After almost nine years, Persona comes roaring back with another main series entry to blow our minds and steal our hearts. There are two no ways about it: whether you’ve already heard it or not, Persona 5 is nothing short on a masterclass on deep RPG design. With that said, there are several elements which make the whole production come together, so let’s take a look at why you can’t pass up this experience.
Game Name: Persona 5
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Release Date: 4/4/2017
Price: $59.99 (PS4) / $49.99 (PS3)
Persona 5 puts you in the shoes of an unnamed protagonist that has to start life anew in Tokyo after getting himself in legal trouble. Specifically speaking, he steps in when he sees a drunken man harassing a woman on the street, mildly injuring the attacker and wrongfully catching full blame for the situation. Though one wouldn’t guess that his situation could get much stranger, he suddenly finds that he can mysteriously enter the hearts of corrupted individuals, and along the way learns that he can reform society’s most wicked offenders by removing the source of their distorted desires. This is the birth of the Phantom Thieves, an organization of misfits who want to see change thanks to the trauma they have suffered at the hands of a world that doesn’t want them.
This is the core strength of Persona 5. The characters in and of themselves all have satisfying arcs and meaningful development, making them all likable in different ways. Though a lot of the twists in characters tend to follow certain tropes, they go through a meaningful journey with the protagonist and become much more human. Even when I accidentally ended up dating someone other than the girl I had been going after nearly the entire game, I found it hard to be upset because I had seen the protagonist go through so much with her that a relationship was entirely believable.
On a broader scale though, it’s the game’s message that resonated with me more than anything. It may be because I was a bit of a misfit at that point in my life as well, but through and through Persona 5’s message is staunch: nothing is truly fated, and one’s conditions can change with the willpower to see that change through to the end. Throughout our lives, many of us have likely been told that we’re worthless; that we’re doomed to a meaningless life thanks to life circumstances out of our hands. To that, Persona 5 says no. Some people may have a darkness in their hearts leading them astray, and more still may have simply been dealt a bad hand in their lives; however, that is not the final word on what they can be. With the willingness to rebel against fate and take the future into their own hands, anyone can create a change; for themselves and the world at large.
Gameplay in Persona 5 exists in two forms: school life and metaverse exploration. School life is more or less what one would expect from the name; you go to school and choose certain actions to take during any free time you have each day. This time can be spent hanging out with friends to strengthen bonds and grant new combat abilities, or partaking in activities around time to build social stats which allow the protagonist to deepen relationships that require certain attributes to pursue further (for example, if a character is having trouble speaking to others, a certain level of kindness may be needed). In reality, these segments serve to increase your potential in combat more than anything (in the short term at least), but the game’s masterful handling of characters makes that seem almost like an afterthought. Yes, gaining the ability survive an otherwise fatal blow is fantastic, but at the same time, it is at least as (if not more) satisfying to see what gets the relationship to that point.
Metaverse exploration, on the other hand, is the meat of the game: the process through which you steal the hearts of the wicked and make the world a better place. It plays like an evolved version of Pokemon where there is an emphasis on attack types and exploiting type weaknesses in enemies. Rather than simply dealing double damage though, exploiting a weakness affords the player a 1 more: or put more simply, the opportunity to take another turn. It doesn’t end there though; exploiting a weakness also causes the opponent to fall, and if all enemies are fallen at the same time, a “hold up” sequence begins. From a hold-up, the player can choose to deal heavy damage to all enemies with an all-out attack or negotiate for money and items. This gives the player a great deal of freedom as it not only makes it possible to avoid unfavorable combat with negotiation, but also allows them to choose a chance at ending a fight quickly and choosing to gain experience, money, or a likely expensive healing item out of their exploits.
Though well-designed in and of themselves, the duality of these two aspects of play blend beautifully, making for an overall excellent experience.
You may notice that this review is somewhat vague, and that is by design. Atlus themselves have disabled all sharing features within the game, and though modern Youtube and streaming culture originally made me question this, there is no doubt in my mind that it was the right move to make. All the characters, environments, and experiences that Persona 5 have to offer are nothing short of masterful, and in that same respect, I want to share in the notion that the game should not be spoiled for anyone, no matter how early on. By going in blind, all of the game’s aspects shine brighter. With that said, Persona 5 is an experience that no RPG lover should miss; with beauty in visuals, soundtrack, and story alike, it may be the best RPG experience in a good while.
*Persona 5 was provided to us by ATLUS USA for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
There isn’t much more to be said. With masterful visuals, combat, and story, Persona 5 is a beautiful foray into the RPG scene. There are some gripes that I have within the game, such as being forced to go to bed after visiting the metaverse or doing anything in the evening. I understand it’s to keep stats under control, but perhaps a system where you can start an extra activity each night at the cost of a penalty in XP or social stat gains the next day due to fatigue would have been nice. With that said though, I find it impossible to call Persona 5 anything but a phenomenal experience.
If you would like more in-depth advice on how to spend your time in the game, you can find a guide on the topic here.