The Persona series has come a long way since I started playing it. My initial experience with the series as a child was superficial, I didn’t understand what I was playing and would often rush through the entire thing so I could move along to the next game in my library. My friends would scoff at me and my decision, but that all changed when Persona 3 released, the newest entry at the time to the Persona series took the world by storm and became the norm for the series going forward. The same happened with Persona 4 and the multiple expansions that game received, but most notably, Persona 4 Golden a port of the original with added features on the PlayStation Vita.
In the past ten years, I’ve noticed the shift in tone, and here I am with Persona 5 ready to admit that I cannot get enough. Persona 5 is vastly different from both it’s predecessors and it’s okay with that, as am I.
In Persona 5 you play yet another silent protagonist – this time a young man sent to Tokyo to live with a family friend after you’re put on probation for a crime you did not commit. The scenic change from a small town to Tokyo immediately creates a much more interesting environment to explore and socialize in, everything moves faster in the city, all the hustle and bustle just background noise to the world around you. I applaud Atlus for creating an engaging take on Tokyo, you feel the work they put into creating a city full of things to discover and get a place to get lost in.
Persona 5 follows a group of Japanese high school students and Morgana, a talking cat, throughout a typical year in the life scenario. How I describe Persona 5 does it no justice, and the best way to understand what I mean is to play the game.
As a high school student, your job is to go to school, do your homework, complete tests during the day, after school you’re free to hang with your friends, go to your part-time job, you know, be a teenager. I’m past the age where I can relate to a teenager, but spending dozens of hours as a teenager in a video game is the best way to go about relating, even if includes diving into Palaces and talking to people’s hearts.
In between being a teenager during the day, it’s after school that the fun happens. After school, you can gather the troops and tackles dungeons, or as they are called in Persona 5, Palaces. Replacing the randomly generated dungeons of Persona 3 and Persona 4 are now lovingly crafted dungeons that combine the style and substance of previous games with clever puzzles and shortcuts to uncover. Add in a cover system that allows you to be stealthy as you attempt the find the treasure hidden away in each Palace.
The downside of having Palaces being hand-crafted dungeons to explore is that once you’ve cleared the area, you cannot go back to it. Instead, there are Mementos, which are separate from Palaces and are randomly generated dungeons like Persona 3 and Persona 4. These are the best places to level up, find and coerce Personas to join you, and any items you might need.
Battles in Persona 5 are familiar if you’ve played a turn-based RPG before, each character has their own melee, ranged, and Persona attacks. Everyone on your team has their own Persona to utilize in battle, with the exception being the main character, who can use multiple Personas during battle. This opens many ways to take on the Shadows, often targeting their weakness. There are many different Personas to find and collect through various means, such as fusing them to create stronger Personas or negotiating with them during battle.
Speaking of enemies, the amount of detail found with each one is noticeable, the designs are fantastic and full of colour, it’s also the first time any of the Persona enemies have been in high definition, translating better than I expected.
The key to success in battle within the Persona series is to exploit enemy weakness. Combat is a challenge, to begin with, but with the main character able to switch between Personas, it all comes down to elemental weakness. A new feature that I found useful is Baton Pass, which allows you to continue your onslaught by increasing your damage output. The new move, a first for Persona, allows you to pass your additional turn over to another team member by triggering your opponent’s weakness.
One of the strongest suits of the Persona series has always been the incredible music. Shoji Meguro has once again crafted a musical score that I cannot get enough of. The acid jazz found in other Atlus games, like Catherine and older Shin Megami Tensei titles is present, as is a mixture of orchestral music and J-Pop inspired music.
Persona 5 brings the series to a new level. If you’ve stuck around for a while, following the adventures through Persona 3 and Persona 4, this is your jam. Through and through, this is a Japanese role-playing game that fits into its own niche. Clocking in at over 100 hours of gameplay, this hip, beautiful game will give to you an experience you can’t find elsewhere.