Persona 5 Review Perfection of JRPGs
Publisher: Atlus USA
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Release Date: April 4th, 2017
ESRB Rating: M
I should preface that this review is more or less a condensed version of my video review of this game. I go into much more detail within the video than I do here, so enjoy the cliff notes of said review!
“Persona 5” is the latest number entry in the Shin Megami Tensei spin off series Persona. Persona 5 is considered to many one of the most anticipated games of 2017, and after several delays and countless spin offs later, Winter 2014 has finally arrived and everyone around the globe can play Persona 5. So how does this game stand up? Does Persona 5 live up to the hype after all these years? Or is it doomed to fall victim to the overhype machine. Well, this review should provide you with some good news.
Persona 5’s story is a remarkable one. You are an unnamed protagonist who is living in Tokyo on probation after being falsely accused of an assault crime he did not commit. From here he must do his best to live a normal life as a high school student. Of course, that doesn’t go as planned; in the first hour of the game you are thrown into the first dungeon and awaken your Persona (a much quicker start in comparison to previous entries.) From here you form the Phantom Thieves, whose main objective is to use their new found ability to reform corrupted adults by going into their “palaces” and stealing their treasure to make them confess to what they have done.
Persona 5’s story also explores a lot of dark themes. Right at the start of the game, you are thrown into one of the biggest sucker punches a game’s story can give to you. It’s because of those sucker punch feelings that made me want to keep playing the games story to see the conflict resolved and the person behind them brought to justice.
The story itself never really slows down. The game is on a calendar based system just as the previous games were. You have a set amount of time to complete your mission; failing to do so means game over. That said, the game really gives you an ample amount of time to complete the things you need to do to make sure the story progresses. I never once felt pressed for time to complete a palace before the deadline. You would think because of the calendar system the game’s story would flow awkwardly if you managed to clear your objective, say, in the first couple of days or so. However, that isn’t the case. This is due to the fact you are trying to balance your life as the leader of the Phantom Thieves and a teenager, so the stuff in your free time actively feels like it’s part of the story.
One of the best things about Persona 5 is just how stylized this games is, with it flowing from every little thing you do in this game. Persona 5 is easily one of the most visually appealing games out on the market. I would find myself just going through the different menus and looking at the animations as I go through them. The design is not only flashy and gorgeous, but it’s also never too overbearing as to get across the idea that you are living in one of the busiest cities in the world. A lot of the different stills from Persona 5 could arguably be seen as works of art. The design of this game is one of the major factors that keeps this game going through your playtime, as the combat also emulates this style as well.
Like previous Persona games, the combat is pretty much the same, you can use your Persona to perform special elemental and physical attacks, and also perform buffs for your party and debuffs for your enemy. The combat is simple to learn, and offers a variety of strategies to choose from due to having the ability to wield multiple Personas at once. That said, there are a few new things that were added to the game’s combat.
Guns return from previous Shin Megami Tensei games, and they offer a bit of variety to the turn based combat. With guns you are allowed to continue firing at an enemy until your clip runs dry, granted bullets are limited. Once you’re out of ammo, you have to leave the Palace and come back the next day, so use them wisely. The advantage of using guns is that it allows you to cover a wide spread of enemies, or if you want you can continue to fire at one enemy for a damage multiplier and a higher chance of a critical hit. Once you manage to hit the enemies weakness or hit them with a critical, the enemy is knocked over, and you have the chance to perform an All out Attack, or engage in some classic Shin Megami Tensei negotiations.
Persona 5 sees the return of negotiations which haven’t been seen since Persona 2. When you down an enemy you have the chance to negotiate with them to get either money, an item or have them join your team. You will mainly be doing this to get the Persona you want to join your team. This is easier said than done though, as you must answer his questions, and depending how you answer will determine if you will get money, an item, a new Persona, or an angry shadow fighting back. While it is nowhere as fleshed out as negotiations from Shin Megami Tensei, they provide a nice addition to the game and give the Personas the same life you’d expect from an SMT demon.
Now the dungeon crawling of Persona 5 is only one half the experience; the other half comes from how you spend your free time. Similar to Persona 3 and 4, you have a variety of cast members to befriend and get to know as confidants. It is important to increase your confidant levels as not only do they help in Persona fusions, but you get some cool abilities in battle that can turn the tide in your favor. This is probably the first Persona game in where I loved all of the people you could befriend and tried my best to spend as much time with them as possible to see their stories to the end.
Outside of spending time with your friends, you can go out and spend time around Tokyo. This includes studying at a diner, going to an amusement park, staying at home playing video games and much more. It is truly up to you in how you spend your time between dungeons.
What I think is the icing on the cake for this game is the amazing soundtrack this game has. Every track in this game feels like it was tailored perfectly for the moments it is used in. From something as mundane as going to school, to going to buy questionable goods at an airsoft shop, to negotiating with demons, the music just strung everything together perfectly. Then there are the lyrical tracks. Those tracks give the game the most life, and some of them could be amazing stand alone tracks as well. I found myself constantly listening to The Whims of Fate, Rivers in a Desert, and Life will Change, while writing this review.
At the end of the day Persona 5 is the perfect dance of gameplay, music, story and design that mixes together to be the pinnacle of the JRPG genre and the best entry in the Persona series, and maybe even Shin Megami Tensei, to date. You will fall in love with the characters in this game, and enjoy a once in a lifetime story that anyone can enjoy. Persona 5 is near, if not, perfection.