There are good games, and there are outstanding games. Persona 5 is a masterpiece. Though the game has some pretty annoying flaws, it more than makes up for them in a number of ways. A unique JRPG that transcends what we know of the genre, here’s my review for Persona 5.
With over 150+ hours logged into this game, I feel I’m finally qualified enough to review it. I will admit, after completing it my love for the characters within knows no bounds. I became so invested in the Phantom Thieves and their story, that it was hard to put the controller down. Persona 5 makes you face a harsh reality with its story though, and perfection does come at a cost. Still, this is one of those titles you don’t want to end.
Just check out the opening cinematic. That smooth acid jazz and the gorgeous anime sequence shows you just how huge of a treat you’re in for when playing this game.
Story: It’ll Take Your Heart
This is where Persona 5 truly shines. I’m a stickler for story and from beginning to end Persona continually delivers. There are so many well written moments, that I had to stop and marvel at everything thrown my way. Without spoilers this game tackles harsh issues, and they’re thrown at you from the moment you begin. Most importantly each new character you meet takes the story to a deeper level, every one of them fighting their own battles, hoping you’d be the one to listen and possibly be their savior. Abuse, deception, depression, bullying, murder, and more… That’s all in the first few hours. The story is told in a unique and engaging way as well, thrusting you into the future at the beginning and making you work your way towards that point within the game. You’re essentially telling your own story.
Speaking of characters though, the game is a marvel in that respect. This is a title that’s driven both by story and character, a rare feat in a game. Character is where my first complaint comes in though. The typical best friend character is returning in Ryuji Sakamoto. The one that is constantly over-the-top and a tad too annoying. The game negates this though by making it abundantly clear that all the other characters are aware of his issues as well. Then there’s Ann Takamaki. I can write an entire essay on why I love her and just how realistic and well written her main story arc is. Then the problem comes in when her confidant rank (Persona’s system for strengthening bonds between other characters) story is revealed and it undermines all of the progress her character makes in the main storyline. In the strangest move of the game, the confidant ranks of those around you outside of your party have more depth and meaning than those within. You’ll find deeper and more meaningful relationships with a rank 10 confidant in the doctor, your teacher and your biggest fan than some of your own party members.
Overall though, I’ve never been more enthralled from beginning to end. Persona 5 is like watching one of the best anime you’ve ever seen, and being able to determine how it’s played out. It’s honestly a story on another level in gaming.
Gameplay: Wake Up Get Up Get Out There!
Once again Persona does a lot right in this department, but there are still a few issues. In what makes Persona unique, they’ve gone with a button mapped menu, creating a more dynamic and engaging combat system than previous titles scrolling through menus to select the next attack. The game brings a ton of elements from Fire and Ice to Nuclear and Death magic in for players to fiddle with as well. There are a ton of Persona to create and fuse, giving players advantages that nullify or enhance damage types. You can easily spend hours just creating newer stronger Persona, mixing and matching to get the right skills and resistances for what you need. Confidant relationships will effect the way you play, giving you more options such as switching out party members, and changing the way demon negotiations and gun fights work.
Of course gameplay is much more than that. Persona is about social interactions and living a students life just as much as it is about progressing through dungeons. Time management and deciding who to spend time with, what social skills to rank, where to work, it all ties into Persona 5 as well as it did in pervious titles.
While I have no complaints on the social interaction side (aside from Morgana never letting me leave the house) there was a gameplay mechanic that continually ruined sections of gameplay for me. This was the hiding mechanic. There were too many times that I was hiding on one side of a pillar, and tried to move to another and came out of stealth. The mechanic was constantly a pain, especially getting out of stealth. It’s of course not game breaking, and it’s forgettable until it happens.
The biggest improvement though is that each palace (dungeon) is so specifically tailored to itself. There are unique puzzles, monsters and aesthetics for each level. It’s like playing a different game in every new palace. This ensures playing through palaces never gets old.
Graphics: You’ll Never See It Comin’
I won’t even touch the perfection of Persona 5 in this area. Everyone knows how gorgeous and pristine the game is. Every frame is packed, and each scene is precise. The anime scenes are a cut above the cloth as well, conveying the most subtle emotions in gorgeously rendered animation. While the big things are easy to appreciate such as dynamic menus and character design models, it’s really the little things that make Persona thrive. The attention to detail is the true standout. Those moments where characters hold their health and SP cards when it’s their turn to strike. The moments where Joker pulls his gloves up during an idle animation, the stars moving underneath cutscenes, the color scheme implemented throughout, the finesse of the loading screens, there are so many little nuances to notice that show the amount of love that’s been put into this title. There’s just not enough praise i can give to graphics department for this game.
The Not So Good
It’s so hard to find things wrong with this title, but when you do they stand out. Not because they’re THAT bad, but because Persona is so fucking perfect that little issues become enormous on a perfect background. Aside from the aforementioned issues of hiding and certain character arcs in confidants, I only have a few more complaints. The music is brilliant, but I wish there as a bit more variety. I still listen to the soundtrack on my own, but you don’t want all the boss fights in each unique dungeon to sound the same. There are A LOT of loading screens and a lot of text. Both of these aren’t real complaints but they may bother others, so be sure you know what you’re signing up for. There can be moments of burn-out within the game, but that’s just a personal thing depending on how much you play. The story while amazing, can fluctuate. Some parts are definitely better than others and certain sections can seem a bit convoluted. Even this is solved though, since you can go back, read and listen to all the dialogue in the chat log just to make sure you catch every detail. There’s also a convenient summary of the story up to that point in the menu.
But that’s the problem. There’s so little wrong, and plenty of solutions or attempts to counter that within the game itself. I won’t lie, Persona 5 seems to be made for gamers like me. It expands on everything wrong with Persona 4, and continually provides me with things I didn’t know I needed. The story is phenomenal, the gameplay is engaging, the soundtrack is perfection. I had to search for problems just because the game couldn’t be perfect. But it comes sooooo close. Be prepared to invest time though, this isn’t one of those titles where you can click through text. It can be a slow run at times, but the writing and story make up for the lack of action in certain areas and in between palaces.
Verdict: PLEASE GO PLAY PERSONA 5 IF YOU HAVEN’T
Atlus have outdone themselves. If you haven’t picked this title up you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you like an engaging story that’s unpredictable that will leave you short of breath and wondering what happens next… Play Persona 5. If you’re looking for fun combat that takes old JRPG turn-based scrolling and turns it into button mapped realness with guns and a robust monster making system that can change the game… Play Persona 5. If you’re a graphics guru and you want the best visual representation of a video game with gorgeous art and beautifully rendered anime cutscenes, like watching your new favorite anime… Play Persona 5.
I was completely enthralled and impressed by this title. There isn’t enough praise I could provide.
If you’re a gamer looking for your next favorite title… Play Persona 5!
I implore everyone, give this Atlus title the space in your gaming collection that it deserves. GO PLAY PERSONA 5 RIGHT NOW. You won’t regret it.
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation3
Developer: Atlus, P Studio
(Japan) September 15, 2016, (Worldwide) April 4th, 2017