Persona 5 is the slick JRPG experience we’ve been waiting for with bated breath. It not only stands apart from the previous titles in a unique way, but gives you a world to lose yourself to for a whole year, and wish it was longer.
This is a game I’ve been waiting for personally since the first announcement, and one of the few titles I actually believed would be a guaranteed solid experience. The Persona series seems to have achieved a baseline of quality that follows the same rough structure since the third title. Fighting shadows, making friends, going to school and saving the world, all over the course of an entire year of game time. Unlike previous titles, and frankly any game I can really think of, the driving theme and core drive behind the game this time is being the Phantom Thieves. It’s not a theme I’ve really experienced before, and certainly not in this style. While this is well and truly a Persona title, it is first and foremost the story of a group of outcasts becoming the infamous Phantom Thieves of Tokyo. Trying to reform society as you commit heists, sneak into a variety of dungeons and steal the hearts of the corrupt. While I don’t want to say much on the story than that, suffice to say it’s well worth the many hours you’ll be investing.
It’s not all flashy outfits and grand heists though, when you’re not stealing the hearts of corrupt members of society, you’re just another part of that society. You go to school, attend classes, get part time jobs, make friends and everything else a normal teenage gets up to. It becomes a delicate balancing act of managing your two lives without revealing your secret identities or failing your mid-terms. On paper that might not sound amazing, but well, it just is. You’ll have to spend your days choosing between planning the next heist, leveling up your social stats, strengthening bonds with your friends for perks, or anything from fighting shadows to crafting infiltration tools. While Persona 5 carries across all the beloved series staples of the past titles, never before has a game nailed the dual life aspects so well. Sure, you could secure the last stretch to the treasure route after school and send out a calling card to the next target, but Ryuji really wanted to get ramen after school today and his next perk is really useful…
When you’re not being social or managing your normal life though, you’re mostly playing around with the games namesake, the persona’s. Combat hasn’t evolved drastically over the series years, because hey if it isn’t broke, keep fusing with it. Battle is easy to grasp without lacking any depth, as the turn based combat often becomes a dance of stealth, tactics and exploiting any weakness you can find. Between melee, guns and the persona’s themselves you have at least ten different elements to play with and master, the proper use of each often becoming the line between any battle being a smooth execution or going horribly wrong. It’s an elegant system that revisits some of the older mechanics in the series to keep things fresh, while introducing some new style and depth to something that was already exactly what it needed to be.
Speaking of Persona’s though, collecting and fighting persona’s is a game in its own, as you need to juggle hundreds of different persona’s with their own strengths and weaknesses for each combat situation, including managing your party and everything that comes with that in classic JRPG fashion such as levelling up, managing gear and agonising over skills and abilities. You can be as involved or as indifferent to this as you desire, but for those looking to truly master the game, it becomes a fairly in-depth system of fusing old ones together to make new, ideally better, persona’s to use. If you can’t make anything new with what you’ve got though, you can sacrifice them to strengthen a favourite, turn them into skills and gear, or throw them into the void of the internet and see what comes back. There’s a lot of crafting and management to get into if you desire it, but you can also take the game as it comes if the velvet room just isn’t your thing. You’re doing it wrong, and should feel bad, but you can.
If there was a truly a standpoint point though, it would have to be the general tone and style of the whole game. I keep using words like slick and stylish to describe it, and that’s for a good reason. From the art style to the music, Persona 5 just has so much character oozing from its world. Each music track feels unique and special. Everything from the options menu to the title screen pops with bold colours and silhouettes, while the dungeons themselves have some truly great sights and settings. The character of the world can be felt in every aspect, be it the metaphoric meanings or the artistic ones, Persona knew what it wanted to be and achieved that goal in strides. Even the dungeon design has taken a step up from the previously randomly generated affair. Each location of your next heist has a real goal and unique challenges and mechanics to counter. Whether it’s spending time with the games extensive cast, battling it out to some great jams or just enjoying Tokyo life, Persona has a lot going on and a year just isn’t enough to see it all.
Persona 5 not only manages to improve upon the well-loved mechanics of the older titles, but really stands apart as something new. It both goes back to some of its Shin Megami Tensei roots as well as trying new directions with a fresh perspective. It’s slick, stylish, fun and tells an engaging tale of Phantom Thieves stealing from the corrupt and fighting against a modern society of injustice. It’s one of the best games I’ve played in years, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get a similar kind of gem on the market again.
Worth a Go?