The Midnight Channel may have gotten cancelled once before by the Investigation Team and Shadow Operatives, but its been renewed for another season of tournament action. Arc System Works and Atlus have partnered u ponce again to take the most popular characters from Persona 3 & 4 and pit them against each other in another 2D fighter – Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. This direct continuation of the 1st game is more than just an update; it’s truly a huge expansion that makes its predecessor obsolete. If you’re familiar with the events that transpired in the 1st game and how you experienced them, this game’s Story Mode should be instantly familiar. The Persona RPG make-up (long dialogue sequences, original anime cutscenes and important battles) is here once again. It does grow tiresome as you sit through a slew of cutscenes that take forever to end, though. However, the addition of new characters and a tough boss encounter at the end of it all makes this mode just as engaging as the RPG’s that inspired this fighter.
As far as 2D fighter go, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax simply looks amazing. The brightly animated character sprites still look as great as ever. The explosive special moves, awe inspiring Instant Kill maneuvers and other action-packed moves that pop up on your screen will keep your attention at all times. Each of the new stages and characters showcase the type of background animations that may contain easter eggs for those more attentive Persona fans out there. The wonderfully drawn victory scenes and spoken sequences seen between each character in Story Mode look good enough to post up as wallpaper scrolls. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is one of the more beautiful 2D fighters out there.
The soundtrack within this fighter includes a number of memorable tracks from past RPG’s in the Persona franchise. All of the tracks heard in Persona 4 Arena return here, plus a number of new tracks get added to the game’s playlist. You’ll be humming the Main Menu theme song after just a few instances of hearing it. The clashing of swords and the intense battles between Persona types give the audio a sense of listening to an anime. This fighter’s graphical and audio capabilities are top notch.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax introduces a slew of new mechanics, modes and characters to the fray. The added fighters provide several new playstyles that give players a fresh slate of characters to attach themselves to. Yukari Takeba is a ranged heroine that’s capable of dishing out arrows in quick flurries. Junpei Iori is an incredibly powerful baseball slugger that’s a fun rushdown fighter. Sho Minazuki’s fierce, double-bladed fighting style is fun to control as you dash across the screen and dish out magnificent combos. Each of the console exclsuive fighters also offers casual and hardcore fighting game fans the types of mechanics that are easy to play with and hard to master. The new Shadow Types offer even more variety to the roster, which makes this game’s character selection endless.
The more hardcore fans of this fighter will warm up the new character balance changes and added mechanics seen in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. New auto-combos exist, nerfs and buffs have been implemented for the returning cast, fresh special moves have been applied to certain characters, new Persona card limits have been implemented etc. All of these system additions manage to make this already solid fighter way more entertaining. There’s still a wealth of modes that are offered to single-player minded gamers, such as the Story, Arcade and Score Attack mode. The brand new Golden Arena mode mimics the familiar RPG mechanics that were on display in the Persona games. This mode boils down to a survival mode that awards you with EXP and new skills that can be attached to your chosen character. This mode is a fun diversion, but it tends to get tiresome during repeated playthroughs.
The Online modes within this sequel get a nice list of changes that are wonderful land plentiful. You now have the option to create a custom avatar that’s able to navigate online tourney rooms and request player battles. This mode of play should also be familiar to fans of the RPG games that inspired this fighter. Hopping into open arenas and “enlisting” other players for your created player match rooms is a fun experience all onto itself.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is truly one of the best fighting games introduced in 2014. Everything in this updated fighter refreshes an already solid system and makes it much more worthwhile to play. The new characters are fun, the added system mechanics improve upon every facet of the game and the new modes are worth investing in. The Story Mode and Golden Arena Mode structure may be a bit boring to non-Persona/RPG fans, though. For those diehard Persona fans, this fighter is damn near perfection.