Persona 5 is the newest release in the Persona series by Atlus, a spin-off series from the Shin Megami Tensei series. While it may have dropped the SMT name, Persona continue to bring with it a high difficulty curve, dark themes yet brilliant gameplay. One of the few remaining turn based RPGs, Persona has been a cult classic for years, hitting mainstream with Persona 4, with 5 being its biggest release to date. With the last mainline title releasing back in 2008, fans have been eagerly awaiting another numbered title to hit their shelves.
Like the games before it, Persona 5 starts you as a transfer student into a new high-school, set as an outcast of sorts among your schoolmates. We are quickly introduced to our characters backstory, how the Main Protagonist had been framed for a crime he didn’t commit, trying to protect a woman from a drunk man. After he was unjustly arrested, given a criminal record and shipped off to a new school, our character slowly awakens to the power within him.Yet again we play as the Fool, the one who can control multiple personas, within a separate reality, this time in the form of Palaces and
Yet again we play as the Fool, the one who can control multiple personas, within a separate reality, this time in the form of Palaces and Memetos, the worlds within people’s hearts. As the story progresses you will be tasked with stealing the distorted desires of adults, from those who put fame, money and power above all else. Representing the 7 deadly sins and the corruption in humans as a whole.
Like many JRPGs, Persona is a long game, lasting well over 60 hours for your first playthrough, easily hitting the 80 hour mark or more if you spend time with characters outside of battle. With 23 social links to interact with, several side-missions to undertake, stats to max out, collectables to find, personas to fuse, items completion and more, you will easily lose yourself in this game.
Persona 5 is a turn-based JRPG through and through, you will undergo battles with 4 of your party members against several enemies within dungeons. To initiate battle you either hit their model on the map or get hit by them, allowing pre-emptive strikes or ambushes. Each character has a specific elemental affinity, giving them that elemental spell, resistance and weakness to the opposite. As the MC you can swap your personas around, giving you a more versatile combat style. You can choose to have complete control over your party, or allow them to decide what is best.
As you fight you will level up yourself and your personas, increasing health and SP for skills, along with skill unlocked through personas. Money is also rewarded, which can be spent on equipment or eating at diners in the real world. Gameplay in Palaces blends beautifully into the real world, with money and personas being useful both inside and out.
Besides the combat side of things you will also be controlling an almost visual novel or dating sim outside of Palaces. You are given 2 time slots per day, to study and increase your stats or to interact with the NPCs within the game world. You can find lore, items and love amongst the real world, in a way that doesn’t feel forced but more a part of the world. This high school atmosphere and routine helps immersion immensely.
You are given an entire year in-game to play, with each dungeon needing to be completed within 20-30 days. It is entirely possible to complete each dungeon within 1 day, with the exception of story reasons forcing you outside. If you go slowly, you will find the game easier, whereas faster run-throughs will hit roadblocks in the form of high-powered foes or lack of SP. There has been some complaints about forced sleeping or lack of time, but these have been present in both 3 and 4. The melding of spare time and killing time feels amazing for the most part, with only 2 or 3 instances where it was a bit too forced in its time skipping.
Overall thoughts and feelings
As usual, Persona keeps to a high-quality and high-class soundtrack, fitting to both the areas and themes at play. From dark rock tunes in bosses and palaces to smooth, energetic or calm jazz within coffee shops. While it does feel like P5’s soundtrack is smaller than previous releases, the songs that do play are catchy, fitting and beautiful to listen to. Some of the songs are even suiting to a study environment, putting the OST in the background as you study in real life.
Persona 5 continues the SMT style of “Don’t pay attention, get killed”. You will need to focus on the Pokémon like mechanics of elemental weaknesses, guessing enemy attacks and formations of your team. The Once More mechanic makes a return, giving you a free attack if you deal critical damage or hit a weakness. This mechanic is also available to the enemies, giving them more attacks. You don’t have to grind in Persona, as careful planning and items will often save the day, but levels will help survivability nonetheless.
Persona has had a hard time hitting the mainstream, with the first 3 games staying as cult classics, Persona 3 moving to the new style of “dating sim”, milking of 4 and finally 5. The persistence has seemed to have paid off, with P5 being the best release for the series thus far. The over-the-top style, aesthetic and love poured into the game is felt in almost all aspects, from menu transitions to the movements of the characters.
Persona 5 gets a 10/10, it improves all of the mechanics and ideas from its previous releases. The map is bigger, the battles more flashy and the story has moved to an even deeper meaning. Pushing aside any nit-picks at company decisions, aesthetic DLC and newer player complaints, Persona 5 is the pinnacle of the series’ new style. For fans of the series, you will absolutely love P5, newer gamers should also love the game as it is the best one in the series in my opinion. Now, it is time for me to go to sleep.