The re-release of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a reminder that Atlus can do better

The history of a great developer’s questionable choices and how they can grow from them.

Image via Atlus

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the latest release from Atlus. It’s part of a hot streak of releases the past few years that are all high quality titles, whether new, remastered, or an updated re-release. Despite this, in almost every one of these releases, Atlus has made odd decisions. Whether that be lack of feature parity across platforms or frustrating console exclusivity, Atlus limits its own success with this anti-consumer practices. 

The PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC versions of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax are all selling for the same price of $49.99, but each version isn’t of equal value. Don’t get it twisted, Ultimax is a great game, but this release came with a few drawbacks. Rollback netcode will be coming this summer only to the PlayStation and PC versions of the game. The lobby multiplayer mode is only on PlayStation, making it the only complete version of the game, but the Switch and PC versions are being sold for the same price. I’m not a game developer, but I don’t see how Atlus couldn’t have released Ultimax on one platform like the PlayStation 4. Then, after receiving the sales money and getting extra dev time,  release the full version  on other platforms so they’re all of equal value. Similar to what Atlus did with Catherine Full Body.

That release too, though, had its own problems. The adult-themed puzzle game got its updated re-release in 2019 on PS4 (and eventually on Switch in 2020), but it came out first in Japan. There, it  received a Vita version that was eventually canceled for its western release. It is understandable that Atlus made the decision. It was so late in the Vita’s life cycle and was a poorly supported device. Still, it would have been nice if Atlus did at least a digital-only release on the platform outside of Japan.

The exact same situation happened with two more Atlus titles; Persona 3 Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5 Dancing in Starlight. Both titles lost their Vita version out West. Alongside its release however Persona 4 Dancing All Night finally was freed from being a Vita exclusive getting a digital release on PlayStation 4. There was, and still is, a catch. The only way to get the game is through the Endless Night Collection, a bundle that includes all three Persona Dancing titles. It cannot be purchased separately, which is simply unnecessary.

Then, of course, there is Persona 4 Golden, which got a remastered PC port back in 2020 and still has yet to be released on any modern console. With the release of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, every canonical sequel to Persona 4 Golden is now available on contemporary consoles while the origin story is still nowhere to be seen. Granted, it is the franchise’s 25th anniversary. Maybe Atlus wants to save this highly requested release to celebrate the franchise, but as of right now we are left out in the dark.

In my opinion, Atlus is one of the best developers in the gaming industry. It constantly releases, at worst, great games. Yet it makes bizarre decisions that feel like the studio is shooting itself in the foot. If the time and effort were put in the right direction, it seems like these mistakes could easily be accounted for. Atlus should have a good enough financial blanket with Sega, that if the studio needs to focus on one platform for their upcoming games at first, then that’s what they should do. Focus on one version and then decide whether or not to release on more platforms after. We’ve seen it work before. Shin Megami Tensei V went off without a hitch last year and Atlus has a rich catalog of over ten 3DS titles with next to nothing to complain about. Hopefully, Atlus can be at a place where we get fantastic games without weird stipulations moving forward.