Finally…After 9 long years since the original release of Persona 4, we finally have the next numbered iteration of the Persona franchise…Persona 5..!!
In that time, we’ve seen Persona 4 Golden, Persona 4 Arena, Persona 4 The Animation, Persona 4 Dancing All Night, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Persona Q, the Persona 3 Movies, and Persona 4 The Golden Animation…And after so long…We finally have our crimson-clad Phantom Thieves on our screens.
It’s oddly surreal, honestly…So, given that this game has been in the pot for 9 years, what have those years of maturing and stewing brought to our consoles? Let’s find out, shall we..?!
Persona 5 differs in a majority of ways to previous Persona titles, labelled by fans as a fusion between past Persona titles Persona: Revelations and Persona 2: Innocent Sin / Eternal Punishment, whilst also being as arguably revolutionary as Persona 3’s leap to 3D visuals – Persona 5 introduces a lot of new, and takes some of the previous features that used to be present within earlier Persona (And Shin Megami Tensei) titles and reintroduces them in flashy and effective ways.
Class actually feels like class in Persona 5…Don’t get sloppy..!!
For one, the Demon Negotiation from Persona 1-2 is back with a vengeance; players, upon knocking down every enemy in a battle, have the opportunity to negotiate with these hostile Shadows – Either demand money, an item, or work with them and try to recruit them into your ever-growing repertoire of Personae, which involves catering to their expectations of how Humans act; find a bold Shadow that wants to challenge you? Overpower them and shove it in their faces. Find a childish Shadow that wants to know if growing up is such a bad thing or where babies come from? Tell them the truth and act as a parent figure. Find a lazy Shadow that loves lowcut humour? Play with your words and metaphors and make them grow interested in you – Little dialogue pieces like this help to freshen up normally stale battles present within Persona 3 and 4, and help to give the Shadows you face a little more personality than just masks on odd shapes.
Combat too is another point of improvement for Persona 5, again reintroducing previous elements and attacks from Persona 1 and 2 to help round off the expansiveness of elemental choices – In Persona 3 and 4, you had the elements of Melee, Fire (Agi), Ice (Bufu), Wind (Garu), Electricity (Zio), Light (Hama) and Dark (Mudo). Persona 5 now introduces the elements of Projectiles (Gun), Psychic (Psy) and Nuclear (Megido), whilst also reintroducing fixed-damage spells for Light and Dark; this means that there are now three new archetypes for Personae to allow for a greater diversity of team composition and fusion types. To balance this out slightly, Treasure Shadows now appear when stealing from Dungeons, which have one high-level spell of each element type to cascade down onto your desired Persona – The catch? They can’t be used in battle, and occupy one of your limited Party slots. This is certainly a bigger improvement over the beefier Golden Hand Shadows in Persona 3 / 4, as they have a much more diverse purpose too.
…I think we’ve found the next Belmont to go slay Dracula..! I can hear Konami from here…
Dungeons, as well, is yet again another place that has seen the most change across the franchise – Starting off as first person-perspective, randomly generated dungeons in Persona 1, to top-down dungeons in Persona 2, back to randomly generated, 3rd person dungeons in Persona 3 & 4, to now static, pre-planned dungeons with traps, obstacles and puzzles in Persona 5 – Each dungeon in the game is labelled as a Palace, an amalgamation of one’s severely twisted desires and mindsets, which have all been lovingly handcrafted by the guys over at Atlus – Palaces appear as Dungeons do in Persona 3 and 4, having a set time limit to complete, with an end boss and possibly multiple minibosses within, combine this with the numerous traps, puzzles, minigames and more that these areas have, and you have yourself a winner straight from the bat – Gone are the randomly generated areas, instead focusing more on allowing the player to make the most out of their newfound abilities and talents, which are freshly introduced into the franchise.
