Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax wins the award as my personal game of the year 2014, managing to perfectly blend my favourite series and two of my favourite genres, JRPG and fighters, together to create one outstanding game.
Persona 4 Golden is my all-time favourite game, and so any games that feature that cast immediately has me excited. I get so excited that I’m sure I could vibrate away from this world and right into the stratosphere and so comes along Ultimax to ensure that I stay at the place where Persona games are created and exist, even if many of the things that happen are out of this world.
Ultimax is the ultimate cross-over game that connects the casts from Persona 3 and 4, and also introduces fresh new faces. In Ultimax, the Investigation Team and Shadow Operatives are trying to find the culprit behind the attack in Arena, but the culprit has launched a pre-emptive attack which covers Inaba in a red fog so Shadows can enter the real world. A large building, not unlike Tartarus, appears and so both teams fight their way to the top, battling their fake Shadows once again.
Along with a new story, Ultimax also throws in a slew of modes including the RPG-lite Golden Arena, an expansive lobby system, a revamped Score Attack and of course the standard Arcade, Theatre, Gallery and other modes. Whilst it may be DLC, the Adachi DLC adds a story focusing on him and why he does what he does, and it’s excellent. Adachi was one of my favourite characters in Persona 4, and I love how Atlus has handled his character after the events in the TV World. Margaret and Marie are both also fun to play as, although they don’t get their own stories.
The thing that attracts me to the Persona series the most is how loveable the characters are, and how the game puts a focus on Social Links so you can get to know them better. Of course, Ultimax doesn’t have these outside of Golden Arena but they’re only for buffs during battle, but the interaction between the two casts is hilarious and endearing. They all hit it off and everyone is quickly matched up, such as Chie and Akihiko sharing a love for meat and exercise, Yosuke and Junpei both bring the laughs, Mitsuru and Naoto talk plenty about Shadows and investigations, whilst the rest of the cast find common interests too. Considering how large the cast is now, I can only praise Atlus for bringing them all together in the way that they have.
The gameplay has been improved from the first Arena, with a cast of new characters including Rise, one of my favourite characters, new auto-combos, special moves and more, and it’s both easily accessible to everyone whilst still being deep enough for fighting aficionados to be satisfied. The animated cutscenes, portraits and spectacular sprites are absolutely gorgeous, and the last image shown during Adachi’s story is probably my favourite, even more so than Teddie’s daydream of the girls in bikinis!
Ultimax was supposed to be the story that wraps up the two casts adventures, but Atlus seemed to have second thoughts as there’s plenty of room for a sequel to be created, especially where Elizabeth and her journey are concerned; she had a massive revelation at the end of Arena that was hardly touched upon in Ultimax. The story is engrossing, fun and emotional, and I’m nowhere near ready to say goodbye to both familiar faces and newer faces such as Labrys and Sho.
The characters and story are parts of Persona that appeal to me the most as they’re both so brilliantly written, but I can’t forget the catchy music composed by Shoji Meguro, with amazing singers including Shihoko Hirata, Yumi Kawamura and Lotus Juice; my OST CD collection has gotten pretty large now, and I’m sure to own the Ultimax OST soon, too!
To me, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the ultimate fighting game and my connection to each character compels me to try and learn each character to the best of my ability, although I seem to play best as Chie, Rise, Margaret, Aigis and Yu. It’s a game that I’ll be able to pick up and enjoy whenever I want, and I hope that it’ll someday come to Vita so I can take my favourite fighter on the go! I can’t wait to see what Atlus has in store for the two casts next, and I already have Persona 4 Dancing All Night and Persona 5 to look forward too!