Welcome to Atlus, Switch fans, the company that really doesn’t want you to play any mainline Persona games, but does want you to play their canon sequels. Last year, we got Persona 5 Strikers, a surprisingly great Warriors-style follow up to the seminal Persona 5. This year, we’re getting Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, a *checks notes* remaster of a fighting game that serves as a sequel to both Persona 3 and Persona 4. As oddly positioned as this project may feel, we’re happy to report that Persona 4 Arena Ultimax proves itself to be a competent fighter on Switch, one that we think will appeal both to fans of the Persona brand and to fighting game newcomers.
First off, let’s recap what’s all included here. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax packs in quite a lot of content, featuring the stories of both the original P4A and P4AU alongside all the DLC from across those two games. This means that all the additional fighters, a staggering amount of cosmetic options for each of them, and an additional story mode have all been thrown in. Behind the scenes, this is also including all of the ‘2.5’ content from the Japanese exclusive arcade release of P4AU, which integrated a bunch of balancing changes to make for an overall better feeling experience. In short, this is the most feature-rich version of P4AU yet, and it all comes now with the benefit of being portable.
In the story mode, P4AU primarily follows the members of the Investigation Team a few months after the events of Persona 4 with the gang all getting back together in Inaba for Golden Week. Conveniently, the Midnight Channel has returned at the same time, and is now broadcasting a mysterious P-1 Grand Prix that seems to be hosted by a version of their friend Teddie. After a few members of the team go missing, the remaining members opt to step back into the world in the TV to join the competition in the hopes of finding their lost friends and getting to the bottom of what’s going on.
For a fighting game, the story here feels fine, but it suffers from some absolutely glacial pacing. Whereas the rich narrative of a typical Persona game is frequently punctuated by dungeon runs, school trips, and social outings, there is no such content to break up the verbose monotony here. The story is exclusively delivered to you via visual novel-esque static screens where characters read their lines, sometimes for 10-15 minutes at a time, before you finally get to pick up the controller and fight in a battle.
After the three minutes it takes for the fight to be over, you then get thrown back into another lengthy expository sequence and the cycle repeats. This would be bad enough on its own, but things are exacerbated by the fact that there are multiple routes to take through the story, with each taking the perspective of a different character. This means that you’re frequently retreading the same ground again, only you’re privy to someone else’s thoughts for this scene instead.
All of this is to say that the lack of adequate gameplay elements in the story mode makes it a true test of one’s endurance. Mashing ‘A’ through half an hour of dialogue doesn’t make the quick battle at the end of that gauntlet feel exciting—it feels exhausting. And while the plot itself does eventually develop into something mildly interesting, it’s consistently dragged down by entirely useless scenes that just pad out the runtime. Characters will take their sweet time to talk about whatever they’re talking about — they’ll spend several minutes reflecting on where they’re about to go before they actually go there. There’s probably five hours of actual plot in here, yet it will take you thirty hours to get through it. All that fluff might be a little more forgivable in the context of an RPG where you have lots of things to do around it, but it simply doesn’t work in a fighting game.
Luckily, the actual fighting game parts of P4AU are excellent; Arc System Works certainly didn’t disappoint in delivering an approachable take on 2D fighting with a ridiculously high skill ceiling. There are 22 fighters to choose from here, consisting of some newcomers and the casts of both Persona 3 and 4. Most of them also have a ‘Shadow’ version available that bumps that number even higher, all but guaranteeing that there’s a fighter for every playstyle available. Whether you like to focus more on grapple attacks or on zoning, it seems like everybody fills a proper niche in the lineup and has their own distinct feel.
A character’s moveset usually incorporates a mixture of light and heavy attacks, throws, grabs, and special attacks, adding up to make for a dizzying array of ways to approach a battle. Beginners aren’t tossed right into the fire, however, as there’s a decently informative practice mode that teaches you the basics of controls. If you still can’t grasp the finer points of setting up combos, there’s even the option to simply mash ‘Y’ repeatedly to pull off a modest combo that at least makes you feel like you know what you’re doing. P4AU may not feel nearly as approachable as, say, Super Smash Bros., but we felt that it provided enough accessibility that even someone with no experience with a fighting game could have quite a bit of fun with it.
