Persona 4: Arena Ultimax,PS3 Review - Games Weekly

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Persona 4: Arena Ultimax,PS3 Review

EVERYTHING WE LOVED about the vanilla Persona 4 Arena is back (and better) in Ultimax the hi-res, beautifully animated 2D sprites, the bizarre screen-filling attacks of the fighters, and the two-tiered action all continue to work in unison to create a game that might have Atlus’ Persona series all over it, but runs like the best Arc System Works games underneath.

If you’ve ever picked up BlazBlue or Guilty Gear, then you’ll feel right at home in Ultimax each face button corresponds to a light or heavy attack; two for Personas, two for main fighters. By fusing the status effects, ‘One More’ mechanics, All-Out Assaults and SP requirements of Persona’s RPG experience, Arc System has managed to craft a fighting game that’s a lot more intricately balanced than some of the other 2D competition (it makes vanilla Skullgirls look naked by comparison).

The Ultimax version makes a few subtle changes to how Arena worked firstly, the auto combo system (mash Square and you’ll do a chain that cancels into a Super by itself) has been augmented now you can literally just hold Square until a bar fills up and unleash Super moves. This makes the casual experience even better Persona fans in it for the story (which is just awful, by the way,
it’s an insult to the various RPGs’ stellar character-driven plots) can waltz their way through without a problem.

The real work has been done for the competitive players, though, the tweaks and alterations made to the gameplay rebalance the game and mix up the tier list. That’s right, you can’t just wail on everyone as Yu. Persona-heavy characters receive more ‘Cards’ under their health-bar meaning Persona users
can get more mileage out of their avatars when active, but have to wait longer if enough counter hits land to break them. In Arena, all characters had five by default, and you’d be amazed how much a subtle update like this affects balance.

Most characters now come with a ‘Shadow’ version of themselves, too, aside from new animations and voice-work we recommend winning as Shadow Kanji, just to see his pose Shadow fighters have the option to use their most powerful attacks whenever, and can even unlock the ability to cancel supers into other supers. This can be round reversing if pulled off adeptly, plus it’s pure replay gold . This basically means your favourite fighter will now have two modes and a character with myriad powerful Supers will handle completely differently as a Shadow character than in their real version. To account for this, overall combo damage has been reduced, making even one-sided fights feel more tidal and exciting.
This upgrade alone warrants moving to Ultimax over Arena, but it’s the new characters that are the icing on the cake: Junpei’s unique baseball inspired level-up system is nuts, and took us a fair few rounds to get used to. Ken and his dog Koromaru are two characters in one controlled by two face buttons each and what this means is that you can craftily shove the dog into opponent’s combos, breaking them up and trolling on a whim. Sho Minazuki has two different icons in character select one with a Persona and one without. Again, these versions handle differently, with the latter gaining a dodge function to offset his lack of an avatar.

With an RPG-inspired challenge mode (think Abyss Mode from BlazBlue) and unique combo challenges for every character, even players in Ultimax for the solo experience will have good value for money. Two tedious story modes pad out what’s already a good offering, and getting to grips with the new systems and tweaked returning characters will give veterans something new to sink
their teeth into.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a polished, more refined release than its predecessor. The UI is sharper, the sound design improved and combat remains some of the best and most intricate Arc System Works has composed to date. It’s just a shame it’s come so late in the PS3’s life, and without a PS4 or Vita port looking likely, it at least gives us a reason to keep a spare kettle plug handy to pop into our PS3s at a moment’s notice.

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