Persona, one of the most popular PlayStation exclusives that I had never played before. It was one of those weird things where everything I heard about it sounded awesome, but I never got around to actually getting my hands on it and playing it (my lack of PlayStation didn’t help). Finally Persona 5 was coming out and after hearing that you didn’t need to play the previous games to understand it, I decided it was finally time that I took the plunge into the illustrious JRPG, and I have to say it was one of the best gaming choices I have ever made.
Persona 5 is a JRPG developed by Atlus and published by Deep Silver (for the PAL regions). It is the sixth instalment on the popular Persona series and sees you assume the role of a young high school teenager who is falsely charged with assault and placed on probation. As a result, you are sent off to Tokyo to stay with your family friend, Sajiro Sakura, and are forced to attend the school, Shujin Academy. It is here that you meet Ryuji Sakamoto, the blond-haired delinquent who has a distinct hatred for one of the teachers, and it’s from here that you are really introduced into the wonder that is Persona 5. While I won’t go into story specifics, the basic thrust of the story sees you forming a gang of youths set on changing the hearts of various evil entities within the world, whose distorted view of the world has corrupted their very souls. If that sounds intense, you also have to contend with the pressures of high school simultaneously.
The narrative, while sometimes overwhelming, is quite strong. As you piece together the actions that the unnamed protagonist took leading up to the recounting of his story, you see just how well written Persona 5 is. Despite its complexity, it is easy enough to follow, and incredibly engaging. The overarching story is very strong and the characters can be quite varied while sharing a common goal (mainly the protagonists). The beauty of the story is that it is filled with smaller mini-stories that can convey not only the darker side of the Persona universe, but also shows the darker side of real life. This is reflected in its many shady characters, ranging from crime bosses and corrupt politicians to extortionists and pedophiles.
I thought graduation meant I didn’t have to attend school anymore
In terms of gameplay, the game is quite easy to get a hold of. The only time you might be a little lost is when you are given permission to roam freely around Tokyo. However, it doesn’t take long to learn your surroundings and familiarise yourself with the areas as they’re not very big. Throughout the world you will find little activities to do which benefit your character in many ways. Participating in things like a burger-eating challenge, going for a round in the batting cages and taking part in somewhat questionable clinical trials all help increase various attributes that determine what other activities you can do. For instance, to hang out with one of the characters, Ann Takamaki, you need to have a certain amount of kindness. Not having enough will result in you not being able to hang out and deepen your bond with the character. Deepening your bond with other characters (in-game obviously, but hey do what you want, I’m not judging) will offer various benefits which can translate into the combat. It is highly recommended that you deepen your bonds with characters as much as possible because you never know what benefits will come from them.
Persona 5 utilises a turn-based combat system. It also features resistances and weaknesses, so in a way it can be compared to other games like Pokémon. By no means is the game overwhelmingly difficult, however there are some points where you are severely punished. These points aren’t truly rage inducing, it’s more just a matter of quickly learning whatever you did wrong and attempting to not repeat those mistakes. Eventually it gets to a point where most combat sequences end in a mere matter of seconds due to knowledge of resistances and weaknesses. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing as it can prevent the game from dragging on longer than it needs to (there’s still well over a hundred hours of solid gameplay as it is), and the combat always felt fun to me, so there’s nothing that I can really fault it for there.
One of my favourite parts about Persona 5 is the simplicity in its design and scope. Even though it can get rather deep, it doesn’t have that issue that a lot of RPGs have where if you leave it for while and come back, it feels foreign. The fact that the overall gameplay, including the combat, is not overly complicated means that it’s both easy to pick up and allows for the game to be incredibly accessible for a wide variety of audiences. The fact that I have never played a Persona 5 game before and managed to pick it up so easily is a testament to the great design that Atlus have implemented. The game mechanics are vital but not needlessly convoluted or confusing.
It doesn’t take much to see that everything about Persona 5 has style. Whether it be the flashy manoeuvres that you and your friends pull off to just the visual design of the game itself and the menus, everything helps make the game stand out. While I thought the red, black and white aesthetic was a bit of an odd choice for a lot of the visual themes, it tends to work quite well and definitely sticks out. It’s almost like you’re inside an anime, but the twist on the visuals makes it also seem like the developers just wanted to have more fun instead of going for the same thing that everyone else does. Atlus have done an incredible job at making a game that has enough legs to stand on its own in a market overflowing with releases of this type. One of my favourite parts about the art is that it’s almost minimalist in a sense and it doesn’t chew up a lot of power, so your PS4 won’t be turning into a fighter jet that heats up your house and deafens the neighbours. This also allows for the game to run perfectly. During my time playing the game, not once did I ever experience a bug, glitch, drop in frames or a crash. That’s not to say that these things don’t exist, I’m sure they do, but from my experience they’re a rare occurrence, which is nice to see in this age of ‘ship broken, patch later’ mentality.
Going on with the fact that Persona 5 just oozes with style, the soundtrack is by far one of the funkiest video game soundtracks I have ever heard. It’s not often that I feel I can just listen to some music from a game in my day-to-day life, but Persona 5 is definitely the exception. The music that plays during fights is just so funky. Scores feature creative baselines and there are actual melodies sung by a vocalist, including lyrics. My favourite piece is ‘Last Surprise’, I could listen to it all day. Composer Shoji Meguro and those performing the pieces themselves have displayed great talent and creativity. Persona 5 will hands down attain the top spot for me in terms of its soundtrack. Seriously, nothing beats it.
Now this is where I usually take the time point out the flaws with the game, but if I’m being honest, I can’t really find any. The game is incredibly polished, the story is well written, characters are well designed and just everything else is so incredibly good. I don’t normally give a game such high praise (not even my beloved Soulsborne games), but Atlus have managed to do the nigh impossible.
Persona 5 is by far one of the best games I have ever played on the PS4. Everything about it just oozes with style. Composer Shoji Meguro has also created an excellent soundtrack to go alongside an excellent game. There’s nothing that I can find about the game that I would consider bad. Never before have I wanted to recommend a game so highly. Seriously, if you have a PS4, get it. It will probably go down as my Game of the Year.
Reviewed on PS4