And for those of you that are more experienced, it feels like there are near limitless options for thrashing your opponent about. Guard Counters, Persona Breaks, Reversals Bursts, and many other fancy sounding techniques ensure that there is always something more you could be doing to better optimize your offensive or defensive actions. What’s nice about all this is that you know for a fact that you could play P4AU for dozens of hours and still not feel like you’ve completely gotten a handle on all its nuance. It doesn’t mean that you’re not getting a ‘full’ experience if you can’t or won’t take advantage of all these techniques, but there’s nearly endless potential for honing your mastery here. If you’re the kind of player who revels in pushing the limits of your dexterity, P4AU will prove itself to be more than worthy of your skills.
Those of you who want a gameplay experience more akin to the mainline games will probably gravitate towards Golden Mode, which sprinkles in some RPG elements and even social links to the base fighting gameplay. In Golden Mode, you level characters individually by clearing hundreds of ‘floors’ of a dungeon. Every floor will present you with a new fighter with their own slightly modified stats and abilities, and you’ll gain experience for each victory you manage. At each level up, you can then distribute stat points to buff up things like your attack damage and Burst gauge, and you’ll learn new active and passive skills that give you a helpful edge in the heat of battle. While Golden Mode doesn’t massively shake up the core idea of 2D fighting gameplay, we appreciated this cool approach to making P4AU feel a bit more like a single-player RPG. If nothing else, Golden Mode feels like a suitable answer to the text-heavy story mode; if you don’t want to deal with the ridiculously long cutscenes there, you can find more than enough single player content to keep you happy for quite some time here.
For this review period, we didn’t get to try out the online features, but we do think the Switch version specifically needs to be discussed here. All other versions of this re-release will be receiving an update later this summer that will add rollback netcode, but the Switch version won’t be getting that feature for technical reasons. For those of you out of the loop, rollback netcode is basically a term for a smoother and more lag-free online experience and is by far the preferred method of online implementation among fighting game fans. Every millisecond counts in a game as highly reliant on perfect timing around your button presses as this, and the fact that the Switch version won’t be receiving this critical feature means that players who want to focus on climbing the ranks online will be best served picking up P4AU on other platforms, if possible. Locally, we didn’t notice any performance drops at all, but this doesn’t mean much for those who plan on spending the bulk of their time battling players miles away from them. And though this lack of rollback doesn’t necessarily mean the Switch version’s online will be like playing chess through the mail, there’s no escaping the fact that the online performance simply won’t be on par with other platforms once the update is available.
As for its presentation, P4AU doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Arc System Works has done an excellent job of translating Shigenori Soejima’s iconic character designs into impressively animated and fluid fighter sprites that retain all the personality and style of their RPG counterparts. We especially appreciated how flashy some of the combo finishers could get, positively lighting up the screen in a tremendous fireworks display of pain. Each level, meanwhile, has a lot going on in the background, with each one depicting some richly-detailed and twisted images of otherworldly locales. All this is backed by a high energy soundtrack that mixes in some fun remixes of favorite tracks from the mainline games with some jazzy, pop-rock new songs that fit in perfectly with the tone. Also, many of you will be pleased to know that there’s dual Japanese and English language audio in P4AU, and both casts deliver strong, satisfying performances, though the repetition of some lines can be a little irritating during longer sessions.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax may not be the Persona game everyone’s been clamoring for on the Switch, but we’re certainly not complaining. P4AU offers up an approachable, yet incredibly deep 2D fighting combat system, a neat RPG-lite mode that guarantees solo players will have lots to do, and all this is presented in Arc System Works’ signature and striking hand-drawn art style. While the story mode is a complete bore and there’s no rollback netcode in this version, we think P4AU on Switch is still absolutely worth your time, although if you're going to be playing online, you'll likely want to investigate the game on other platforms first. For portable fans, however, we’d give it a recommendation whether you’re a fighting game enthusiast or you’re just looking to give the genre a shot; this is definitely one of the better fighting games on the Switch.
It looks gorgeous, a real shame it's not the P4 Golden release we've been asking for years.
Enjoyed the original P4A, never picked up Ultimax. But now seems like a good excuse!
Nice to see Atlus continue the tradition of giving us Persona on Nintendo systems, but never what people asked for What's next? Persona Q3 or ports of the Dancing games?
I still can't believe that there's no rollback netcode on the Switch. I wasn't going to buy this game anyway, but that's a pretty big con, especially considering that every other version of the game is getting it.
