Persona 5

It’s time for a new game review! While I have some others pending, it’s been such a long time since I played some of those games that I might have to go back for some studying or even replay some of them. However, recently a special colleague of mine turned me onto something new and ever since I’ve started playing it, I’ve been engrossed. I finished this game a month or so ago, though I never thought I would have given how much content there is! By the way, have I mentioned the game in question is Persona 5? This game was developed by Atlus and was released in 2017. The only other game I’m familiar with from this studio is the bizarre perversion Catherine; much like that title, Persona 5 is designed with Anime-styling in mind and has some otherworldly subject matter. However, if you’re a fan of RPGs and looking to get a bang for your buck, this game might be worth it for you. I must say I’m very much enjoying it and I was definitely sad when it was over, to the point where I actually started playing it again right after! Without further delay, here is what I believe makes Persona 5 a great buy!

Easy to jump into and start playing.

The ‘5’ in Persona 5 can be pretty off-putting, making you believe you are missing out on games 1 through 4. Thankfully, this title was in such a long development period that it would seem the developers spit out a pretty singular game. Bottom line? One doesn’t need prior knowledge of the Persona universe to play this game and fully enjoy it. My understanding is that each game features its own array of different characters and story-lines, making them quite independent of each other. The only inherited characters are the ‘Personas’, types of monsters that exist in a parallel universe referred to as the ‘Metaverse’. The story takes place in modern-day Tokyo and follows some pretty dynamic students who travel into this Metaverse to solve underlying problems that are affecting people in the real world. As the game progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the magic of the other universe is spilling into the current one and massive catastrophe is looming unless the matters are resolved by your group of ‘Phantom Thieves’. The Thieves received that name based on the major story premise that they target a wildcard “bully” in the real world, travel into their metaphysical dungeon-world, and steal their heart back to make them into a better person. Further and further into the gameplay, though, this mission becomes increasingly twisted and more difficult. The good news is that the game provides in-depth tutorials and hints for almost every thing. Perhaps the hardest thing to keep up with will be the exam questions, unless you’re way smarter than I am and happen to know those answers!

The liberating freedom to develop how you want to.

Unlike most games where time is a very scarce concept (with some games always having daytime, while others may run on a 60-minute cycle…), Persona 5 works with a very specific day-to-day calendar up until the last event of the game. Each day, the player dictates what events occur between the ‘after school’ to ‘evening’ brackets of time. You can hang out with certain characters to build strategic relationships, go to work to earn money, study at school to become smarter, or even explore ‘Momentos’, one of the parallel universes in the games where one can level-up against the monsters known as Personas. Every action provides some type of benefit to the main character (you) and will critically determine how well you progress through the story-line. Building relationships is essential in this game, as deeper bonds with certain characters allow for stronger stats in the battlefield and all kinds of additional benefits. Be careful, though, because although the game is lengthy and the days can seem expendable, there will come a point in the game where you wish you had more time to get more things done.

A long journey ahead.

Persona 5 is no quick game. Once the Metaverse and Momentos portions become clear, there is A LOT to do for the main story and in terms of side missions. After my play-through of the first Palace (the fancy term for dungeon in this game), I felt like I had pretty much finished half the game; I WAS VERY WRONG. The Palaces are jammed pack with so much exploration, fighting, rewards, and secrets, that it is alarming to think the game has 7+ of them. Each time a Palace is located, the player has around a calendar month to finish it before a specific deadline (wherein I assume if you fail, it’s game-over?). This is where that concept of time comes back into play. In the real world, the days can escape you quickly, but in the Metaverse, time flows differently and the Palace CAN be played through fully in one single day (providing you have the best resources and tools to ration your SP). Because of the strategic thinking it will take to plan out which days to go into the Metaverse versus which days to stay in the real world and strengthen your skills, the game becomes even longer to play through because of the mass potentials and consequences. Think things through before wasting time!

One set of crazy stories and characters.

