over the years, I’ve realized that I have a love/hate relationship with JRPGs, but the Persona franchise has been a significant exception. In 2012, Persona 4 Arena took that series and put it into a fighting game—one of my favorite genres. Ultimax also happens to be developed by Arc System Works, a developer that wasn’t at the level of popularity that it is today. The same can go for Persona itself at the time, which is why now was the perfect time for 2013’s P4A Ultimax to come back for round 2. This article will look at the quality of this re-release, how well the game has aged, and whether it is worth the price tag.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is an enhanced port of the same game that came to PS3 and is the definitive version of Persona 4 Arena that was released a year later. This release includes everything from the original Ultimax and its DLC in one package, making it an easy purchase for Persona fans to get into a fighting game for the first time. And unfortunately, you’ll only find the original game backward compatible on Xbox because Ultimax never came to 360, and neither did this re-release. PS4, PC, and Switch owners can grab the game on their respective digital stores for $29.99.
Ultimax includes loads of gameplay modes, but the one that will appeal to fans of the franchise is the story mode. If you’ve also played visual novels, you’ll feel right at hope pressing a button through pages of fully voiced dialogue. While I enjoy the Persona games and their stories, the visual elements nearly put me to sleep as I keep pressing that button until I get to the nearest fight. I need to issue one important disclaimer here: you might want to play Persona 4 Golden if you have not done so yet because the story is a direct sequel. Lastly, Ultimax includes the story from the original Persona 4 Arena and the one that came with Ultimax’s initial release. For fans solely here for a story, you’re getting so much bang for your buck in this one mode and in high production quality to be expected from a Persona video game.
Now there’s also plenty more for fighting game fans to dive into. Before Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Ultimax was the game in which Arc System Works tested the waters of making the genre accessible for a wider audience; seeing the roots of that and how the personas work within the mechanics is quite a treat. Gameplay modes include a variety of training modes, arcade, score attack, and a Golden Arena mode which is a fun spin on Survival. Though rollback netcode is coming later, the online modes return, though the Switch version lacks a lobby system. Sadly, the servers are mainly empty, and I believe that people are currently missing out on a great game that could mean we get a Persona 5 Arena based on its success.
The audio and visuals hold up better than I anticipated when it comes to presentation. Though many fans may be attached to the English voice acting of their favorite characters at this point, you can switch to Japanese audio if you wish to do so. The one area I feel lacking and seems to be a difficult task for other remasters is that the animated cutscenes have gone untouched. I’m no game developer, but I have to imagine that it’s more challenging to remaster those cutscenes, which are likely just video files. Besides that issue, the developers treated this release with care despite the budget price. Fans expect quality products from the Persona franchise and Arc System Works, and I believe those expectations are met with this re-release.
After my time with Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, there is very little reason for both Persona fans and fighting game fans not to grab a copy. There won’t be one for those who may want a physical copy, but that price tag on your favorite digital storefront is hard to argue with. I am very impressed with how this game holds up in quality after so many years, and the areas it is lacking in are minimal. I’m disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be much of a community for the game at the moment, but I hope that changes when rollback gets added. With 2022 being the 25th anniversary of the Persona franchise, I hope that P4A Ultimax is not the last surprise for the franchise making a mark in the genre and that we get another that would steal the hearts of its fans.
Review copy kindly provided by forty-seven communications