When I think of Persona 5, so many words flood my thoughts: captivating, memorable, exhilarating, vibrant, heart-warming, and deep. It’s everything a turn-based JRPG enthusiast would expect from the genre, while also being the prime contender for someone’s first JRPG. As with previous Persona titles, you are the main protagonist in a high-school simulator where friendship and real-life responsibilities are not to be ignored while uncovering the mystery of the supernatural. Each Persona game has had their own spin on this supernatural awakening, and Persona 5 provides the best so far.
As the elusive Phantom Thieves, you and your band of friends travel into the hearts of corrupted adults and steal the treasure within to enact a change of heart for said individuals. With the power their Personas, which are physical manifestations of the characters’ inner-selves, the Phantom Thieves take on some of society’s most vile people. The first job for the Phantom Thieves is one hell of a test run for the group, and their inevitable success resounds their desire to achieve the goal of reforming society for the better.
The idea is wickedly cool and interesting enough to understand its slow-paced storytelling. By no means is it your typical “travel the world” adventure, but a complex, personal story told within a simple, extremely relatable modern city atmosphere. The game’s story is really long (I capped in 117 hours by the time credits rolled) and text heavy enough to be considered part graphic novel. While that may dissuade some, Persona 5 has excellent pacing to keep you invested. In fact, it’s the best at storytelling in the “takes nearly 100 hours to complete” JRPG sub-genre. The game is not afraid to delve into dark themes either, not-so-subtle mentioning physical abuse, blackmailing, murder, extortion, and more. It’s a messed up world, and it’s up to the Phantom Thieves to save it. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
Persona 5 has a duality in the kind of gameplay it provides. On one side, you have the sociability constructs we can easily relate to: getting a job, studying for exams, hanging out with friends, sneaking into maid cafes (Wait, what?… Don’t judge me). The game leaves you in control of what to do with your spare time. Is going to the library and studying to increase my knowledge points more valuable that hanging out with a friend? Maybe. The mechanics mesh so well with one another that I never felt like I wasted time doing one activity over another.
Spending time with friends increases their Confidant rank, which in turn provide useful abilities in and out of battle. So in one fell swoop, hanging out with friends influences the game mechanics better than before AND provides background to the believable, well-rounded cast of characters (shout outs to the waifu now and forever, Lady Ann).
The second personality of Persona 5 is the real meat and bones of the gameplay: a turn-based battle system and dungeon crawling. It’s the same battle system Persona fans have seen before with a few new additions that make gameplay faster and more strategic. Using a fire spell on an enemy that is weak to fire knocks them down, allowing you an extra turn to capitalize damage. If you don’t want to use that extra turn, you can pass it along to other teammates in an ultra-flashy cinematic. As a Persona user, you have the ability to get an enemy into submission and recruit them, demand money or ask for an item. It’s a fun dynamic where negotiating with these Personas is fun and comical, as some can be laid-back or obnoxiously aggressive.
As opposed to other Persona games, Persona 5 has hand-crafted palaces to explore that emphasizes style and metaphorical substance based on the corrupted adult we are exploring the heart of. I’m not a huge fan of dungeon-crawlers, but Persona 5 is the most fun I have had in exploring floor after floor after floor because of the unique and diverse dungeon designs. Dungeon-crawling was my least liked part about Persona 4 Golden, so it surprised me when it was my favorite part about Persona 5.
To put the icing on the cake, the entire game is personalized with an eye-popping, sensational graphite art style and catchy music. The game is brimming with personality and substance, down to the very menus you navigate and battle outros. With so much flair, you won’t realize Persona 5 is, quite frankly, an updated PS3 game. Now about this soundtrack… let’s just say you’ll never see it coming on how amazing it is. It has literally taken over my life: being played in my car, while I’m sleeping, even as I am writing this review. There’s just something about the super chill tone being played in the game as you ponder whether to hit the sauna to increase your charm stat or spend some time with your best bud Ryuji. Moments in battle are accentuated due the lyrical songs playing, making fights more thrilling and even controller-gripping.
Persona 5 is without a doubt the pinnacle of modern JRPGs. Even if it is an updated PS3 game, everything else around it shines bright. The fascinating story is deep and powerful, with even stronger and more mature characters than previous games. Gameplay is polished and refined, making it the best in the series yet. On top of that, Persona 5 holds the mantel for my favorite soundtrack and best art style Persona games have to offer. We’ve waited for Persona 5 for quite a long time. Thankfully, Atlus has delivered its best Persona game, and that’s saying something. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be heading into new game plus for my second playthrough/go on dates with Ann all over again.
Persona 5 Review
Persona 5 is without a doubt the pinnacle of modern JRPGs. Even if it is an updated PS3 game, everything else around it shines bright. The fascinating story is deep and powerful, with even stronger and more mature characters than previous games. Gameplay is polished and refined, making it the best in the series yet. On top of that, Persona 5 holds the mantel for my favorite soundtrack and best art style Persona games have to offer.