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Persona 5 Review

The Persona series has always been one of the most unique gaming series there is and there’s really nothing else like it, even if you are a JRPG veteran. The game’s story begins with the protagonist defending a woman from a drunk man’s abuse.

But unfortunately is then falsely accused with assault. He’s then put on a year-long probation, expelled from his school, and sent to stay with a family friend Sojiro Sakura. During this time you attend Shujin Academy, make friends with fellow outcasts, and form a group of close friends.

Not too long into the school year, you and new friend Ryuji activate a supernatural app on your phone which transports you to the metaverse- a sort of parallel world that represents the distorted desires of society.

For some individuals, their desires are so distorted and twisted that they have their own palace within the metaverse. Once you and your group discover how this world works (with the help of the game’s wise-cracking mascot Morgana), you form a group known as the ‘Phantom Thieves’, and together you infiltrate these ‘evil’ people’s palaces to steal their hearts and reform them to become more honest human beings.

The game’s story does touch on some heavy themes, such as sexual harassment and suicide. The game manages to carry a certain maturity with it despite the injection of Japanese craziness!

Persona 5 review
The subway is one the places you’ll visiting many times during your stay in Tokyo.

First I need to talk about Persona 5’s masterful story-telling. The start of the game actually takes place many months into the story, but you are captured by the police and interrogated into re-telling all the events of the past year, in which you then start to play through.

It’s such a unique way to tell a story and this game does a great job of slowly building up to the present time. Each chapter of the story focuses on a new character, or ‘villian’, in which your Phantom Thieves group try to steal their heart.

There is an overall story arc to follow too, and it keeps you even more engaged while you’re enjoying every chapter’s particular story. Because this game takes place over a calendar year, the game does a perfect job of slowly pulling you along, but I don’t feel the game ever dragged on nor were any moments rushed.

The pacing of the story-telling was the game’s greatest strength because it gives you time to become so immersed and become a part of this Japanese world, and helps you form somewhat of a bond with the game’s characters. But because of this, the game requires a lot of your time.

It is a commitment that maybe not everyone is willing to make. Despite the story being slowly told, there are certainly layers upon layers of story to be told here, and all of it is so well told and is highly memorable. So if you’re dedicated enough to spend 100+ hours on it, be ready to be whisked away into a magical experience!

Persona 5 review
Each palace’s theme reflects the owner’s distorted desires.

Persona 5 has a great cast of characters, and needs a great cast, considering how much time you’ll be spending with them. Each character has their own backstory and their own problems.

Ryuji is a troubled youth who caused his running track team to become disbanded due to his reckless actions, which still gives him grief throughout the game.

Ann is the kind-hearted but fiery friend who feels responsible for her friend nearly committing suicide. Then there’s Morgana, the cat-like companion who accompanies the protagonist at almost every point in the story. There is a real air of mystery surrounding Morgana, as even he doesn’t know who he truly is.

As you progress through the story and spend more time with them, you’ll get to know them more and really become attached! It might seem silly, but I still miss having conversations with these characters and learning more about them. In the process of getting to know them, you’ll be able to help them with their problems and inner turmoils, making this game an even more touching experience.

There are other benefits to hanging out with the many characters of this game other than learning about them and helping them. Each character has a rank (known as Confidants in this game), and the more you hang out with them, the higher this rank goes.

Higher ranks give you more EXP when creating new persona, and also perks such as gaining access to more items in shops, discounts when buying/selling, easier to recruit persona, and many more! Previous games never had these perks, and I think it gives even more incentive to spend time with these characters.

Persona 5 review
Fellow outcast Ryuji is one of the first friends you make.

From a gameplay point of view, Persona 5 greatly improves in many areas from its predecessors. The main dungeons you explore are no longer randomly generated. They’re properly hand-crafted and are fun to make your way through.

They contain puzzles, shortcuts to unlock, and have treasure chests to find. I absolutely had a great time thoroughly exploring every inch of the palaces, then culminating with an awesome boss fight at the end. For those who like randomly generated dungeons, the game caters to those people in the form of Mementos, a large ever-growing dungeon that just focuses on the dungeon-crawling aspect.

While playing through this game you actually play through each and every day of the year (so you can see why it’s so long). During the day you attend school, and after school finishes you can decide how you want to spend your time, and the same goes for the evening.

For example you can study, work a part-time job, hang out with friends, or enter your next target’s palace in the metaverse to progress the story. The amount of choices you have can be overwhelming, and I believe Persona 5 has more choices than previous Persona games.

But regardless of what you decide, no choice is ever wasted because you benefit in some way. Performing certain tasks can increase your social stats, which consist of Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness and Charm. For example, studying after school can raise you Knowledge, while taking on a food challenge at the local Big Bang Burger will raise your Guts.

Raising these stats allow you to progress with certain Confidant ranks. I love how everything is tied together, meaning you’re always progressing in some way, so you’ll always feel those small bursts of satisfaction every day of the in-game’s year.

Persona 5 review
Balancing school life, social life, and life as a Phantom Thief is one of the biggest appeals to this game.

The combat for Persona 5 has largely stayed the same as previous Persona games. You’ll still be wanting to find the elemental weaknesses of each enemy and exploiting it. This puts them in a weakened state, and once all enemies are in this state, your party can perform an all-out attack which causes high damage to them all.

No matter how many times you do this, it always feels good, and you’ll generally win the battle every time. If you’re familiar with turn-based battles in other RPGs, you’ll feel right at home with this battle system. What else I like is how quick it can be to win these battles.

It can be annoying in other RPGs how if you want to explore but are constantly having to do battle after battle. It can be really off-putting to explore but this game feels right with how many battles you do and the amount of exploring that can be done. It’s fairly easy to go stealthy and strike an enemy to ambush them, allowing you to make the first move and defeat them rather quickly.

Rather than simply leveling up and growing stronger like in every other RPG, in the Persona games you must obtain or create Persona, these are similar to ‘summons’, which basically dictate your stats, strengths, weakness and skills.

The process of creating them have been improved and streamlined. More additions have been added such as strengthening your current Persona, something you couldn’t do as easily as previous games, have made the whole Persona system so much better.

Persona 5 review
Combat is turn-based with emphasis on selecting the most effective actions for each situation.

The visual style for this game is out of this world! When I first laid eyes on it, I was rather stunned. Even the menus look amazing. It’s sleek, sexy, and pure eye candy.

The music is also some of the best of the year, with its jazz-like sound or its upbeat battle music, the game always sounds great! It adds so much personality to the game, and fits the art style and tone of the game perfectly. I still get the music stuck in my head from time to time, and I still love it.

If there’s one thing that holds this game back, it would be its accessibility. This game is not only long and requires commitment, but there is a lot to learn. Having played through Persona 3 and 4 myself, I was able to comfortably slip into this game and relearn everything quick.

But I suppose if a game like this were to try to be more accessible, it may have to become more simple, and could also take away what makes this game so special. I do applaud this game for not conforming, but sticking to its guns and doing what it does best, even if that means less people being able to experience it.

Persona 5 review
The main mechanic for combat are the Persona and you’ll be obtaining many of them throughout the game.

At the end of the day, I want my games to be immersive and amazing experiences, something I will look back on as though I was the one in that world. These are the reasons I still play video games and Persona 5 achieves this just as well, if not better, as the very best games out there. This game is just perfect in every way, and is without a doubt the best JRPG in the last 18 years.

Score: 10/10


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