When I picked up Persona 4 Arena Ultimax at Atlus’ E3 booth and started playing, I barely felt a difference between it and its predecessor. Sure there were some extra slots on the character select screen, but I was still performing pretty well as Teddie “The Beast In Heat,” pulling off the same moves and combos as I had before. On the surface, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is barely changed at all, as the core fighting mechanics remain unchanged. However, it’s when you dig a little deeper and you begin to dive into P4AU’s more complicated systems, then you begin to understand the beauty of this revision.

First off, the game has adjusted its Persona Card system, each Card being how many times a Persona can be hit by an opponent before being temporarily locked out. The new system gives less Cards to characters that don’t really need the Persona as much and more cards to those who do. The more cards a character has, the longer it takes for a Persona Break (when the Persona is locked out) to occur, but also the longer it takes to wear off, which makes up the risk/reward part of it. This tweak allows characters who need their doppelgangers to have more leniencies, while other characters aren’t as affected by Persona Breaks. While this new system basically tells you which characters are more Persona-heavy than others, it’s nice that both sides of the coin have equal risks and rewards.

The new S Hold system adds a bit more depth to special moves as well, allowing players to power up certain moves the longer a button is held down. Those who played Street Fighter X Tekken may recall that game doing the same thing with certain special moves being charged to Ultras. The lower stages just add additional SP to the meter or something like that, but holding the button down long enough could result in an instant kill for the attacker. Could you imagine entering a battle, only to lose with the first attack after your opponent pulled off a full S Hold? How humiliating.

Finally, outside of the five new characters, every character in the game now has a Shadow form, heightening abilities and stats and gaining extra attack options. They are essentially “EX” characters from other fighting games, but every character getting a Shadow form essentially doubles the playable roster. Shadow forms will require different strategies from the normal forms, so choosing a Shadow will be like choosing a whole new character. Shadow Teddie, for example, played way differently than his normal counterpart in my demo, forcing me to go back to the normal one.


Making a fighting game out of a RPG is sure to bring some of those RPG fans to a new genre, but making an update to the first game without a lot of noticeable changes is sure to leave some of those RPG fans scratching their heads. Fighting fans will have a lot of new intricacies and systems to learn, so they should be set. No matter the preference, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is shaping up to be a great new addition to the Persona family when it hits in late September.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will be available on Sept. 30 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.