Love Persona 3 Reload? You Need to Play the Persona Fighting Games

The story isn’t over.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Persona 3 Reload is a massive remake that doesn’t just update the gameplay and visuals, but adds a host of new narrative wrinkles to already beloved characters. Despite the popularity of the fourth and fifth games, Persona 3 is still the best story the franchise has ever told, largely because of its tragic undertones. But that story doesn’t end with Reload, or even the upcoming The Answer DLC. If you can’t get enough of the likes of Mitsuru or Junpei, you need to do yourself a favor and grab the Persona 4 Arena games.

Originally released in 2012, Persona 4 Arena is developed by Arc System Works, the renowned studio behind hit fighting games like Guilty Gear and Dragon Ball FighterZ. A year later the studio released an expanded sequel called Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, which contains the full story of the first game as well as a new one.

Arc System Works has built a name by adapting other franchises into a fighting game format, and the Persona 4 Arena games are by far one of the best examples of that. The core fighting mechanics are fantastic and brilliantly infuse Persona’s combat style into a 2D fighter. But what’s most surprising about the Arena games is their story.

The Arena games smartly adapt elements of the series, letting you summon your Persona during matches.


There’s a small caveat here — as you may have guessed from the name, these games are sequels to Persona 4. But in the same vein, they’re also follow-ups to Persona 3. It absolutely helps if you’ve played through the events of Persona 4, as well as Persona 3 Reload.

Arena picks up just a few months after P4, and two years after the tragic ending of P3. A strange new Midnight Channel has appeared in the sleepy town of Inaba, leading to a paranormal crisis. The Investigation Team sets out to try and solve things, but they soon run into a group calling themselves the Shadow Operatives, made up of SEES members from Persona 3.

What’s fascinating about the story of the Arena games is how it gives us a glimpse into the future of the SEES members, including Mitsuru, Akihiko, Ken, Aigis, Koromaru, and Junpei. The story feels like a direct extension of Persona 3, heavily building off the lore of The Dark Hour, anti-shadow weapons, and more.

The entire story is told in a visual novel-style format interspersed with fighting matches, but what really makes it shine is strong writing. Even though these are fighting games they manage to weave in some of the more grounded themes of the Persona games. We don’t just see the paranormal threat but also get to learn vital details about these characters. Yukari has hit it big with an acting career, Ken is desperately trying to live a normal student life, and Junpei finds happiness by teaching Little League baseball.

The story in Arena plays out in fully-voiced visual novel segments, and it’s strongly linked to the lore of Persona 3.


It’d have been easy to throw a story mode into a fighting game as an afterthought, but instead, the Arena games layer on rich storytelling that expands on the characterization of the casts from both games. On top of that, some fascinating new characters grace the stage and fit in naturally. Labrys is an anti-shadow weapon that suffers from the same identity crisis as Aigis, which makes their interactions more meaningful. Then there’s the villain, Sho Minazuki, a red-haired young man who loathes Persona users because they have a power he doesn’t. He’s one of the most complex villains the franchise has ever seen, with some incredibly close ties to the cast of Persona 3.

More than anything, the Arena games don’t just feel like fighting game adaptions of the series, but genuine Persona experiences. The fighting mechanics smartly weave in elements like summoning Personas and status effects, while the story contains all the dynamic narrative themes you’d expect. There are plenty of other Persona spinoffs out there, but Persona 4 Arena Ultimax remains at the top of the pile because of how it doesn’t just bring back beloved characters, but meaningfully advances their lives. All of this makes Arena Ultimax a hidden gem that fans, especially Persona 3 fans, shouldn’t overlook.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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