Sad to hear the story's not good. The great thing about Persona spin-offs (Strikers, this game, the dancing game etc) is that they try to be genuine story-sequels to the mainline games - they use the same actors and mimic the same visual style as Persona 4/5.
So, I'm sad the story isn't great here - was hoping to spend more time with my Inaba gang. I'll probably still pick this up but I just hope I get more from the story than the reviewer did here.
@StarPoint Hurts even more considering that the Switch runs games with rollback just fine
I'm not buying a side game to a legendary series that they refuse to release the main games for.
If they ever release the mains, then maybe I'll try the sides.
Definitely gonna pick this one up since I'm a fighting game nut, even though I haven't gotten to play Person 4 yet. Hurts bug time that rollback isn't there simply because Atlus or ArcSys doesn't care to do so
@StarPoint Yep. Especially, when some other fightings have rollback netcode - Melty Blood: Type Lumina is a good example. Oh, and also... Arc System Works dislikes Nintendo for some unknown reasons. At least I think so.
@Fighting_Game_Loser For some unknown reasons, Arc System Works didn't care and dislikes Nintendo. At least, it's what I have in mind about their decisions of cutting out rollback netcode from Switch ports.
> "Welcome to Atlus, Switch fans, the company that really doesn’t want you to play any mainline Persona games, but does want you to play their canon sequels."
Allow me to rewrite this introductory sentence:
"Welcome to Atlus, Switch fans, the company that really doesn’t want you to play any Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series games, but does want you to play their canon spin-off of a spin-off games."
Well, Arc System Works still continues to making Switch versions of their fightings inferior to PS4 and PC versions. I don't understand why they dislikes Nintendo. What's about the game(P4AU) itself... It's strange for Japanese fighting game have boring Story Mode. BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION Special Edition have awesome story, CHAOS CODE -NEW SIGN OF CATASTROPHE- have good story... Well, okay...
@Splodge the story isn’t that bad, just predictable and a little bit cliche.
What makes it borderline insufferable is the pacing, as written in the review.
I hoped they fixed it in this version, as the story mode actually was released in two parts, initially, and the second one was fairly more enjoyable, showing Atlus DID understand what a drag it was the in the first half.
If you like everything Persona i’d say go for it with no regrets.
@ModdedInkling It wouldn't be so sad if it wasn't so funny. Also, allow me rewrite this introductory sentence:
"Welcome to Arc System Works, Switch users, the company that really doesn't want you to play any of their fighting games online with rollback netcode, while offering rollback netcode to PS4 and PC users, and does want you to buy their games at full prices on Switch, while offering worse content(online)."
Also, after P4AU review, I hope that NL team will review Phantom Breaker: Omnia.
@Vyacheslav333 Yeah, which sucks big time a lot. I play Guilty Gear XX and BBTAG on Switch quite a bit and I bet they would be so much more active if they had rollback or even cross-play implemented. And it sucks since no rollback doesn't mean the online experience isn't going to be inherently bad (at least it hasn't for me lol). At least the BBTAG Switch community is going strong. Would be nice to be able to play with some new faces though 😔
Ideally no one will buy this until we get actual Persona games on the Switch
This is nice, but I’m fine with just BBTAG.
@Fighting_Game_Loser Yeah... Oh, it's cool to know that BBTAG Switch community going strong. What I can say about my online experience in ASW games, that's I like work of online netcode in GGXXΛСOREPLUSR more than in BBTAG. For some strange and unknown reasons, I have the feeling that the netcode in GG works better(but not smoother) than in BBTAG. Anyway, delay-based netcode sucks and should not be included in games anymore.
An insta-buy for definite. Obviously would prefer Persona 4 and 5 mainline but hey ho. Broken record
Why would anyone with the Switch buy this if they can't play the original game this is a sequel to? And they practically killed off any hope for this version selling well when they announced before release rollback coming to literally everything but Switch.
Can't wait for this to bomb in sales on Switch and then Atlus wondering "why didn't anyone buy it?!?!?"
Atlus/ArcSystem keep showing to this day that they don't care about the Switch' playerbase/community.
"No rollback netcode coming for the Switch version"
Not adding the rollback feels lazy but...
with how "good" Switch it's Ethernet is (don't get me started about Wifi) I wonder if it would make as much (read carefully) difference like on PS4 and PC.
I am getting it for single player only so I don't mind.
