|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Arc System Works|
|Release: September 30, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
“We assure you, it’s a full game!” This is the phrase the reps at the Atlus booth kept saying over and over again when I asked why this game couldn’t be released as DLC. “It has six new characters, a whole new story mode, shadow versions of all the old characters…” Yes, yes Persona 4 Arena Ultimax has tons of new features. It has tons of new fighters. It has a story mode which is as long as any JRPG. But it’s coming out two year after the original Persona 4 Arena, and it feels like its punishing early adopters.
Make no mistake, this is the definitive version of Persona 4 Arena. Each character has been meticulously rebalanced and retweaked. Every character has brand new moves to utilize, brand new auto combos, altered damage and health levels, and more. On the whole, the game felt a lot more balanced, and that’s a good thing.
The new shadow characters are interesting. They do less damage, have more health, and build meter much more quickly. If they ever reach max meter they can go into shadow mode, which allows them to have infinite meter for a short period of time. This opens up possibilities for incredibly damaging combos, and really cheap keep away tactics by spamming supers and EX moves over and over again. I personally loved to play Shadow Yukari and simply spam her tri-arrow all day. It felt a lot like Cable and his Air Hyper Viper Beam shenanigans.
The new entrants to the roster are also interesting. Sho Minazuki has a version of himself without a persona at all. This gives him a third attack button and a quick dodge button, which kind of acts like a parry in that if you do it at the last minute you get to attack back for free. Fans of traditional fighting game characters will really enjoy playing him. He also has a version of himself with a persona, but that was less interesting and played more straightforward, like other characters in the game.
Rise Kujikawa didn’t fit any fighting game mold at all. She could best be described as a “self buff” character. She has moves that buff her own defenses, causing people who attack her to be pushed back or go into hit-stun. Other than that, she is mostly a zoning character, able to control space very well with a variety of lazers, traps, and these exploding notes that hang around the screen and increase the damage of her other combos.
Junpei Iori has the most complicated meter in existence. His baseball meter earns him strikes when he whiffs a move that uses his bat, balls when an opponent blocks a bat move, outs when an opponent hits him, and runners on base when he hits his opponent. When the bases are loaded, another runner on base scores him a run, and hitting with his homerun super gets him a number of runs equal to 1+the runners on base. With no runs he’s not that great, easily able to be pressured out. With 10 runs, however, he powers up gaining hp regen and extended combo capabilities. Every 10 runs after that powers him up a bit more, increasing his damage and hp regen. At 30 or 40 runs, if you are lucky to get that far, it’s hard for the opponent to outpace your hp regen even when combo-ing you.
Ken Amada and Koromaru operate like a puppet character. Ken’s A and B buttons control him and his C and D buttons control Koromaru. The only time either of them call their personas is during special attacks. On the upside this means that they aren’t easily persona broken, but as a downside their persona meter is much shorter than everyone else’s, only two hit points wide. Koromaru has his own health meter and when it drains he has to rest. However, this also means he is able to attack far more often than a normal character’s persona can. Super jumping and starting combos with Koromaru is incredibly annoying and difficult to deal with.
Finally, Yukari is probably my favorite of the newcomers. She is probably the best zoner in the game. Only her A button attacks. Her B button shoots arrows and her C and D persona buttons perform even more ranged attacks. She has the ability to absolutely litter the stage with arrows everywhere, making it hard to move around. Her tri-arrow special takes up the whole center of the screen and does a TON of chip damage. Fans of Marvel style zoning will absolutely love her.
I can’t deny that I had a ton of fun with Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. But the fact remains that you’ll have to pay 60 dollars just to pick this up. This provides a bit of a conundrum for most players. Pro players will HAVE to pick the game up, just so that they can keep up with the tournament scene. Casual players, on the other hand, are another story. The new content is good, but 60 dollars’ worth? I’m not so sure. I’d probably pay a slightly reduced budget price for this game. I’d drop $40 easily on it. But buying the game at full price after I just bought it two years ago? That I’m not so comfortable with.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: June 18, 2014