These talents are those of Stealth – Shocker, I know! Stealth actually plays a massive part in Persona 5, being Phantom Thieves and all, with each Palace being given a dedicated Detection Meter – Be detected by patrolling Shadows enough, and you’ll be forcibly kicked out of the Palace, and waste the entire day; not good when the whole game is on a time limit..!! Using Stealth, one can shift from cover to cover, jump and leap around levels, and navigate obstacles and traps using your Third Eye ability, opening up how you approach Shadows, blockades and problems! Another thing to note is that parts of Palaces may be affected by real-world events too, such as having to open a complex door security system or gain access to a sectioned-off part of the Palace; for this, you need to find an way change how your target thinks, which in-turn changes the Palace. Still with me here?
Don’t worry. The Velvet Twins are here to provide guidance if needed.
An example of this is the door I spoke of earlier – Imagine for a moment that your target thinks that their secret is infallible. Impenetrable. Impossible to disclose, due to it being secluded away where no-one can see…All you need to do is break into that room, and twist their perception that their secret, and the room it’s contained in, is impossible to enter. I think it’s regardless to say, but these dungeons make the ones present in every prior Persona game look like child’s play. Eat ‘yer heart out, Naoya, Tatusya, Maya, Makoto and Yu (All previous Persona protagonists)..!!
Now, onto the characters – All in all, you can expect your standard-fare characters here; there’s the archetypes you’ve come to love and enjoy with Persona here, but the writing overall has taken a surprisingly human tone to it – Sure, you still have the pop culture references and ‘meme-worthy’ dialogue, but characters now act as if they have weight in their actions; with Persona 4, I personally felt that, once you cleared each Shadow world representative of each character, they just…Lost their charm. Persona 5 remedies this through witty dialogue, constant communication through texting, and actual, engaging conversations. I don’t even hate the token Mascot Character for once!! Morgana is a treat both expositionally and comically, and has his own unique sense of charm and wit that I fail to see in other Mascot characters in similar titles.
Fusing Personae is just as tasking as in previous Persona titles, albeit with a larger variety now.
The tone as well, revolving around the plot of Phantom Thieves, stealing one’s desires, and the constraints and corruption of society faced in today’s world is presented masterfully – Examples of such themes include depression, sexual exploitation, suicide, abuse, plagiarism, corruption, criminal ruling, murder, rape and drugs, all of which don’t feel ‘tacked-on’ or forced in an attempt to be edgy – These themes are trials, and as such test our characters and accomplices in a wide variety of differing ways. The world too plays a part with this, with a massive range of diverse NPCs, anywhere from homeless individuals, to rowdy teenagers and children, to upper-class businessmen and police all roam the streets of Tokyo, and all give a flavour of personality to the game that other titles cannot reach.
Now, whilst Persona 5 is most certainly a gem of a game, it doesn’t come without it’s set of detriments either; for one, the whole ‘getting kicked out of a Palace if you’re detected too much’ is more of a pain in the ass rather than an actual challenge – Often Shadows would either not detect me from point-blank range, or would see me a mile away; couple this with some Shadows spawning backup behind them upon defeat, making some instances of detection unavoidable, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration. Another annoyance I have with the game is with how often it restricts you and limits your days, especially when preparing for a Palace – You’ll sometimes get entire weeks where you do something in the day, want to do something at night, like watch a DVD or read a book, and you’ll simply be told by Morgana that you’re “Too tired to do that”. It really does annoy me, especially when a DVD goes outside of it’s rental period as a result!
Dammit Morgana, I can go to the pub if I want to..! You’re not my mummmm!
Navigation too, despite being greatly improved through fast travel and a minimap, is still rather difficult to understand fully, and can be a pain to try and find out exactly where you’re meant to be going – An example of this was where I was told to go to an alleyway behind an arcade to meet an NPC…Go there, and they’re not there – Turned out I needed to speak to 2-3 other NPC’s first to do this! Little cracks in this title do flag up, and are extremely annoying.
…But in the end of the day, does that detract from the final product? Yes. And no. Persona 5 is a masterful game, which has breathed new life into the JRPG genre; it has injected a flair of style that hasn’t quite been matched before, and as such, has become a new standard for JRPGs to match. Despite this though, the game is far from perfect, but is most definitely the most powerful evolution of Persona to date. Here’s hoping we don’t get 20 Persona 5 spinoffs and Persona 6 will be able to finally encrust this franchise in the annals of history forever.
Persona 5 gets a 9 / 10 from me.