What I'm Playing - No. 158
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PC)
Persona 4 Arena released for PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012. It’s a fighting game spin-off of the Persona series, and serves as a sequel of sorts to both Persona 3 and Persona 4. I bought and played the PS3 version several years ago, and it was a pretty fun game. I knew it had a sequel on the same platforms, but I never got around to picking it up at the time. Fast forward to 2022, and that sequel, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, just released on PS4, Switch, and PC. I picked it up on Steam and finally gave it a try after all this time!
This game is a direct sequel to Persona 4 Arena, with the story beginning the very day after the events of the first game. Luckily, the full story mode of the first game is included in this release if you haven’t played it or need a refresher. Since it’s been so long since I played the first game, my memory of it is pretty hazy at this point. But I remembered the gist of it, and luckily the story of Ultimax doesn’t rely too much upon the details of its predecessor, so it’s fine to go in with vague idea of the first game’s plot. The story is told visual novel style, split into chapters where you’ll see dialogue between the characters, sometimes a full screen illustration or two, fight a battle, and then the cycle repeats. All the dialogue during the chapters is fully voiced, with only the characters’ internal monologues limited to text-only. Many of the original English voice actors of the characters return as well, which I really appreciated. One of the returning voice actors is Vic Mignogna, the voice of Junpei Iori from Persona 3, which I really appreciated because he has a distinctive voice, and he also voiced Edward Elric in the English dub of both Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood!
The story is comprised of 3 “episodes,” each of which follows a different main cast. They all fit loosely around the same narrative, just with different characters for some scenes and some events happening differently. The story in each one was pretty enjoyable. The characters didn’t get a ton of character development, but there were still some nice character arcs in some of the story routes. One of the story routes was paid DLC in the original release, but it’s included in this version, which is nice.
Since this is a fighting game, I should probably talk about the actual fighting about now. I’ve played very little of traditional fighting games in the past. My history with the genre consists of some Soul Calibur II on GameCube, Persona 4 Arena, and then the Super Smash Bros. series, which is pretty different from a traditional fighting game like this one, so it doesn’t really help me here. The basics are easy enough to pick up, but with a high skill ceiling for those willing to really learn it. You have four different kinds of basic attacks - weak attacks, strong attacks, weak Persona attacks, and strong Persona attacks. There’s more options available by pressing different combinations of buttons at the same time, and that’s how you do things like throws or special attacks that cost HP to use. I’m definitely not very good at this kind of game, but I enjoyed Persona 4 Arena in the past, and after playing through the tutorial in Ultimax, I was able to hold my own in the story mode battles more or less. It helps that the difficulty of the AI in story mode seems to be very low, and until the final boss battle I don’t think I ever lost a match during the story. I later learned that you can change the difficulty of the Story mode in the menus, and apparently it starts on Normal, but it always felt easier than Arcade Mode’s Normal difficulty to me.
I played a bit of Arcade mode too, and there you get to select a difficulty ranging from Safety all the way up to Risky. I started on Easy mode, just one step up from Safety, and that was a good fit for my skill level. Although, I was able to make it through Arcade on Normal mode too by the end of my time with Ultimax, so I must have improved a bit! My strategy is pretty simple - I try to find easy combos, and just execute those repeatedly. I struggle a bit whenever the enemy starts a combo against me. You can guard by holding the directional input away from your opponent, but I only remember to do that sometimes, and if they break through that with a grab or low attack I don’t do a very good job of recovering or breaking out of their combo. Still, I had fun studying the move lists for each character and trying to execute some of button combos for their special attacks. I’m not very accurate at the directional inputs for those, so I often wind up doing a few regular attacks before I get the special.
Some special attacks can only be used if you have enough SP saved up, which you gain by landing attacks on the opponent. These are flashier, and when I remembered they existed it was always satisfying to use them against my opponent. There’s also an auto-combo feature built in, where if you basically mash the weak attack button several times against the enemy, you’ll do a basic simple combo ending in a skill, including one of the skills that costs SP provided you have enough when doing the auto-combo. I tried not to rely on this too much since I wanted to learn the game on a basic level at least, but I definitely fell back into using auto-combos several times throughout my battles.
That about wraps up my experience with Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. There’s a lot to this game I didn’t touch, most notably the online multiplayer. Maybe I’ll try it someday just to see how badly I get crushed. I really enjoyed the modes I played though, and I may go back and play more Arcade mode at some point. If you’re a hardcore fan of either Persona or fighting games, this game is definitely worth playing. I think you can guess which of those camps I fall into! My final time for this one was 19 hours 54 minutes.