Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (360) Review
Persona is probably the longest running and consistently good JRPG series out there. The last two titles have done an increasingly great job of blending dungeon crawling and grinding with the everyday life of a Japanese high school student. That is why when it was announced that Persona 4 was going to have a follow up, and it was going to be a story based fighting game, many of the fans were shocked. When it turned out to be one of the better 2D fighters recently released, possibly in the last decade, which might have even been more shocking still. So it only seems natural that a handful of years later they would release an expansion of sorts; strangely enough this new installment does better to stand on its own than fans would probably suspect.
Although the gameplay of the series should be no surprise to anyone who gives the developer of the game more than a passing glance as they are the people behind both Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. What has been rather interesting since the series made the leap into fighting games is that it has managed to remain rather accessible for the fans who simply want to hop in and either enjoy the story or have a fun afternoon talking trash to their friends. The one button combo mechanic was introduced last time and does make a reappearance this time around, and just like last time it is effective but not ever enough to really stop someone who knows what they are doing.
The one thing that I have always felt strongly about anything that has the moniker of “Shin Megami Tensei” is that the plot should always been one of the core and driving features—Arena Ultimax does not disappoint in this regard. The story section of this game plays out in very long, very lengthy voiced sequences. For most companies that answer the question of why a game exists or should be coming out with a “why not?!” it is kind of refreshing to know that it feels like the setting and plot and motivation of all of the characters came well before anything was considered on what this game should play like. For a diehard fan of the series it is always good to know what is going on with characters that you have grown to know and love, now they only need to find a way to start cramming in older Persona characters.
If you are a fan of the last two Persona games or just a fighting game enthusiast, this is probably for you. The online play is solid, the characters are fun and enjoyable, and it is rather pleasant to look at—not much more that you can really ask for a fighting game in this day and age. Everything else that has been added, my personal favorite being the odd hybrid of RPG and fighting game in the Golden Arena (video of our stream above), just feels like the most delicious icing on probably the best cake that you will taste this year. The truth is that it is harder to find reasons to not buy this game than it is to run out and pick it up.