Persona 4 Arena Ultimax at AX 2014

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By Mark Marquez

This year is a big one for Atlus. With Persona Q, Persona 4 Ultimax (or Persona 4 Arena 2) out and Persona 5 coming soon in Japan, Atlus has been busy. Thankfully they took time to bring us the latest build of their upcoming fighting game Persona 4 Ultimax to Anime Expo.

Having gotten in some matches before in the arcade when I visited Japan and a few at Anime Expo, I was very pleased with the feel of the game. Atlus is doing an incredible job bringing it over and supporting it in the States.

The current console build includes some new features not in the arcades. New characters Rise and Ken Amada were in this build and playable for those who wanted to try them out.

Rise was an interesting character; they used her mic stand to attack, throw out musical notes, and burst them. Although she was an NPC in Persona 4 Arena 1 and support in the Persona 4 RPG, it was interesting to see her take up her microphone to dish out a beat down.

Ken comes with his companion Koromaru, the cute Shiba Inu from Persona 3. Now a middle schooler, Ken shows up with his spear and some very far reaching attacks. Coupled with tandem attacks from Koromaru, he was a nice addition to the cast, adding a new dimension to the game. Instead of his C and D buttons being used for his persona, they were used to control Koromaru separate, allowing for some nice pressure.

Sho is still as cool as ever, using dodges and teleports to confuse and frustrate his opponent, while his persona wielding counterpart Minazuki uses the persona Tsukiyomi to attack and harass the opponent no matter where they are.

Junpei’s odd but fun baseball mechanic is truly a blast to play, having you focus on scoring runs to power Junpei up, while Yukari’s arrow and flip mechanics has her using a lot of zoning to keep the opponent out and take some punishment trying to catch her.

The user interface for the game looks fantastic. Updated from Arena 1’s Yellow to Ultimax’s blue, the game looks and feels different. The cast has been rebalanced, new moves have been added, and new system mechanics makes for a fresh experience. The English voices for returning characters and even for the new additions, Minazuki and Sho, sounded great. A lot of classic Persona battle music was added as well, such as The Fog, Burn My Dread –Last Battle-, several shadow themes, and more. New stages showed up as well, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all ties into the story.

Speaking of the story, Ultimax’s story is shaping up to be quite an interesting one. Taking place directly after the events of Arena, the Persona 3 crew has been kidnapped and a young man named Sho Minazuki has come forth claiming to be the culprit. Who is he, what is he doing, how did the P3 cast get there, and what does he want? What is the P4 cast doing? Why have the shadows returned? Most importantly, why is Adachi free?

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Atlus looks ready to support this game for newcomers and veterans alike. Already announced is the Adachi DLC, featuring returning P4 character Adachi Tohru as a playable character, his theme song New World Fool as well as a new theme for him, and the Episode Adachi story DLC has already been announced as free for 1 week after the game drops. Also announced is the Newcomer pack, featuring P4A1’s story, glasses, and navigators for those who missed them last game. Not to worry though, it seems all DLC from the first game will work with Persona 4 Ultimax, meaning your glasses and navigators will transfer over. Japan has announced song DLC as well. Maybe there will be more in the future. Who’s to say a new character can’t come out?

Ultimax is looking to be a great addition to the Persona lineup. What could easily have been a bad cash-in for the P4 and P3 nostalgia is actually a deep fighting game with a lot to offer for both the competitive players and the story driven folks. Look for it in September when it drops.

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