Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PlayStation 3) Review

By Az Elias 17.12.2014

Review for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on PlayStation 3

Persona 4 has spurned all manner of spin-offs since its first PS2 release in 2008, including the dungeon-crawling Persona Q on 3DS, the upcoming rhythm title Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita, and a fighting game in Persona 4 Arena on PS3 and Xbox 360. The original RPG was one of the best of its generation, but does this fighting sequel indicate the various branches the series has taken is milking it a bit too much, or does it surpass the prequel's solid offering? Now released worldwide, Cubed3 clashes swords, fans, chairs and fists in the PS3 North American version of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.

There isn't really any two ways about it: the majority of Persona 4 fans are here for the story. Persona 3 fans, too, actually, since those characters are also here in abundance, despite the name of the game. Although some improvements have been made to the way the story is handled in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax - namely that of a more linear path, which saves from so much repeated text that plagued each character's individual stories in Persona 4 Arena - this entry still suffers from poor writing that will really disappoint Persona fans.

Screenshot for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on PlayStation 3

It was inevitable, really; the culprit behind the events of the P1 Grand Prix in both fighting titles is a real let-down. That's not the only complaint, though. These characters were great in the original Persona 4 RPG, only to be written almost as if the confrontations between them and their Shadow selves had never happened when P4 Arena came around; the inner demons they spent such a long time overcoming in the PS2 game shouldn't have phased them in the fighting tournament, especially as the events of the P1 Grand Prix happened but a mere week later. They did, though, and it made for a bad case of déjà vu in between what was otherwise a decent story with a solid enough new character in the form of Labrys.

In P4 Arena Ultimax, which continues literally right after P4 Arena, the characters have lost so much charm and likeability. This is one game too many for the Investigation Team, as the developers have tried to squeeze every last drop out of such a popular cast. The attempts at humour and whatnot are just so tired, overused and ineffective. This has all been done before, and with how long-winded the story arc actually is, even Persona 4's strongest fans will struggle to stay awake as they endlessly press X to reach the anticlimactic conclusion.

Screenshot for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on PlayStation 3

Although a fighting game, this is still a Persona game, and the story is a core part of that. There should be no excuses when it comes to delivering an entertaining plot, particularly as the original RPG did just that, and other fighting titles, such as BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, present a worthwhile story with balanced humour and dark undertones. There are standards that should be met, but the overabundance of "I can do anything if I believe in my friends" tripe throughout P4 Arena Ultimax makes it so uncomfortable to sit through. The mastermind and their story arc is so ridiculously eye-rolling, it's difficult to even want to play through the Persona 3 timeline after finishing Persona 4's.

Thankfully, the drab story mode doesn't ruin what is a good fighting game - one that is very accessible to new players. Arc System Works ensures all the bases are covered in their fighters, with the usual Lesson, Training and Challenge modes doing a competent job at explaining the mechanics and settling newcomers in, plus helping get the new S Hold System down that is introduced here. By holding buttons after certain moves, they can chain into other attacks, and some combos can be performed simply by mashing the same button. It might sound cheap, but it is one way of keeping the game friendly to those that don't play many fighters, and it makes sense given that plenty of fans of the RPG will be looking at P4AU as a possible purchase. The usual accurate and perfect-timing advanced techniques still apply, so experienced fighting game players aren't overlooked.

Screenshot for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on PlayStation 3

The new Golden Arena is rather like the BlazBlue series' Abyss mode, tackling endless battles, but it does feel rather pointless and acts as a bit of filler to bolster the content. The standard Versus, Arcade and Score Attacks are there, and online modes are sorted, too, although ranked matches are pretty much dead at this point, making it tough to earn certain online trophies. Lobbies are where it's at for network play, as this is pretty much where most regulars hang out. Get involved in some dedicated forums for the game, and there will always be plenty of people up for some throwdowns.

P4 Arena Ultimax is faithful to its source material, and the transition from RPG to fighter is converted very well, just as in the first P4 Arena, but it doesn't quite stack up against the BlazBlue series. Although story modes aren't the primary focus in fighters, that isn't the case with this new entry into the Persona canon. Unfortunately, the dull and careless writing makes for a very tired script, so fans only in it for the story might want to think about waiting on a price drop before splashing out on this one.

Screenshot for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on PlayStation 3

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

As a title that continues the storyline from Persona 4, the story mode can't just be brushed over. It is a disappointing addition to the canon, and fans will need to prepare themselves for a tired script that drags on until its anti-climax. It's time to let these guys rest. Otherwise, Arc System Works has delivered another solid fighter that does enough to cover the bases, with plenty of fan service, cracking music and an accessible combat system.


Arc System Works







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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