The original Persona 4 Arena (known in Japan as Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold) was a fast and furious onslaught of everything we love about the world of Persona, distilled into one ridiculously fun fighter. The complexities of JRPGs flowed seamlessly into that of Arc System Works' unique fighting style, and created a title that blended the best of both worlds. It makes sense, then, that Persona 4 Arena Ultimax should exist, given the enormous fan response and menagerie of additions that were added this time around.
The result is a mishmash of color, over-the-top, ridiculously stylish attacks, and fan service for fans of both Persona 3 and Persona 4.
Right off the bat six new characters have been appended to the roster, with fan-favorite Rise Kujikawa and Sho Minazuki of Persona 4, as well as Junpei, Ken, and Yukari from Persona 3. Additional characters will be available via DLC, but the already established roster features "shadow" selves of the characters as well. What this means for fans is a whole new way to play, and cheeky new dialogue, as well as personalities to explore.
A brand new story mode that takes place directly after the conclusion of Persona 4 Arena, as well as an additional challenge mode known as Golden Arena join the mix. All of this alone may be enough to justify a purchase for die-hard Persona fans, but Ultimax takes things a step further with plenty for players to do. The game starts at midnight, the TV in Yu's room suddenly starts airing the P-1 Climax that shows Mitsuru, Aigis, Akihiko, and Fuuka, crucified and announces the world's end within one hour.
A black out then occurs throughout Inaba and the whole town is surrounded by red fog. Yu quickly regroups with Yosuke and Chie after they defeat the Shadows that took their friends' forms and decide to go to Yasogami High following General Teddie's instruction while also looking for their friends.
Golden Arena is the main draw, of course, where you delve into dungeons and take out different opponents in order to raise your fighters’ stats. You can equip them with specific skills to better combat the threats in each stage as well, which is an interesting change from most fighters’ Survival or Endless modes, where it’s simply a never-ending parade of opponents.
Unfortunately, though the addition of Story mode is a boon to the overall package, it’s weak in some areas, with a less gripping narrative featuring Sho Minazuki, so if you’re looking for something as engaging as Persona 4 Arena’s offering, you’ll end up walking away sadly disappointed. Luckily, the game more than makes up for these shortcomings with snappy dialogue, announcer Risette, and plenty of awesome tidbits that give the package an abundance of personality.
Additional characters, new modes, excellent online multiplayer, and an accessible fighting system. The Persona franchise really shines in their JRPG offerings, but there’s still plenty of reason to pick up this iteration of the title, even if it’s your first — just don’t be surprised if your next move is to play through the entirety of the Persona series for the first time, or the fiftieth.