Persona 5 is a fantastic Japanese, turn-based role-playing game that builds up from previous installments of the Persona franchise. Almost everything about it is well done from the story and characters to the environments and puzzles. Some things could be improved on or changed like how you’re forced to go to sleep after diving into the Palaces or Mementos. But it is mostly perfect for those who enjoy dungeon crawling and fighting Shadows. There will be some slight spoilers of the beginning, so you’ve been warned.
Review Score: 9/10
Persona 5 starts out a little stranger than Persona 4. A lot of things happen all at once to get things started. The protagonist gets caught by the police and then has to go through everything that happened with a prosecutor – how all of this began almost a year ago. You mostly relive the past until you catch up to the present. This game does a great job of keeping you in the dark about what will happen next for some good plot points and surprises. There was only one or two parts that I was able to predict ahead of time, but there were other times where I never saw it coming. 😉
Essentially, there are two main gameplay segments: daily life and dungeon crawling. You live as a honest, normal student at Shujin Academy, and then after school, you are the leader of the Phantom Thieves.
Persona 5 does good enough at explaining how most things work with the use of quick tutorials that you can review at any time. Basically, during your “Daily Life” you do various tasks to either increase your stats or improve your relationships with your teammates and confidants. Some of the activities are more interactive than others like going to the batting cages and fishing versus working at a convenience store, for example. Stats are important to ace tests and to get closer to those around you at certain ranks. Improving your relationships expands on everyone’s stories, which are mostly well done.
In my opinion, Persona 4 did a better job at creating strong bonds with the main cast – however, this time around in Persona 5 the side characters are better developed. I wish there were more events and opportunities to connect with your teammates, but other than that the daily life side of the game was good.
As Phantom Thieves, your goal is to stop “rotten” adults by stealing their hearts. You do this through taking advantage of the mysterious Metaverse where you invade the minds of those who have warped, twisted desires. The worst of the worst develop what Morgana calls a “Palace” that is themed or centered around their crimes and dreams. For example, one of the first targets thinks of the school as his castle since he is highly praised (or in his world “worshiped”) for his coaching despite abusing and harassing his students.
It makes more sense once you actually play the game – it’s a little difficult to explain how everything works. Every time you enter, explore, and then leave a Palace, your progress will be tracked and then one of your friends will estimate how close you are to the “Treasure”, which you have to reach before each deadline. The treasure, which varies depending on the person, is the source of their sinful desires and the core of the palace, so once you take that it’ll be destroyed. After the palace is gone, it’ll take some time before the target has a change of heart and confesses to his or her evil deeds. The Phantom Thieves work to help the weak and reform society, but many foes and obstacles stand in their way.
The dungeons are unique and well designed, though the puzzles are mostly simple and easy to quickly solve. You’ll do things like figuring out what are the right levers, what to turn on and what to turn off in order to advance, taking down the right enemies to grab keys, and so on. Shadows, monstrous beings that reflect human personalities (taking on forms of legends, myths, religious figures, etc.) are the enemies you’ll be fighting with your Personas, the power you obtain when you truly accept yourself for who you are and gain the confidence and strength to rebel against corruption.
The battles focus on figuring out enemy weaknesses and exploiting them, but not everyone has a weak-spot, so you have to knock them down either with a critical hit or the old fashioned way. You and your crew have their Personas to make use of their special, physical, and status moves, as well as their melee weapons and guns to attack with. There are many elements from the basics like Fire, Wind, and Electric to the more complicated Bless, Curse, and Nuclear ones. Each friend or teammate has their own specialties, so be sure to work with all of them. You, on the other hand, have the wild card. The fights are usually fast, but some of them are all but endurance with preserving SP when you can and consistent healing against tough bosses.
I personally enjoy the Persona 5 soundtrack, but it may not appeal to everyone. My favorite song is probably “Rivers In The Desert” that plays during the fights against the final bosses. The main genre for this game is acid jazz, which is very lively and catchy. The songs will get stuck in your head for a while. The only complaint, same for Persona 4 and probably other past Persona games, is that some of the lyrics are hard to understand unless you look up what it actually says.
All the illustrations are amazingly eye-catching! The menus themselves have a lot of attention and detail to them in this picaresque setting. Cutscenes and in-game graphics are fine too in my opinion.
I highly recommend Persona 5. Even if you haven’t played a Persona game before, this is a great starting point in the series. You don’t have to worry too much about missing anything beyond mostly references. To reiterate, Persona 5 is a great Japanese role-playing, turn-based game that you can play on either the PS3 or PS4.