Persona 5 Review! (Spoiler Free)
Ok, so I’ve played it twice, I’ve platinumed it, I’ve been through every f*cking rage quit, I died many times right before getting to the safe room, I’ve never seen it coming like a thousand times, and now, I can safely say, I love this game so much.
No joke. Persona 5 was everything I expected and more, much more. It surpassed my expectations in every aspect. And yes, this is gonna be anything but praise, and you can already guess which is going to be my final verdict on this, but still, I have to talk about this game.
So, like in its two predecessors, you play as a nameless protagonist, whom we’ll call Akira Kurusu (‘cause that’s his name in the manga and I like it very much) and who’s been falsely accused and now is under probation in Tokyo, the big city. Here, he’ll be taken under custody by Sojiro Sakura, the owner of the café Leblanc, and he’ll attend to this school with a very particular sense of fashion when it comes to its uniforms, Shujin Academy. Soon enough, Akira will discover that a strange app has been installed into his cellphone without his consent, and despite the many times he tried to delete it, it won’t go away.
From here on out, you can guess what will happen if you’ve played another Persona game before: he’ll discover he can summon creatures from hell itself and that there’s a world inside of the world where shadows live, he’ll come across other people who can summon things as well, and they’ll fight demons and stuff, and at the end, they’ll save the world with the power of friendship because if not, this is definitely not a jrpg. Pretty much the same concept from previous games.
But at the same time is completely different, new and fresh.
Persona 5 revolves around the themes of ’freedom’, and ’being slaved by society’. The topic of corrupt and rotten adults is also brought up many times. And it does it perfectly. From the beginning, you get absorbed by the prejudice they throw upon Akira for being a ‘delinquent’ under probation. You can feel how they speak behind his back, how they look away while he walks past them. You put yourself in his shoes, and you sympathize with his bad luck. That’s a very special moment for the player and the protagonist, for it hadn’t happened in previous Personas: this is the very first Persona game in which the main character has the heaviest story pre-game and you feel it. And with 'heavy’ I mean, seen, clear, present, because yes, the P3 Protagonist had a very sad past, but the game barely touched upon the death of his/her parents, and regarding Yu Narukami… well… yeah, he comes from the city and… yeah, that’s it.
Akira is a character already stablished, the responses you can choose for him have a tendency to seem rebellious, the way he smirks, taunts his enemies and acts proudly of himself… He is, in every way, a character on his own, and not a chance a representation of what the player want him to be. And that’s GREAT!
And not just him. The friends you come across in this path – The Phantom Thieves – may all seem a copycat of previous characters from previous games, but there’s always something that make them unique and original. The way Ryuji speaks and stands against everyone; Ann’s ideals of becoming an inspiration and her passionate love and care for her friend Shiho; Makoto’s concern about her sister and her own future and the pigeon-hole that chained her down for so many years; Futaba’s case of agoraphobia, with her tearful fears and her own demons; Yusuke’s hidden past shaped in a painting and his eccentric ideas; Haru’s heavy burden in following her father’s footsteps while at the same time realizing what she wants for herself; Akechi’s intrusive appearances, with a sad motive and a real self-centered issue; Morgana’s pursuit for his own past, and his devotion for the team. Yes, we already had that best friend who follows women in swimsuits (and actually buys a swimsuit for them cof cof Yosuke I’m looking at you cof cof), we already had the genius detective, the rich heiress to a big enterprise, the talking animal (stop it, Teddie, this is un-bear-able), the popular girl… but they all bring something new to the table. They’re all relatable at some point, and it’s hard to choose a favorite, for they all make you want to be part of that group of friends.
The story is so well thought that it makes me want to cry tears of joy. The main concept is to change the hearts of corrupt people: a sexual assaulter, an artist who plagiarizes his pupil’s work, a mafia leader… you get the idea. The Phantom Thieves risk their lives by entering Palaces, these people’s manifestation of their distorted desires, and they steal their 'treasure’ – in other words, they take away from the villain’s cognition that specific thing that made them corrupt in the first place. It can be a memento from their childhoods, it can be a very naïve object that, with time, created in them this sinful desire to abuse of others with their power. F*ck these guys, really.
And yeah, one thing leads to another… and… there’s like a wheel thing, things that happened at the beginning have repercussion later down the line… and… if I speak a little more I’ll be banned by Atlus 'cause spoilers. But, let me just say that if you believe that Persona 4’s story was clever and surprising, trust me, your jaw will fall to the floor many, maaaaany times in Persona 5. Like, really. You’ll envy these kids’ minds. You’ll never see it co- sorry, it just never gets old.
