“The world is filled with both beauty and vice… It is time you teach people which is which!” – Goemon from Persona 5
If you’ve been living under a rock, Persona 5 is the 6th installment, it’s confusing like that, in the Persona series, which is branch of Shin Megami Tensei series. Persona 5 was released on April of 2017 for the PS3 and PS4. It is once again made by Atlus.
Protagonist is once again a high school boy. After protecting a woman from a guy forcing himself on her, the guy sued the protagonist. With a criminal record, protagonist is disgrace and expelled from his high school, and relocated by law to Shibuya. The probation is for 1 year, the duration of the game.
Niijima Sae is a prosecutor that is interrogating the protagonist through out the game. She is hellbent on capturing the Phantom Thieves for her career and pride.
Akechi Gorou is the protagonist’s fold as in genius boy detective. He is very smart and surprisingly kind, but is stubborn with his own way of justice.
Main combat is something you should be familiar with if you’ve played previous Persona games before. So I will focus on the differences.
Guns are back, but hey are no longer another form of attack, rather a way to stagger enemies by exploiting the weakness. Unless the gun skill is One-Shot Kill or Riot Gun, they are not really used for heavy attacks.
Demon negotiating returns to the Persona series. If you’ve played any other SMT games apart from Persona 3 and Persona 4, you know what this system is. You make a deal with a demon to get it to join your party.
Now there is stealth. The main characters practically become invisible once they are crouching by a wall. Using this, you can get a preemptive attack on the enemies, or just bypass them.
Taking the gentleman thief motive to its logical conclusion, you don’t just fight the boss. In order to beat a Palace, you have to explore the area, secure the route to and locate the treasure, send the target a calling card, and then fight boss.
Social Link system is back as Confidant system. Unlike before where SL only unlocks ultimate Personas and grant EXP bonuses during fusion, the Confidant System unlocks more abilities. For example, Yusuke the artist can offer to duplicate skill cards, the doctor can sell you variety of medicines, the politician can give you new options in negotiating with demons, and so on.
Unlike the previous Persona games, main 1, 3 and 4, the protagonist’s character is somewhat developed since the start. He is smirky, has a sense for the dramatic, and thing for justice. He is not a blank slate. This somewhat limits the character. In P4G, you could choose to betray your teammates, but that is not an option here.
For how much time it passed between Persona 4 and Persona 5, it is remarkably similar, I mean this not in a good way. Sure, the Confidant system is upgraded Social Link system, but it is not remarkably better or different, it just has different name and redistributed buffs and functions. There is almost a decade gap between Persona 4 and Persona 5, but apart from the graphics, the improvements were minimal.
This game LOVES taking the control from you. There are so many goddamn times in the game where it is completely barren of any interaction. For example, I spent literally 2 hours just hitting X because the game decided that it was necessary. Sure, it would’ve been okay if it made sense. But so much of this game is repeating the same info 5 times. Do we really need to waste 3 days to say one of the characters went missing? The game makes it clear that you will wait for this character for 3 fcking days… I could’ve improved my stats, gone Social Linking, or do so much other stuff, but no, I have to sit and wait because the game decided that I do that.
Worse yet, the game makes you waste time even more of absolutely no reason. Usually, if you go to a Palace, you have to rest in the evening, I get that. If there is a big event the next day, you have to rest an evening before. BUT there are times when a story event, usually a mild meeting with people sitting down, happens and the game makes you waste the evening. WHY!!!!!!!!!? Time is really impotant in Persona games, why are you wasting my time I don’t need to waste? ASDFWQER QW$R!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I almost threw my controller when I wasted a week game time because a meaning fight happened within the Phantom Thieves.
You know how I knew it was meaningless? Well, this character has a Social Link that is tied to game progression, I will talk about that more in a bit. But this character seemingly left the group for good. If my decisions led to that, fine, but they didn’t since any kind of decisions made in this Social Link is meaningless since I will max it by the end of the story because that it how this game works. So This character has like Rank 7 in his Social Link, so I knew for sure nothing of consequences will happen to this character. And boy, I was 100% correct, nothing happened….. Why did I have to waste a week game time for this garbage of a moment. It did not add any element to this character, it just added a character to the roster, and I think they could have done that a lot smoother.
What’s worse is that in several parts of the game, the game does give you control of characters, but it is meaningless as you cannot really do anything. For example, there is a part in the game you have to chase another character. This character will wait for you to catch, and when you do it goes into a conversation for 30 seconds, then it repeats twice. This is insulting. If you don’t want to give me control, just make it a cut scene, if you are not going to make a cut scene, don’t patronize me with this bullshit. Cutscenes have there uses, this should be where it was used, not gameplay. If you are not going to let me go out in the evening, don’t make me think I can by giving the option to walk around the room and liteally not do anything, just move on to the next day. What I am saying is, give me control where it counts, and cut the bullshit.
