Persona 4 Arena Ultimax stole the show at this year’s Anime Expo, with crowds gathering in hordes to check out the next fighting game from Arc System Works and Atlus. Building on its predecessor, P4 Arena Ultimax features newly balanced characters, the addition of shadow-type characters, and other improvements that make this game an involved and amusing fighting title.
The game makes great use of the Persona series, keeping the gameplay bubbly yet epic. Even in the thick of battle, each of the 19 playable characters never loses his or her personality. Well designed abilities and action details make sure you can feel a character’s defining attributes in every move. Skill sets vary widely between each fighter, keeping battles fresh and intriguing. Rise Kujikawa, for example, utilizes abilities fitting of a spunky pop idol. She swings her mic stand like a pro, and can even begin a DDR-like singing sequence to dole damage to her captivated enemies.
Each fighter now has a specific number of persona cards based on their character. A persona-dependent character such as Yukiko has 5 cards, while a less persona based character such as Akihiko only has 2. Those with fewer cards are compensated with longer Persona Break time. Another new feature is the option to play shadow versions of characters, who have enhanced offensive skills but weakened defense. It’s a risk-reward option that adds a new layer to combat possibilities.
Combat is both visually and mechanically dynamic, with a host of lively graphics and move styles that flavor the battle. While the game was definitely no eye sore, animations aren’t as fluid as they could be. Choppy attack sequences, although fitting with the cartoon style, could benefit from consistent movement that would create impressively seamless fighting mechanics.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is incredibly fun and full of life. An arena game that makes you thirst for the next round of lively action, P4 Arena Ultimax is set to release in North America September 30 on both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.