Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: PS4, PS3
Tested on: PS4
Persona 5 – Review
It’s no secret that Persona might just be the flagship of the Shin Megami Tensei universe that has been around since 1992, and thus many fans were awaiting the release of Person 5. After a reasonable amount of spin-offs of Persona 4, such as a fighting game and a dancing title, the moment finally came that Persona 5 was announced and it was clear that this game would also be designed with care to properly do justice to the SMT universe. We were lucky enough to find ourselves becoming the Phantom Thieves we never knew we wanted to become, but hell, it was a lot of fun.
Truth be told, it’s very tricky to describe the story of Persona 5, or at least know where to begin painting the picture. You, the unnamed protagonist, tried to interfere in a case where a woman was being assaulted, but the guy who was doing said crime had a lot of connections with the law in his favor. You get convicted to a year on probation, and this is why you have to move to another town, with another school, under the care of a grumpy bar owner, who clearly has a bigger heart than he likes to show. Mild spoilers may follow, but we keep those to a bare minimum.
From here on out, you wish to live a normal school life, but not only has the news that you have a criminal record spread even before you start your first day, you have an issue where a weird app constantly shows up on your phone. When all of a sudden you run into a fellow student on the first day you are supposed to go to school, he mentions something about the gym teacher, who is clearly an asshole, that he treats the school as his own castle. When all of a sudden you find yourselves hurrying to school, you encounter a castle on the spot the school is supposed to be, with the gym teacher, Kamoshida, as its king. That being said, while this situation itself is already weird, you notice odd monsters and people being abused by the supposed ruler of the castle. When you manage to escape, thanks to a cat-like creature, who claims to be human, it becomes clear that you have special powers, which allow you to enter the hearts of people. The latter is only possible with people who have such warped and distorted evil desires, that they create a ‘palace’ in a different universe. Nonetheless, stealing the treasure from said bastion will give them a change of heart, which makes them confess their crimes. All people have desires, and for the most part this creates a global universe with shadows in it, but those who have really strong desires create their own fortress.
Logically, it starts off as a quest to take down Kamoshida, who clearly treats his students poorly and even goes as far as abusing them or even sexually harassing them, but eventually your group decides to tackle more and more sick people, in order to make the world a better place. Of course, getting noticed is a part of the story, as it starts off with you being caught, and then you start playing all of the flashbacks. It’s clear that this game is all about its story and as always, this series knows how to deliver. You can make alterations to the thread that runs through everything thanks to the choices you make and the bonds you form, but most of it is set in stone.
Persona 5 is an incredibly creative title, in pretty much all aspects, but graphically the game is a delight. Of course, the game doesn’t always test the capacities of your PlayStation 4, but with the anime-like style a lot can be forgiven. Nonetheless, most of the normal world environments are much akin many high school drama anime series, and they look spiffy, it’s the Palaces and other otherworldly experiences that truly steal the show in this game. The usage of bright contrasting colors in the game is sublime, and even the end of battle results is brought in a very interesting and original way, which makes it quite pleasant to see the different result menus.
While the world is limited to fairly small locations or a ‘room by room’ based format for the dungeons, there is still enough diversity to keep things interesting from start to finish. The characters are very appealing, and even the ‘faceless’ normal characters that roam around the world are done in a fairly interesting way. The enemy shadows that will cross you on your journey will probably ring a bell for many Shin Megami Tensei players, as these are ‘all’ monsters from said franchise, thus you’ll see many familiar faces with upscaled graphics.
The implementation of well drawn anime sequences also adds a lot of value to the game, as they highlight certain moments in the game. It also makes the game feel a lot more personal and it shows that a lot of work was put into designing this title.
Atlus never disappoints in this department either, as all key dialogues are fully voiced, safe for the banter in dungeons, or the things you do on a day-to-day basis in the game. The English cast does a very convincible job and it never feels like they’re overacting. The music is a tad harder to describe as in some cases the soundtrack has an eighties vibe to it, albeit with a more modern pace. Most of the time the music is subtly placed in the background, but during battles or key moments things get a bit rowdier to pump up your adrenaline levels.
Persona 5 is a fairly traditional JRPG that loosely situates itself in the Shin Megami Tensei universe, which means that fans of the franchise will see a lot of familiar monsters. The game will revolve around the Phantom Thieves, who will live a normal school life during the day, but tackle corruption at night. The latter is done by completing dungeons, which are formed by one’s distorted desires. Thus it means you’ll be diving into a dungeon that is actually within the heart of a wicked person, or later on, the dark feelings of all the people in the area.
The parts in which you lead a normal school life are pretty much necessary for you to forge bonds with possible allies, learn new skills, raise stats, buy gear and so on. This portion of the game is semi-free, which means you can opt to cram all your time in studying, instead of raising your guts, or vice versa. Other than that, you’re free to roam around in different locations, trying to talk to new people, or discover new places in which you can work on your stats or buy new items. That being said, while you are granted a certain amount of freedom, the game often forces you to head in one direction to complete certain events.
The meat of the game is found in the combat portions, the palaces and/or the mementos zone. The latter is quite similar to the palaces, but is mostly used for smaller requests and to train when you wish to grind a bit. Combat is done in a turn based format, where you and three team members attack the monsters, otherwise known as personas. It’s possible to gain a first strike when you attack a monster cluster from behind, which allows you to let all of your characters strike first. While your teammates have to stick with only their awakened persona, you can switch between the monsters you’ve caught or fused. The latter is a very fun mechanic the game has to offer, which we’ll dive into in a moment. The further you progress in the game, the more important it becomes to exploit the weaknesses of your targets, as you can down them quicker, convince them to join you, hand over their items, or simply do a massive combined attack to finish them off in a single turn. You’ll also notice that most dungeons can’t be cleared in one go, and that recovery items, as well as upgrading your gear become rather important.
As mentioned above, you’ll be able to persuade monsters to join you, as you’re the only one who can possess the powers of multiple persona. At the beginning you’ll only have a few slots to capture persona, but as the game progresses you can persuade more and more beings to join your cause without having to decide which one to cut loose because your slots are filled. After a while you’ll also be able to fuse two personas together, in order to create a new and stronger version, which will certainly aid you in becoming stronger yourself. This mechanic has a bit of a Pokémon feel to it, as you’re able to collect a decent amount of strange beings, and fusing them together unlocks even more fun monsters. Perhaps this is also one of the motivational factors to keep grinding to gain more shadows to transform and try out new combinations.
Overall the difficulty of this game lies in grinding enough when you’re playing on a higher difficulty, but also in making the right choices what to do in your spare time. For the latter, it isn’t always easy to know what the options are to train your stats, earn some money or simply hang out with your confidants. Nonetheless, it’s quite fun to mess around with the different options, and if you’re a newcomer to the genre or series, it’s no shame to start off on the easy difficulty setting. Story enthusiasts can choose an even lower difficulty setting if desired.
Person 5 is truly a great continuation of the series, with a brand new story that throws you back in a familiar Shin Megami Tensei title, be it a standalone title. The game is a solid JRPG with plenty of things to do, many goals to achieve, and above all, many monsters to encounter, capture and fuse together in order to make even stronger monsters. This Pokémon-like mechanic, as well as the grand story and the captivating characters is more than enough to keep you occupied for several weeks, if not longer.