I think at this point it’s safe to say that Japan is a weird place and entertainment in Japan, especially in Manga/Anime, can get very strange. Persona 5 is no exception to this and you will notice that right-away. The first plot-line (referred to as the Kamoshida Palace) features a narcissistic gym teacher who beats his male students and sexually assaults his female students. There are suicide attempts and bouts of depression that follow. While I realize this can sound a bit freaky, the more hardcore subject matters plays into the strength of the many protagonists this story has. There are 8 core members that make up the Phantom Thieves, and even more special characters that tie-in as Confidants in the story. Each one is very different and lovable in their own way, perhaps catering to something each player me like. You have the freedom to decide who to grow the closest too and who to spend the most time with. In fact, because there are so many key characters, it will often be challenging to decide who to carry into battle and who to leave behind, but the game’s length and content allows for plenty of rotation. The game thrives off of a lot of bullying, especially cases where adults bully the youth. Besides Kamoshida, there are a lot of antagonists to take on in the game and bring to justice. For any fan of RPGs, this game rewards big time with a lot of dialogue, emotion, and drama.

Gotta catch’em all; Personas that is.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the general gist of Persona 5, but obviously I need to talk about why the game is named as such. Once venturing into the Metaverse, each core character takes on an alternate super-being form known as a Persona who embodies all of their heart’s wills and desires to fight. The Personas given to each character are unique and have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The main character’s Persona, Arsene, utilizes curse magic to inflict the power of darkness on foes. If we look at the second character to unlock a Persona, he uses Captain Kidd, who attacks with electric magic to shock enemies. You see the theme here? Each Persona can use different elements and each core character has a different type to offer. What really makes the story become super interesting is that the main character can actually capture any Persona opposed in battle and keep a personal collection of them to use in future battles! You can easily switch between Personas in combat to inflict all kinds of elemental and physical damage, or beef up defense tactics and use healing magic. The only sucker-punch here is that there is a limit to how many Personas can be stored, but the game offers the ability to release, merge, and create new Personas at any point. As you progress in the gameplay, you will encounter higher-level Personas as you level up your own, but it will become necessary to collect new ones to keep up with the more difficult boss battles to be faced in the closing stages of the game. Personas will use up either HP (health points) or SP (skill points) to cause damage, so there is always a price to pay. The good news is that HP can be healed using various items or even using Persona magic, but SP is hard to come by. There are very few items in the game that will restore useful amounts of SP, or they are rare, time-consuming to obtain, or quite expensive. If one runs out of SP, the Persona is either limited to only HP-based attacks or has no use at all. Alas, though, if all else fails, the characters can still use their own physical attacks or guns to inflict damage. One other thing to keep in mind? The Personas can be VERY weird. There is no way I could write this review without making reference to Mara.

Added bonus: the grooviest soundtrack ever.

ASK ANYONE WHO HAS PLAYED THIS GAME… the jazzy, upbeat, grooving music is probably the big win here. At first it caught me by surprise, but after a while I found myself singing the songs over and over again in my spare time. The funny thing about the vocal songs is that they were actually recorded in English, not Japanese, but they sound like they were horribly dubbed into English all the same. Some of the most iconic pieces are the game’s suspense music and battle theme. I don’t think there is much else I can say on this topic, other than the soundtrack does get better as the game progresses and by itself is a good listen. As always, I advocate that we support our industries, so go ahead and snag a copy of the Original Soundtrack here.

In conclusion, I have to say that Persona 5 was a very unexpected surprise. It brought back the nostalgia of my Anime-watching days and I even recognized a lot of the vocal talent used here. For purists, the dub is not too far removed from the original Japanese game, so you can expect a mostly uncut experience. Actually, you can even download the Japanese language track and play through the game that way as well.  I managed to get this game on sale as a PlayStation Plus member, but I would have easily paid the full price given the great experience I had.  I most definitely recommend taking a look at the trailers below and then getting your copy here. By the way, if you did play this game and found you loved it, there was an Anime series released in Japan and so far it’s an AMAZING adaption of the game! I hope all of you find a place in your hearts for this title as I did.