2017 has proven to be a hit for Japanese developed games with releases like Yakuza 0, NieR: Automata, NiOh, Resident Evil 7 and now Persona 5. However if we talk about the best and biggest release so far, it is arguably Persona 5.
Persona series has been extremely popular among fans and critics because of its mixture of social elements with a competent turn-based RPG that is challenging yet fun to play. The game’s story usually features teenagers living in a school like environment where they spend their day at the school doing various activities and reverse their roles at night, tackling the mysteries surrounding their town. The series always maintained its certain charm because of its great cast of characters, excellent writing and an engaging gameplay.
Persona 5 is also a great entry point for those who are playing the series for the first time. If you are confused by the numbering scheme, don’t be, since each Persona game stands out on its own just like any Final Fantasy release. Persona 5 makes it just far easier to jump into the series because it explains every aspect of the gameplay in detail. There are numerous tutorials given at the start of the game and while those who have played the game might already know most of the mechanics, it is a welcome addition for the newcomers.
What makes Persona 5 great is that it is clear from playing the game that a lot of attention to detail has been spent in making the game in its current state. Each of the story moment is well crafted with sequences that blend in well with the gameplay, leading to some exciting moments throughout the main game. The controls feel great, the combat system works well and the social aspects of the game are well done, and a step above what was present in its predecessor. All of these things click together to create an experience that is unmatched by any game on the market right now. Persona 5 is definitely a must play experience for JRPG enthusiastic and fans alike.
The game’s story takes place in Tokyo where the main character is transferred after he is accused of an assault and put on probation. He starts his new school at Shujin Academy where he has to face the challenge of being an outcast.The main protagonist is completely silent however it gives the player the choice to pick the most appropriate option during a conversation so even though there is a lack of personality in the main character, it is also defined by how the player controls it.
The story in Persona 5 is rather dark and right off the bat, the first key story sequence features a very mature theme that can be unsettling at times. But this is what makes Persona 5 so great because it manages to handle the social elements so well. The story is further enhanced by the supporting cast of characters all of whom are well written. It will be hard to pick a favorite as they all have their own charm and personality but this is something that needs to be done, in order to establish and improve our social links with them.
If you haven’t heard about Social Links before, they are events that usually revolve around spending time with one of the characters which has a relationship with the player in the game’s world. Doing so can improve our relationship with them and also provide some bonus in the form of new skills and improvement to certain stats. The game leaves the choice of approaching each encounter to the player so you have full freedom to start and improve each social link in whatever order you desire. Of course, it is best to focus on the ones that give the most benefit.
The gameplay is entirely turn-based where the battles start once the player attacks or ambushes an enemy. It takes place in a completely separate screen so it is not seamless however since there are no load times, the battle screen works well here. The main gameplay mechanics in Persona series is usually the ability to control a Persona, where each character has their own unique Persona while the main character has the ability to control several different Persona. Think of this as Pokemon and having the ability to capture and control the countless Pokemon in the world. The demons in Persona 5 can also be captured, or in other words, negotiated, to form a contract with the player. This contract binds the two together and allows the player to summon the Persona in battle and use their abilities. The Persona that we can summon can also gain experience points and level up to learn new skills. You can also fuse two different Persona to create a more powerful one.
Dungeons were one aspect of the past Persona games that were criticized because of the repetitive nature of them and this is one aspect in Persona 5 that has been greatly improved. The dungeons in the game now all revolve around a key theme and are well crafted, which makes for an interesting experience to explore them. There are even new gameplay mechanics integrated for exploration in the dungeon like giving the ability to use a detective vision that shows objects and other key points, or letting the player jump and hoop across various obstacles to reach the next point. This removes the simplicity of exploring random dungeons like in the previous Persona games. The combat encounters are also well designed with a difficulty on normal which is just about right. If you are one of the more hardcore fans, you can also select a higher difficulty setting for extra challenge however I wouldn’t recommend it for newcomers.
This brings us to the social aspects in Persona 5. The game retains the basics of gameplay from its predecessor. You will spend your day time in school during the weekdays while having full freedom at what you do during the evening. If there is a holiday, you can spend your day doing multiple activities. You can explore each dungeon after school and you will have to keep in mind that if you do choose to explore a dungeon, you won’t have anything else to do that day. However one aspect that I have always disliked in the Persona series is how these activities, no matter how short they look, pass a large amount time in the game. They make sense in term of gameplay design but I still feel that they should be improved so the time passes depending on their length. Reading a book or crafting a tool can pass the time from morning to evening, which seems a little unrealistic. Since Persona 5 is a game that gives an importance to time management, it makes it harder to focus on doing such tasks.
Persona 5 is a very stylish game. The game is choke full of beautiful art style, visual effects and transition scenes that show the labor of love from the developers. There is a huge visual upgrade going from Persona 4: Golden to Persona 5 and one that is a welcome change. I played the game on the PS4 where it looked crisp and beautiful in native 1080p resolution, something that i didn’t expect considering it was originally a PS3 game. It is definitely a visual treat if you prefer a gorgeous art style and it feels like the ultimate anime game because it blends animated sequences very well within the story.
I do have a few issues with the presentation though, particularly how the battles end. The game can sometime choose to focus on a stylish presentation that hurts the playability as I stated above, the end of the battle screen can take a while which breaks the flow of the gameplay. The other issue is the beginning of the game, which is slow and will take a couple of hours before the game offers full freedom. I wasn’t a big fan of how the developers choose to open the game, taking the freedom of choice away from the players. It wouldn’t be an issue if this only happened for a short while but the game takes the linear route to detail the story for atleast 4 hours, which might deter some players. These are all minor qualms though and not a deal breaker by any means.
Persona 5 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Persona 5 is a role-playing video game developed by Atlus for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 video game consoles. Persona 5 is chronologically the sixth installment in the Persona series, which is part of the larger Megami Tensei franchise.
Persona 5 delivers on every front, from story to gameplay, it is polished to perfection. However there are some minor issues with the game particularly related to its presentation that stop it from achieving a perfect score.