Release Date: September 15, 2016 (JP)/April 4, 2017 (WW)
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Written by Jose Gonzalez
NOTE: This will be a spoiler-free review (Well, as spoiler-free as possible)
The Persona series has always been one to give you rich-driven content for your buck. Persona 5 doesn’t buck the trend at all here. While Atlus did have some fumbles promoting this game because of their strict policies regarding gameplay and streaming, many people still found ways to enjoy the game regardless. For someone who isn’t as versed in JRPGs, let alone the Persona series, what should you expect out of this game? Thankfully, none of the games are connected plot-wise so you don’t have to go back and play any of the previous games.
Story & Presentation
Persona 5’s story is simple, but also weaves in a lot of detail the player must pay attention to. You play as the main character which you can re-name anything you’d like to, but in the “other world,” you’re known as Joker. You come to find yourself being interrogated by authorities as to a chilling phenomena occurring to specific criminals roaming around Tokyo. You awaken your powers, known as a persona. Along with others you meet along the way, you recall the events that led you to the interrogation as well as discovering who’s really behind this and why.
Persona 5 excels not only in its story, but its graphical fidelity. While the game is filled with animated cutscenes that make you feel like you’re watching an actual anime, the in-game cutscenes tell a similar, but different tale. The in-game cutscenes are done extremely well with no noticeable slow down or graphical hiccups and flesh out the engine Atlus used to create the game. The in-game scenes grab your attention at the many colors used instead of the dark and drab used in modern games today. The “other world” itself is vibrant, but that’s not to say the fictional-realistic world of in-game Tokyo doesn’t look as good because it too looks like a flawless masterpiece. Some character models look great while others look grainy and not as done. You can only do so much with the tools you’re given but with what Atlus was given, they executed like champions here.
The only major complaint here is due to some of the voice acting. At times, it can be as stellar as Hollywood, and at other times, it’s about as abysmal as a backlot casting couch in the middle of bum town USA.
If you’re used to JRPGs and the Persona games, then you know what to expect. For the non-JRPG player, it can be daunting to know what to expect from Persona 5, but the game does well of explaining things as well as it possibly can.
The game runs on a daily calendar system. Starting in mid-April, your daily activities can include everything from going to school, hanging out with friends, exploring the districts of Tokyo and taking part in various activities, building social relationships with confidants on top of progressing the story.
If that seems daunting, it’s because it is. It’s daunting because you only have so much time within a given day to do anything and on some days, you’re locked into story-driven content so you’re not able to do much of anything.
These activities are also bound to your stats such as knowledge and guts and doing various things like studying, reading, or even playing video games (yes you read that right) can increase your stats. However, it felt like it took a long time to increase anything as there’s no accurate way of tracking your progression outside of the star concept that lists your five traits and how close you are to ranking one up as each stat can be maxed out to level 5.
The other “stat” in the game is the confidant leveling system. There are various people you can interact with throughout Tokyo throughout the game and leveling their bond with you in the game gives you certain benefits at certain levels. For instance, one may be able to save you from near death while another gives you reduced pricing of items, thus saving you yen.
The combat is turn-based, which for any experienced player is second nature. Though, you can only level up your combat and personas you acquire while in the other world. Every world per se has a detection meter and if you’re detected by an enemy, not only does your meter go up, but you’re also cornered by enemies and they get the first shot. However, if you’re able to ambush an enemy by using hiding spots, you get the first strike and can use your and your teammates personas to either outright kill enemies or capture them for your own use. Capturing personas can be rewarding but difficult. To start with, you’re limited with a few slots to capture new personas, but as the game progresses, you’re given more slots to use and a way to fuse personas into stronger ones.
One of Persona 5’s strongest attributes is the Velvet Room. If you’re no stranger to a Persona game, you’ll know exactly what’s going on. The Velvet Room in Persona 5 is where you’re able to create stronger personas via fusion and throughout the game, you’re given other opportunities like guillotine executions, item fusions, and even network fusions. Finding the Velvet Room is simple. To find it, there will be a mysterious blue door either at the start of a level or in random locations in Tokyo.
One drawback to fusing personas is that there are certain level requirements to fuse personas, so if you want that awesome persona you’ve had your eye on for 50+ hours, you’ve got to grind out levels to do so. So if you want a level 50 persona, you have to be level 50 or better. The other complaint I had with fusing personas is that even if you have two strong-leveled personas, it may give you a weaker level persona and you’ve just may’ve wasted two strong personas to create a weaker one, but the benefit of fusing personas comes when you can inherit powers to use for your newly fused persona. This means that you can pick and choose powers from the two personas to use with your new persona in battle.
One final part of the gameplay of Persona 5 is Mementos. Throughout the game, you’ll receive requests to enter the underground world beneath Tokyo known as Mementos. These requests are side missions but the actual world itself can be used to grind levels as each area has a different number of levels before that area is complete. The only drawback is that to access a new depth of Mementos, you have to progress the story to do so.
Persona 5’s deep and immersive gameplay brings a lot to the table and while can be a bit much to fresh players. The game does well to explain everything in a concise way. It’s graphically stunning and vibrant even in its distorted worlds of those longing for power and destruction. While it gives you an entire playground to use, you often feel limited in what you can do and have to make tough choices on how to spend your day outside of school and the story so at times, you’ll feel shackled at the thought that this is a JRPG so trying to do everything possible can seem daunting. If Persona 5 is your first foray into JRPGs or even the Persona series, by all means, give this game a head-first go.
FINAL SCORE: 9