Persona 5 is the latest in the famous Japanese role-playing series by Atlus. It has been wrapped pretty tightly in a veil of mystery due to their very strict streaming and spoiler policies, making it very difficult to find visual content. A good and bad thing from a reviewer’s stand point, but I digress.
However, in saying that here is my review of the illustrious Persona 5. Now firstly, I would like to point out that in the first few hours Persona is a tad bizarre and perplexing, but bear with it as an epic, in-depth storyline will gradually unfold like the petals of a charming, aromatic rose, revealing a heart of gold.
You play as yourself, a troubled but fascinating boy, who is challenged by his moral decisions of his past, living in a new town trying to make amends. Just like in real life, this world is plagued with corruption, and needs a champion to fight for it. You have the will of rebellion, thus unlocking your deep, dark persona within yourself, the master thief know as ‘The Joker’. Just like a typical superhero, by day you live the life of a normal student, exercising, studying, going to the movies, but by night.... You are fighting through the palaces of your enemies, collecting new personas to use in combat, avoiding and battling the dastardly shadows and solving puzzles for the precious treasure they protect. Each world with in the palace, is beautifully designed and oh so diverse in challenges and mysteries.
This treasure ... this treasure is what makes this story mesmerising; the desires of distorted human beings. These palaces (much like Sherlock Holmes references to the brain ) live in the mind and are the depraved yearnings of the hearts of twisted individuals.
I love games like this. They connect to the audience on a personal level. Despite being masked by some really adorable, strong anime characters the plot is dripping with social themes that are so relevant to society and it's perils. Yes, the obvious motif of greed and corruption are throughout but also the struggles of dealing with death, abuse, stress and fitting in as an adolescence, are clearly leaking through. It really makes you reflect on what makes people, make bad decisions as you travel along unlocking the goodness of the human psyche.
As you travel through you need to develop a squad of ‘confidants’ to become the infamous guild of 'Phantom Thieves'. These team mates are vital, as each bring distinctive personas to the table. Just like real friends, these relationships need cultivating and upkeep, so they can grow in skill and power just as much as yourself. Not hanging out with a confident could prove a downfall in a match later on down the track.
This outlines another genius game mechanic, time management. Time management is crucial to the game. Don’t do activities after school, then you are less skilful, hang with friends too much, you might not have time in the many shops to buy supplies or make tools, and the worst of all not meet a palace completion deadline... game over, reload save and start again. Even having a part-tome job for money can have repercussions on the future. Each day has a time limit, restricting how much you can do, prioritising is a must, once again immersing the audience into the whole Persona 5 experience.
For a game, so complex and rich in story driven combat, the controls are surprising simple. The combat is turn base, with each button labelled with strategies, whether it be melee or ranged weapons, persona attacks or blocking, all the options are clearly stamped out in front of you. Normally when I think of turn-based I think of the boring examples of my past, however in Persona you are itching to see the moves, and what outcomes they will produce. Even in the rare moments you platform through an area the camera follows at a good angle and distance, and utilising only one button for all the moves. Hiding behind objects is valuable, especially is you want uber cool ambush scenes and advantages over shadows. Despite the first ten hours or so playing out very tutorial-ish, the hand holding feel is only slight in contrast to the magnitude of the game.
My only slight, and I mean slight annoyance with this enthralling game is the saving. The exclusion of AutoSaves in between saving in your bedroom or in a saferoom can mean often backtracking, playing your next save down to the moment.
There is a lot of reading and watching but the cutscenes which differ from in game to anime clips are captivating and truly showcase the beauty of the visual design. The imagery is dark and menacing in battle but light and iridescent in the streets of Tokyo. I was hooked right off the bat from the very first second, I saw the Japanese punk style menu in my favourite colours of black and red, and these theme rolls through all the fights scenes and when the characters are in their personas.
Overall, Persona 5, like it’s visuals, is itself a piece of art. It’s intricate, emotion fueled and thought provoking plot, simple but overwhelmingly fun turn based combat and acid punk kawaii graphics suck you into its world. Yes, it was a little slow to get into at the start, but as its petals opened it bloomed very quickly. With easily over 80 hours of game play this is one game even after completion that will have you diving back in for more, as you will quite quickly miss it. I know I already do.