After a plague of delays, Persona 5 is finally here. With that said, the last numbered entry was a whopping nine years ago; this mixed with the fact that Playstation’s following has grown massively since the PS4 means that there will be a great deal of newbloods coming into the franchise with this installment. Persona 5 offers a fantastic RPG experience, but it takes some longer to grasp the mechanics than others; in that, this primer is meant to speed up the learning process and give players a leg-up in their budding careers as phantom thieves.
Waste Not, Want Not
Though there are many high concepts in play throughout the game, proper management of resources is crucial. This applies to everything from time to relationships to personas and combat. As every day passes you, as the protagonist, will have access to a multitude of activities to pass time: reading, eating, hanging out with friends, indulging in the town’s many activities, and dungeon crawling. Every choice can make a difference, so it’s worth taking a look at what each of these options offer you.
Relationship Building: Throughout the game you will meet several people with whom you will be able to forge and build relationships. Each of these relationships will provide you with various bonuses depending on who it is, and those bonuses will open new possibilities in the ways of combat, item acquisition, persona strength, and more. Of course, the stronger your bond with an ally, the longer it will take to build to the next level. This means that unless you’re certain about wanting to increase certain bonds, it may be more prudent to cover your bases and see what other bonuses you can squeeze out of your allies.
Don’t forget: on average you only get one or two actions to take per day, so be sure that you can still accomplish your goals in good time when building bonds.
Activities: When not building relationships with your friends, there are several activities which you can partake in alone around town. There are plenty of activities, such as: eating at a cafe, visiting the batting cages, studying, working a part-time job, going to the movies, and many more. These serve to build a set of attributes: Guts, Charm, Kindness, proficiency, and knowledge; none of these have a direct influence in combat. Instead, they shape your interactions in the social aspect of the game. For example, at first the weapons vendor will only offer a small selection of items unless you’re tough enough (have high enough guts) to handle better stuff. Proficiency allows you to make more tools for dungeon crawling (such as lockpicks for chests), kindness will allow fer certain people to be more willing to talk to you, ETC.
As for specific activities, be sure to explore all your options (as daunting as that may be) as many activities may build unexpected stats, and many activities are not locked to building a certain stat. For example: at the cafe you may have the option between a bottomless coffee and a nostalgic steak. The coffee builds guts because you had the gall to sit in a booth for hours having only ordered a coffee. On the other hand, the steak will increase your kindness because it reminds you of a simpler time. Likewise, books and movies will build different stats based on their subject matter, so be sure to see what’s available.
Speaking of books, always have one or two unread ones on you at all times. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on your train ride to school, you will be have time to read, meaning you will get to build stats without spending a timeslot.
Dungeoneering: There’s no two ways about it: exploring a dungeon will take up a whole day. In the evenings, depending on your progress, you will have a handful of activities to partake in. Once you’ve come back from a dungeon crawl however, you will be too tired to do anything else and must go to bed for the day. Be sure to make the most of every trip you take to a dungeon, because if you find yourself going more often than you need you, you will be missing out on activity time which in turn means fewer supplies, abilities, and persona options will be available to you to further your war efforts.
Of course, how far you can go in a dungeon depends on how well you can manage some other resources…
Going through dungeons is the combat portion of Persona 5, and as such, it comes with its own set of resources to manage as well. A single trip will never be enough to delve through an entire narrative dungeon, but your ability to properly control the tide of battle will dictate how much headway you can make. Naturally, your resources are HP (health) and SP (skill points). Run out of the latter and you can’t cast any more skills/spells. Run out of the former and it’s game over. Being overly stingy with your SP means doing less damage which means enemies stay alive longer and can hurt you more. At that point you either A: use the SP anyway to heal, or B: run out of expensive health items and either resort to option A or have to turn back. On the other hand, spending your SP frivolously means you run out quicker, meaning your healing options become more limited (and expensive) and certain fights will become extremely problematic.
Persona 5‘s combat is built with this balance in mind, so there are strategies that need to be taken into consideration.
- Always make a conscious effort to discover your opponent’s weakness. This may burn through SP quicker than you might like, but if you manage to find and exploit the enemy’s weakness, they will fall (sort of like a stun state) and open new options to you.
- Don’t be afraid to use high SP skills. Yes, it hurts to see a lot of SP go at once, but making the entire enemy team fall or causing a particularly strong enemy to lose their turn makes it worth it for the HP you saved.
- Learn everything you can from your enemies. This means learning what moves they use, how mush punishment they can take, and where they lie in the turn order. This can vastly turn the tables in a battle; for instance: there were singular enemies that made up for the fact that they were alone by having access to skills that could wipe my whole team in two uses. However, I got around this by noting that if I ambush one, their turn came once after my last party member and once again after my first member’s next move. By exploiting that fact, I learned to have my fourth member inflict sleep on them and not attack with my first. Neglecting to attack in that one moment robs them of both turns and allowed for two full rotations of my team before it could act: plenty of time to finish the job.
- Do whatever it takes to skate by. I kind of covered this with the last point, but it bears repeating. There are enemies that will grind your party to dust if you’re not careful, so you have to know what options are available to you at all times. Even if that means weaseling out.
As a side note, don’t be afraid to abuse safe rooms. If you think it’s about time to head back but come across a new safe room, save and try your hand at making it to the next one. If your resources end up being too scarce, you’ll be no worse off for it. This can save you additional trips in rare cases that certain areas only have narrative to show with no combat.
After the Fall
Causing all current enemies to fall will cause a “holdup” state and give you a couple of options: go for an all-out attack on all enemies, negotiate with one enemy of your choice, and break out of the holdup state (for our purposes, only the first two are particularly important). The first is rather simple: you are rewarded for exploiting enemy weaknesses and can do massive amounts of damage to all enemies without further resource usage.
Negotiating (talking) allows you to bargain for the enemy’s life. You can ask them for money or an item (there is a third option which for spoiler purposes I will not talk about), and depending on a variety of factors they will oblige or decline (the latter of which will cause them to snap out of their fall state and attack you). The downside to talking is that you get little to no experience from the enemy you talk to and any others that are still alive at that point should you be successful. However, this can be used to your advantage.
Remember those enemies that can destroy your team in a matter of a couple turns if given the chance? Well sometimes there are two or three of them. If you know the fight isn’t going your way and you need out fast, downing your enemies and convincing them to give you some cash can save your bacon (especially if an all-out attack won’t get the job done).
Ultimately, it is proper management of all of these resources that will give you more success in Persona 5. Wise use of time in the real world will lead to additional gear and abilities to use within dungeons, and proper resource conservation within dungeons means you have more time to play around with in the real world. It’s all one big roundabout which rewards having a gameplan at all times. This is no means meant to be some sort of Persona 5 masterclass, but hopefully it’ll get you on your feet a little faster and provide you with a few extra precious days to help you resist the ruin to come.