@Itachi2099 because you get a free story DLC that explains the first game with this.
This is cool and all but Blazblue Cross Tag Battle has everything I could want in one package - Persona characters, music, and levels along with content from a bunch of other anime as well. Glad to see Persona love for Switch, but unless it's P4G or P5, I'm all good on Persona content right now.
Also want to give a quick shout out to Persona 5 Strikers - I initially dismissed this game as a shallow spin-off, and while it does lack Persona's relationships mechanic, it's a really fun title with a great amount of depth and personality - it's probably my favorite Musou-like game on the Switch.
Lmao.. I'm in no way going to support this game until they actually get the actual Persona 4 Golden on Switch.
So stupid that they pulled this stunt again - after the fiasco with P5S.
still can't believe that there's no rollback netcode on the Switch.
Nor Cross platform online.
I´ll buy this one on STEAM, because this game is GREAT and there are so many people playing fighting games on Steam with rollback.
Without Persona 3 and 4 being available on Switch this game will spoil major plot points for both. I can’t understand why for the anniversary of the series they haven’t rereleased these first and then Ultimax. That’s 3 games they could sell versus 1! P4 bring on Steam is not an excuse. Steam is not switch or PS4.
Wanted this on Switch, but gonna pass.
I feel like the console versions of this game were a complete afterthought. ATLUS seems to only advertise the Steam version of the game, which is the only version that you can preorder (the Switch version didn’t even have a store page until two weeks ago; the PS4 page isn’t even up yet). Steam is also the only modern platform where they made P4G available to despite console owners asking for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if ATLUS originally intended to drop the Steam version back in December but were forced to make console ports last minute.
It's a no from me. Final Fantasy this week which looks and sounds really bad but hilarious and Kirby next week. I'll wait for a Sale I think.
The score is accurate for what this version doesn’t and/or won’t have in the long run. Makes you wonder what Nintendo is doing with their online network if it’s going to (eventually) close off the Wii U and 3DS completely…🤔
I really enjoy this game from the PS3, and can’t wait to play it on the go.
Will sit this one out. I'm not a fan of fighting games anyway. But hey. P4G could be on its way. Fingers crossed.
Didn't buy it back in the day, and not about to start now.
@Vyacheslav333 Yeah it is just better to include it, as basically means that you get free press for it and fgc Twitter to bootlick the game for a while
I'm all for it.
I love their Persona spinoffs. To date, Persona 4 Dancing is the only game I've ever platinumed. This seems to have the same kind of side story, so I'll definitely pick it up for the single player campaign. I own it on 360 but, I never bothered playing that version. On Switch I will.
I liked the story mode. That said, its for big P4 fans. Others will probably be turned off.
I really wish we had P4G to go with this. Why does Atlus port sequels to P4 and P5 but not the actual experiences??
I originally played this on PS3. Loved it, and because I enjoyed P4G on Vita, the story mode held my interest. I don't play online either, so the netcode thing doesn't matter to me at all. This is a clear double-dip for me.
That being said, I have both Switch and PS4, so which console I buy it for ultimately comes down to which controller I prefer. That's pretty much a coin toss between the Dual Shock and the Pro Controller for me.
Not sure why you counted the no rollback netcode as a negative here. Rollback netcode won't be available to the other versions until Summer. What makes you think it won't come to Switch after the other versions got theirs?
@Specter_of-the_OLED The developers very straight up said it won't be coming to Switch. It would seem an odd thing to lie about if it was in fact still in the pipeline.
"Welcome to Atlus, Switch fans, the company that really doesn’t want you to play any mainline Persona games, but does want you to play their canon sequels"
No need to be so bold even when it's accurate.
Does anyone know if there is a physical western version of the game? Last time I checked on Playasia it was all japanese and asian version.
I'm somewhat bothered by downloading a 2D sprite fighter that weights the same as BotW (in fact, about 100mb more than BotW if Nintendo's page is correct)
Your two cons are kind of whatever.
Game is actually a 9/10 for the
I only knock a point out because they didn’t use this this opportunity to add a character or two like P3 and P5 protag
@ShadowofTwilight22 Because the fighting game sequel with all these characters/setting/reoccurring plot points is literally from a JRPG prequel or were you not aware of this? It’s not a genre difference. Even for RPGs, P4 had bad pacing especially in the start and the story was nothing spectacular either. In a fighting game context: Arena actually shines in story because again the fighting game genre struggles by default in actually doing a halfway decent storytelling attempt. Just look what KoF XV did recently
@ShadowofTwilight22 They also said Persona 4's story was nothing more than a glorified Scooby Doo mystery with bad pacing. First time I've seen anyone say that about this game.