Speaking of taking control away, if you’ve been paying an attention to this title, you’ve probably heard the contraversy with ATLUS not wanting people to share anything about the game. Well, I think it was a massive mistake on aTLUS’ part as well. To boot, the game does not allow the PS4 to take screenshots or footages from the game like every other games. And I could live with that, but PS4 takes a screenshot everytime you get a trophy, and when this happens, the game reminds you that you cannot do this. And this pisses me off. ATLUS thinks they can do whatever, I still like them, but this was stupid.
DESPITE all my gripes with this game, I did enjoy it. Now, I am going to gush about what I liked in this, where to start.
The characters are much better than previous Persona games. I loved Makoto and Yusuke so much as I related to them the best. Being the oldest son in an Asian family means that the whole family expects you to pave the grounds for the family. While Makoto was not the first born, there was a lot of pressure on her from every single angle, and that was too relatable. And seeing her say enough is enough was so refreshing, I wish I could do something of that nature, got me teary eyed. Then there is Yusuke. Being a designer, I cannot help but feel Yusuke’s pain, many people think you’re weird, laugh at your tendencies, and seeing what you love being tainted by corporate greed is all too familiar for me. And seeing Yusuke thrive despite this was cathartic for me.
The stories in this game are much darker than previous Personas, sure there were murders and cults in them, but this one felt more diverse and personal. The game starts with abuse and sexual harassment, then murder and scamming, then to drugs. I feel as though while previous games touched these aspects here and there, this was the first one to delve right into the issue, similar to how Catherine went directly to infidelity. By making these issues more personal rather than big, the messages were stronger.
What I love about the story of Persona 5 is that if you think about it, it is much more morally ambiguous than Persona 3 and Perosna 4, closer Persona 2. In P3 and P4, the actions of the heroes are objectively good: P3 heroes are climbing Tartarus to save the city (maybe the world) from Shadows eating them during the Dark Hour is objectively good, and the heroes of P4 are saving kidnapped victims from murderer pushing them into TV world is objectively good. The heroes in P3 and P4 are limited to doing only good. While heroes of P5 are using their powers for good, can just as easily use them for bad.
To make it more morally gray, the heroes are criminals. So every time you start a new Social Link, you are involving that person into you mess, whether its intentional or not. For example, the journalist. She just wants to write, and you are her source, but now she is involved with your criminal activities. She is in more of a threat because of your direct involvement, they will become loose ends.
The Social Link in the previous games were almost completely detached from the main story. The nurse in P4 had nothing to do with the Inaba murders, the Monk in Persona 3 had nothing to do with the Dark Hour. But here, the Social Link characters do influence the Memento and the Memento influeces the characters. This separate, but related Social Links were much more impactful to the over all story. I loved the old Social Link events, but they were like from a different game, here, it is better tied together.
Unlike the previous games, the main dungeons in the game, the Palaces, are actually hand designed, rather than procedually generated like Persona 3 and 4. This means that things are placed in spots for reasons and not by algorithms. And if you for some reason miss the procedural nature of the previous games, there is the Momento. This deliberate dungeon making leads to way better level designs, tensions, and more exciting experience.
Hearing Igor’s squeaky and high voice is a music to this ear. Hearing his squeaky voice praising beauty of humanity is always welcome in my book. To that end, the game rewards returning players with a twist, so look forward to that.
- Will I play it again? I have played the whole game twice before writing the review, and it is still damn fun.
- Do I recommend it? While not as satisfying as Persona 3 or 4, it is still a damn good game. Gameplay is solid, story is good, and the characters are very likable.
I wanted to love this game, I mean it was 1 of 2 games I was actually excited for in 2017. But high hopes leaves little room for mistakes. I tried to turn blind eye on parts that annoyed the living hell out of me, but I can’t. This is a good game, and I do want to play it again, but it is nowhere near perfect.
Persona 4 was released on PS2 in 2008, almost a decade ago. But seeing Persona 5 being so similar to Persona 4 was a disappointment. Persona 3 brought the Persona series into new generation with a lot of changes and risk, adding Social Links, adding ticking clock throughout the game, and changing the mechanics of combat. But Persona 5 brought very little to the table with this generation. The time for another big round of risky changes for Persona series was now, and they missed it. Persona 5 felt like Persona 4 with better layer of paint than a new generation of it.
The game was good, but it would be a lie to say I was not disappointed. I had fun, but there was unnecessary bullshit moments. It was great familiar game, but too familiar.
I hope you liked it.