The gameplay remains true to Persona roots, and brings back the Shadow Negotiation, a mechanic that hadn’t been present since the Persona 2 duology. Before, you gained Personas at the end of the battle thanks to cards shufflin’ (the Shuffle Time Oh My God), but now, it’s up to you to convince the shadows you fight against to join your cause. The Velvet Room is also back, with a very grave-voiced Igor (and Oh, I wanna comment on this, but I can’t), and with two new assistants: Caroline and Justine, the twin wardens. You’ll be able to fuse Personas, just like in old times, but in this occasion you’ll have to decapitate the Personas you want to fuse to create a new one. Nice! There’s also an electric chair, a cell for lockdown and a hanging spot! Cute! All of these things bring new mechanics to the Velvet Room, that you’ll be taking advantage of. There are over 200 Personas to create, and there are some new ones, but don’t worry, we’ll be seeing the same old faces again (hee, hoo, Jack Frost is there too!).
As always, the Social Lin- pardon me, the ’confidants’ (f*ck it, they’re still Social Links, don’t bother me), will enchant the player and take your heart, no pun intended. Aside from fighting darkness itself inside the Palaces (which you should finish as fast as possible), you’ll be spending time with your party members and people from school and from around the city. It’s always good to see Akira interacting with his peers, but it was refreshing for me to see him with adults: in a society in which adults are all rotten and only think about themselves, he comes across some grown-ups that are worthy, that are still clean, and this goes to show that not all of the adults are corrupt, and not all of the teenagers are stupid and immature.
Akira grows close to the people around him, and you can sense his affection and theirs. There’s a big change as to how they regard our favorite delinquent: they slowly realize that he’s not a troublemaker as they made them believe, that he’s actually a noble fighter, and that he’s also worth fighting for. All their love, all their support, is seen and felt during the course of the game, and even more during the final hours. You’ll be grateful to have been close to all these people (I fully recommend to do a playthrough with all the Social Links maximized, it’ll give you, apart from a sense of satisfaction, the whole picture of what I’m talking about).
Social Links are now useful to the actual gameplay. Not only the party members learn new skills as in Persona 4 and passive skills as in Persona 3, but also the confidants outside of the party will give you perks and bonuses during the fights. For example, Mishima’s Social Link (Arcana Moon) will give you extra experience points for those playable characters that are on the reserves (you know, the ones you don’t like and don’t use), so now all of your characters level up at the same time, not just the four you choose. And it’s helpful as hell, believe me. Another Social Link, Hifumi Togo’s (Star Moon), lets you exchange the characters in battle for those who are on the reserves as well, so in a middle of a boss, if a character is low on hp or sp, you can change them for one who is fresh and ready to fight. And so on. That’s why it is advisable to maximize as many Social Links as you can (but don’t forget to boost your social stats from time to time!).
So, the story is great, the gameplay is addictive… and the music is downright REBELLIOUS. It’s so good that it makes you wanna put on a mask and go out to reform society in a costume. There are songs that you’ll never see – alright, I’ll stop. It’s just… I love 'Last Surprise’ so much. And 'Rivers in the Desert’. And 'With the Stars and Us’, especially the piano version, my goodness, is that a tear in my eye…?
At the end of the game, I found myself whispering how good it was. It was beautiful, and I cried, although it’s not a sad story. I cried because of how good, how joyful it was, because of how many laughs it gave me; I cried because it conveyed many feelings, it made me feel rage, sadness, pity, happiness, rage again, betrayal, surprise… I was amazed by how clever the story went, by how well implemented each mechanic was. I really don’t know how Atlus can top this game, but I’m sure they will, and Persona 5 won’t be the 'last surprise’, I hope.
I really am glad that this game exists. I waited for it not so much, because I entered the Persona world (and I’ve been sucked into it forever now) last year, but still, a few months of delay felt like an eternity, and by the end of March, I was yearning for this to finally be released.
I do have one complaint. Tiny. I really wished there were more easter eggs and references to past Persona games. I know you can see Rise’s poster, and also Kanami’s (which makes, unfortunately, Persona 4 Dancing All Night canon), and that they mention the other 'ace detective’, referring to Naoto Shirogane. I’ve read but not found that they also mention another detective with red sunglasses, making an allusion to Katsuya Suou, older brother of Tatsuya from Persona 2. But still, I was waiting for that trip to Inaba, or to Tatsumi Port Island, or to come across at least Yu Narukami. Something… more. But I guess we’ll see Akira interacting with previous wild card wielders in the not so far away future (yeah, you guessed it, most probably Persona 5 Arena is being developed right now). I just wished they put something more obvious into the game.
But that’s it. I want Atlus to keep on creating games, to keep on surprising me. If you’re a fan of the series, this game will blow your mind, because it brings everything from past games and make it better. If you’re new to the series, this game will blow your mind as well, but you’ll have a difficult time adjusting to the previous ones, if you ever wish to play them (I recommend it though, even Persona 2 Innocent Sin). All in all, it’s an excellent, EXCELLENT, jrpg, and everything we’ve been waiting for.
Persona 5 doesn’t disappoint.