Written by: Prince Luchini
Persona 5 one of the most highly anticipated games for a lot of jrpg fans myself included to drop this year. After so many delays I have finally had a chance to experience this phenomenal game. To give you a brief history of the series Persona is a branch off the well-known Shin Megami Tensi series. Shin Megami Tensi is mainly known for its mature themes and its brutally hard gameplay. Persona took those two elements and added well written characters and its flamboyant style its known for today.
You play as a nameless teenage protagonist who one night life has changed. While trying to save an innocent woman from a man trying to assault her he sees the injustice presented in front of him decides to step in. Worst comes to worst when the protagonist tries to intervene the assaulter falls and gets injured now blames the protagonist which in turn changes your hero’s life and begins his journey of freedom. With a criminal record the protagonist thrusted from his hometown to the big city Shibuya to live out his probation with his care taker Sojiro. Along the way he meets other likeminded individuals who have also been wronged by their superiors and the weight of society itself and take it upon themselves to change the status quo. Persona 5 theme is about being shackled by society and its sometimes-backwards rules that has been set in place.
I want to take the time to appreciate the style of Persona 5 everything you do even the most mundane things like shuffling through the menus is stylish as hell. The UI and the overall presentation of this game is amazing. Even walking through school to Shibuya is a joy to do seeing your peers gossip about the protagonist as dramatic text flying around you. The seamless transitions between battle to dungeon gameplay is astounding. I haven’t been impressed with a game’s visual art style since Rayman Origins where that game mad you feel like you were playing a cartoon Persona 5 feels like you’re playing an interactive manga. It is evident now more than ever that Atlus has perfected the sense of style that was birthed in Persona 3 to the point where it seems they are untouchable on that front. The gameplay in persona 5 is same as the past but now returning elements from past games and even its father series SMT. Battles are dependent on exploiting the weakness of the demons you face. Knocking them all down triggers the hold-up system which is a feature that was present in past SMT games now returns in Persona. This is the most interesting part of the to me is conversing with the demons. Here you can talk with the demons about joining your squad, get items, get money, or kill them. The coolest part is an ability you get with one of the relationships you form allows you to continually ask for items or money. Persuading demons to give you money in exchange of letting them live when in the end you just murk them is so satisfying. Moments like this is where the game makes you feel like an anime trap god when you finesse the game to your favor. What this game does that I feel not many developers do is immersing you in the world. Going to a ramen shop hanging someone from your crew to running through the alley with graffiti on top of politician flyers or walking through school hearing your peers gossip about current events really puts you into its world. Along with this I always enjoyed Persona because how it embraces Japanese culture while not being afraid to announce its flaws. From going to festivals to stopping perverted gym teachers for physically and sexually abusing students Persona 5 isn’t scared to speak on these tense topics within society.
Delving a little deeper into the story without going too far into spoiler territory. The main crux of the story is about changing hearts of corrupt individuals. To change people from their demonic ways the phantom thieves venture inside the distorted desires which are called palaces. An interesting point that is brought up numerous times during the game is that even though the phantom thieves have genuine intentions does that mean they have the right to forcibly change someone’s heart. I found that very interesting because it made you question what you’re doing even though the villains that you face were cartoonish levels of evil. Even then Persona 5 has a dimmer mature tone than any game in the series.
The confidants which are people who you can form relationships with can increase your power of your persona and gain new abilities in and outside of the battlefield. These people who also feel the weight of society and gravitate towards the protagonist because they see the rebellious spirit within him. What this series does that I also really appreciate is how everything matters. Reading books, watching movies, forming relationships, even playing videogames helps the protagonist on his journey through rehabilitation by gaining abilities for partaking in these activities.
Party members are important for a jrpg since you spent so many hours with them. A lot of times jrps fall into making their characters fill a certain trope. Not to say that Persona 5 completely distance itself from falling into that but the characters do feel more grounded and realer than any cast in the series. Take Ryuji for example he is your partner in crime and shares the same burden of society as the protagonist. He is loud and belligerent to the point where it becomes to affect the incognito aspect of the group. Beneath all that is a person with passionate about what he believes in and has love for the squad. Him along with many others are the reason this down to earth cast is so great. They aren’t perfect and game acknowledges this but their flaws make the characters even more relatable. I can go on and on about amazing soundtrack, the specific details about the plot and the new and improved intricate dungeons but I’ve boasted about this game long enough. Is this game perfect? No dungeons tend to drag later in the game and some characters aren’t utilized as much as others but these minor complaints in no way hinders the overall quality of the game. In years to come I feel like people will look back on this game as something special. A lot of games excel at one thing and struggle everywhere else so to see a game come correct on all fronts is a rarity in my opinion. The hype for this game was strong and Atlus has delivered and completely knocked it out of the park with this game. With its slick presentation, realistic characters and a relatable story especially how it eerily mirrors the real world all these components done well and polished as hell is the reason why I place this game with Earthbounds, Chrono Triggers, and FF7s as setting the blueprint for a classic jrpg.