I have a lot of affection for the Persona 4 Arena duology; they are kinetic, beautiful, fundamentally sound fighting games that recently supplanted Street Fighter IV as my arcade fighting fix of choice. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax also has a brief visual novel story mode, an RPG-esque single player Golden Arena mode, and a soundtrack produced by the Atlus sound team, which made it very interesting to us here at RPGFan Music. The first P4A’s soundtrack seemed like a subpar effort from Meguro et al., but this second Atlus fighting game soundtrack is a little more interesting.
My major complaint with the first Persona 4 Arena’s music was how homogeneous it was. Everything sounded like it was recorded by the same guitars, piano, and drums, and its recurring motifs and melodies had me mixing up which song was which. The P4 Ultimax soundtrack has a similar base around a few melodies, but the delivery is much more diverse. There’s a bigger variety of pop sounds at work here, with the saxophone parts in “Pink Sniper” (Yukari’s theme) and the buzzy synth brass in “A Fool or Clown?” (Adachi’s theme) sounding unlike anything else on either album. “Twinkle☆Star” (Rise’s theme) and “XOXO♥ For You” (Marie’s theme) are unabashed bubblegum pop.
The opening anime music video’s song, “Break Out of…,” is a pretty solid track. The guitar and brass in its starting riff are present for nearly the whole song, and those four bars are audible throughout the game – instrumental versions of “Break Out of…” can be heard in most of the in-game menus, and that riff snuck into both “Mr. Easy-Going Man” (Junpei’s theme) and “Youthful Spirit” (Ken’s theme). And I must say, the hip-hop stylings of Lotus Juice are a welcome addition.
There are three remixes of Persona songs in the Ultimax OST, but two of them are remixes of new Ultimax tracks and don’t appear in-game: one for “Break Out of…” and one for “Blood Red Moon” (Minazuki’s theme). The remix of the title theme replaces the guitar and brass with trippy, smooth electronica voices, and the remix of Minazuki’s theme is harsher than the original, with some industrial rock sounds supporting the guitar melody. They’re neat remixes, but probably not the most meaningful fanservice; they couldn’t remix something from Persona 3 or Persona 4 instead of from the very same game?
Oh wait, they totally did. “The Battle for Everyone’s Souls ~USH ver.~” is Margaret’s theme in-game, and it’s a brisker, dancier version of The Battle for Everyone’s Souls from Persona 3. The new version opens with an awesome harpsichord and cello intro, then settles into a club beat, complete with drums on every downbeat. “USH Version” brightens up a dark, foreboding song and fits Persona 4 Arena’s M.O. of creating energetic background music, but if you don’t like club jams or thumping bass drum for the sake of thumping bass drum, it’s probably not your cup of tea.
The Persona 4 Arena Ultimax OST has 15 fully-formed songs (including three versions of “Break Out of…”), plus a dozen jingles under a minute long that play at specific points in game. Those are your tunes for victory, defeat, new opponents, etc. A few of them are listed as “PU” codes instead of given real titles. Overall, this soundtrack matches the quick tempos, ever-present piano, and recurring motifs of the first Persona 4 Arena soundtrack, but makes more interesting musical choices and feels more pop-inspired than rock-inspired. This soundtrack is probably best experienced while focusing on on-screen action or working out at the gym, but it’s a pretty good time.