Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Is Enticing for Newcomers, Offers Little for Veterans

I'm someone who didn't get into the Persona series until Persona 5 was released back in 2017. I feel like this is pretty common for a lot of people in the West considering that P5 was arguably one of the first Persona games to really blow up in markets outside of Japan. Because I'm somewhat of a newcomer to the Persona franchise, though, some previous installments (especially spinoffs) went completely unnoticed by me when they were first released. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax happens to be one of those games, which means that its new port for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC is the first time I've actually experienced it for myself. Now that I've spent some time with the game prior to its official launch, I'm more than happy that Atlus opted to bring this game back for novices like me to play, although veterans might not find much to latch onto at the moment. 

If you're like me and have never played Persona 4 Arena, this is essentially just a fighting game that features not only the cast from Persona 4 but a number of characters from Persona 3 (and some newcomers) as well. Most of the game's 22-character roster sees fighters wielding the weapons that they have equipped from their respective Persona installments. In addition, each character can also use their Persona to beat the tar out of opponents and counter incoming attacks. 

(Photo: Atlus)

The fighting itself in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is incredibly fun and way more layered than I anticipated. I still haven't figured out all of the ins and outs of the combat, but finding a good balance between creating combos that incorporate your on-hand weapons and Persona abilities is really satisfying. Since this is a title developed by Arc System Works, there's a lot of depth to what the combat here offers. Simultaneously, as someone who is more of a fighting game novice, I still got a lot of joy out of simply button-mashing my way into learning how each character works. Basically, this is a game that is approachable for hardcore fighting game fans or those who are just looking to punch people with their favorite Persona character.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax also features a story mode, but I can't say I found myself that engaged with it. This is primarily because there is just way too much dialogue that is featured here. And while that's almost to be expected given that this is a Persona game, after all, the storyline still isn't all that compelling. Despite this, it's cool to see the Persona 3 and 4 casts crossing over with one another, even if the narrative that's being spun isn't considered canon.

(Photo: Atlus)

Likely the worst part of this port of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is that there's nothing wholly new included in this package right now. This is merely a comprehensive collection of P4AU and all of its accompanying DLC. Even referring to this as a remaster is likely giving it too much credit. That's not because the visuals here are ugly or disappointing by any means, but the touch-ups to the graphics aren't going to wow you in any way. Still, the characters themselves look great and feature some stellar animations, so it's hard to be disappointed. 

At this point in time, the one new thing that we can expect from Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is rollback netcode. This is a feature that Atlus announced would be coming a few months down the road, but only to PS4 and PC. For those unaware, rollback netcode is essentially vital for any fighting game that wants to have a stable community of players competing in online matches. As such, its absence here at launch is a bit disappointing, especially since it would have been the biggest new reason to buy the game on day one. The fact that rollback netcode is being added to P4AU whatsoever is a huge win, though, and will surely guarantee that this title remains relevant for years to come.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a really straightforward release overall. This game is simply being brought to new platforms to extend the lifespan that it has, which isn't a bad thing whatsoever considering that P4AU is a really fun fighting title. Still, to see it launch here without any standout features makes this a re-release that veterans can likely wait on, at least until rollback netcode arrives later in the year. If you're like me, though, and are looking to see what a Persona fighting game can have in store, I definitely recommend checking this out. 

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is set to launch next week on March 17th and will be available across PS4, Switch, and PC. A PS4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of these impressions.