We all have different views I suppose. I wouldn't take it too harshly.
@ShadowofTwilight22 lol except again you are conveniently ignoring the different perspectives that gives the other routes replay ability. Are you also gonna argue Episode Adachi “was the same story” from the main route? Lol
It’s based on a JRPG my friend. It’s not an original fighting game IP so the JRPG roots are relevant like it or not. Imagine complaining that Story mode has a lot of story focusing on giving the characters more depth they lacked in the JRPG instead of fighting. Too bad there isn’t Golden Arena, Score Attack, etc if you just want to fight. Oh wait. Lol. You DO realize there are story modes in fighters that has NO FIGHTING at all like in Guilty Gear right? Lol.
According to what consensus that you pulled out of your butt that it’s “widely agreed”? Last I checked you were not the ambassador of the Persona community LMAO
@Astral-Grain Are you gonna actually disagree that the Persona 4 opening segment for even RPG standards was poorly paced? That is something that takes hours before you even do the Chie/Yukiko dungeon. So this is nothing new for Persona. The point was the original Persona 4 story was nothing amazing that made the Arena story feel out of place
@ShadowofTwilight22 Except they did my friend. That is the advantage of a visual novel style format with first person internal monologues that the original P4 game lacked because it was all from the Protag perspective. I’m gonna continue to laugh if you still insist characters like Elizabeth or Adachi didn’t get blatantly more depth especially from their first person perspectives
You do realize Akihiko was in a several year timejump since P3 right? Who are you to assume he doesn’t like protein bars? Also good way to miss the point of the first Arena game that mocked the characters in a one line caricature. Game calls Yu a literal Sis-con for instance.
Teddie was never a great character. He still made puns and flirts since the rpg game. Unless you are talking about the imposter which isn’t Teddie to begin with.
Uh yes Story DOES matter even in fighters. Have you ever heard of NR fighters like Mortal Kombat 9-11or Injustice 1-2? Very successful fighters that got praised for actually giving effort for story. Even other fighters finally acknowledge it like Street Fighter V actually doing a cinematic story post release.
Oh so you forgot the story which tanks your credibility on actually talking about the game story. Gotcha
@Arawn93 Yes, I disagree with your opinion Persona 4 has a bad story and is poorly paced.
Persona 4's sales and critic scores speak for themselves, being that the game is story focused, I must conclude the majority of players don't think the story is bad and poorly paced. It's also pretty much a staple for JRPGs to take a few hours to ramp up in the beginning, and most of them don't have nearly as many mechanics as a Persona game with all the social skills and side activities. I don't see this as an issue with Persona 4 specifically, it sounds more like a criticism of JRPGs in general.
I would estimate you are in the minority with this opinion. There's nothing wrong with being in the minority, but you should expect more people to disagree than agree with you.
@Fighting_Game_Loser Yeah, it's true.
Is this a port of the PS3 version or the PS4 remaster? Actually i have this on physical copy on PS3. Never played it more than 10 minutes
Atlus will give every game possible to switch with exception of persona 4 and 5. This is no coincidence.
Such a shame for fans they can't handle rollback code. Then again Nintendo can barely make their online "service" work at all.
@dimi The PS4 Remaster minus the rollback netcode.
@Neoicelord Neither of those things describe me, the story mode is actually just poorly paced.
@moodycat what, boring story, really, for one of the best Persona game and JRPG ??????
@moodycat this is the worst, but for you. For me, P4G is one of the best JRPG i have played, but i understand everyone had their opinion. That said, number don't lie. P4G has already proven itself how worthy it is, and how well received it is, so if it easily WORST for you and you have no idea what i mean, then just let yourself think like that.
@moodycat Strangely, i don't even try to convince you that P4G is great JRPG, but for you this game is the worst and you should change that. And you think just because i say P4G is worthy, and it is the truth, it already proven, just that and you think i say your opinion is wrong ?? And number is just sale ?, really, number of reviews, number of players, influence through various forms such as music, figure, spin-offs,...
I never saw that one coming.
(guys please laugh)
well looks like it runs well enough
Maybe I will get it
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