Before starting the review, I would like to apologize for the lack of original photos of the game. To prevent spoilers, Atlus has decided that the best course of action is to completely ban in-game photo snapping. With that, this review will be filled with stock images of the game and with less quips from yours truly. While the font might be in Japanese characters, rest assured, they are not if you bought the English copy of the game.
When you ask people why they bought their PS4’s, they’ll likely give you a list of games as their reasons. Sometimes, they just wanted to stick to a brand that was with them during their childhood days. Or, they just would love to experience the exclusive games that the console has in store. However, a number of them would have told you that it was because of one sole game — Persona 5. I myself am included. I bought my PS4 not just for reviewing video games but also to anticipate the release of this title. Finally having my hands on it made a 2-year investment worth it. So without further ado, what’s with Persona 5 and why is everybody going nuts about it? Is it REALLY that much of a great game?
Reliving Life as a Highschool Student in Metro Tokyo
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series has always been known to blend the functions of a basic school kid’s life and the macabre. Since Persona 3, players have been able to take part in a world run by passing the days, together with the appointments and responsibilities, a task somehow similar to juggling a real-life schedule. But the twist is that at some point, reality bends and is transformed into a horrific fantasy world. Persona 5 is just that. The player is a transferee highschool student in his 2nd year. Due to some horrifying events, the boy is then sent into the center of Tokyo to continue his studies. Just a bit normal, eh?
During his time in the bustling metropolis, our protagonist is then hurled into a string of events that really doesn’t make any sense. Throwing logic out of the window, the hero and his friends are then transformed into the “Phantom Thieves”, a group of teenagers (with an anthromorphic cat) with the sole purpose of stealing and transforming “Hearts”. They do their heists in a world that’s separate from reality, a plane called the “Metaverse”.
Let’s just leave the explanation of the story at that. Atlus is precisely correct when they mentioned that the game is very, very, very story heavy. If you wish to play the game at its fullest, then best stop yourself from looking at those wiki pages.
Time is a foe that you’re going to go against in Persona 5. Everyday counts in this world and doing worthwhile activities does have some advantages in the combat segment of the game. As a student, going to school is a natural course of everyday life. The protagonist has to survive school, maintain relationships, get a part-time job, and still be a Phantom Thief while he’s at it.
Most parts of the game introduces an arc for a number of days. These days restrict the player in doing other activities other than to save and sleep. On certain “free days”, the player can talk to teammates and other individuals in Persona 5, and explore its recreation of Japan’s capital city. Some odd attractions include a batting center, a local fish spot, a maid cafe, and a handful of Japanese restaurants. Even with its strict adherence to the passage of time, the game still gives free rein to the player in a limited sense.
A major change in Persona 5 is that the dungeons can be categorized into two: Palaces and Mementosm the main difference being that Palaces are tied to the game’s storyline. Palaces are dungeons that are hand-crafted, offering a number of puzzles for the player to interact and solve. As they are part of the game’s calendar, these dungeons can only be explored under a specific time span. Failure to do so ends the game.
Mementos on the otherhand, is the classic Persona dungeon. As a very twisted version of the Tokyo Metro, Mementos features winding tunnels complete with wandering baddies and leftover treasure chests, all of which are randomly generated. During the story, some targets can be located and “purged” in this dungeon.
After seeing a bad guy, there are two things you can do in Persona 5. One is that you run away with your tail tucked between your legs. Two, you can just whack them as is. Doing so would then blare up the audio with some classic Persona combat theme.
The player can control four characters at a given time, the protagonist included. Each character, except the hero, has a fixed elemental affinity together with a weakness. The same goes for the enemies. If a weakness is exploited, the target is downed, and the one who exploited the weakness gets an extra turn. Downing everyone in the opposite team gives the players a chance to go “All Out”, which would then pound enemies (in flashy style and all), either giving them a large amount of damage or ending the fight with a classy image.
Combat doesn’t just revolve around that. During boss fights, certain tasks can be done to make it easier, such as sending one teammate to go around and flank. Aside from beating enemies to a bloody pulp, downing them can be a catalyst to open a box of opportunities.
“Collecting Personas is similar to capturing a Pokemon”, well you don’t get to read that everyday. In Persona 5, upon hitting a Persona’s weakness, an opportunity to talk presents itself. Options in these conversations include pilfering the Persona for money and some useful items. On the otherhand, the player can convince a Persona to join the team. Depending on the player’s answers, a deal can be brokered or not.
If all goes well, the player can use the Velvet Room, a place where Personas can be fused to make better Personas. Personas are locked in terms of their abilities and to continue surviving the game’s dungeons, the player must form stronger Personas out of the old ones.
Part of the charm of the Persona series is character romance. As an adolescent man in his prime, the protagonist can charm (*ehem* seduce) a number of women. Conversations with these NPCs or teammates can determine whether the relationship would focus more on just simple friendship or one with more than just. Sometimes, the tryst can be taken to spots in Tokyo, with opportunities to give gifts to speed up the process.
Previously known as Social Links, Persona 5 has changed the term to “Confidant” to better fit in the thievery theme. Relationships with in-game characters are not simply distractions as having strong relationships with people give valuable abilities in the game’s combat, Persona nurturing, and dungeon crawling.
Music and Design
Playing the game made me wonder, “why is this game so damn unique?” The Persona series is not just known for its quirks and character interaction, but also for its design and style. The mix of red, black, and white, makes a lasting impression even until the very end. Atlus has just used up all of the primary colors (P3 in blue, P4 in yellow) and that makes me wonder what Persona 6 would look like. Perhaps, green?
Music is definitely one thing that can be taken away once the game is finished or during break times. I do have a handful of friends that can attest that they use the game’s soundtrack during work or commute. If you want to hear them out, a lot are available in Youtube, but to support the game, buy the official track (3 CDs, 110 songs).
Now is this a game that you should be having in your library? Hell, YEAH! The game just bleeds with style and great execution that it’s very hard to find some chinks in the armor. The gameplay and design is masterfully done, making sure that not a single feature will drag the joy out of the player. Design just bleeds its way through everything the game throws in the screen. Even changing the menus and the mundane loading screens have their own characteristics. It just transforms much of what we’re used to, if I might say.
Probably the greatest strength of the game is its length. As a gamer who is pretty particular with the play times (for me they decide if the game is worth the tag), Persona 5 undoubtedly takes the cake. I clocked in at 80 hours, and I haven’t even completed everything during the span of the whole game. I still have some things left undone and the amount of bunny trails that you can do is mind-blowing. See, even if it’s not open-world, given that the design of the game allows it, gamers can still enjoy a living and breathing world.
Wait, weakness? Length? Okay, let me clarify that for a moment. While I do have all my thumbs up, my feet included, for Persona 5, I can say that I did feel a bit bummed during the latter parts of the game. Big reveals and such were going to fast and it’s like the game just makes twists like five prime-time M. Night Shyamalans combined. During this bummed up periods, I save the game, and then proceed to play a round of BF4 or Call of Duty: MW to water down the thick lacquer. Maybe it’s just me.
The challenge in itself lies in the balance of things. Persona 5 is a ticking time bomb, a game that has limits and allows players to figure things out on their own. However, it does wrest away control, allowing the gentle slow drip and seep of its honey-sweet story. It has again redefined a genre, moving the standard a tad higher. For all it’s worth, I may have found my Game of the Year for 2017. For now.
Oh, and by the way, #MakotoBestGirl.