Persona 5 review
Persona 5 is a beautiful, hilarious, challenging, super weird, super long JRPG that’s not afraid to mix up its established formula. It’s also not afraid of pushing buttons.
– FREAKING GORGEOUS: Style out the butt. In-your-face pizzaz. Bold and flashy, but also intricate and detailed. This is way more than Persona on the Catherine Engine. The monsters are beautiful. For fellow SMT fans that have seen these faces a million times, seeing them in this new light is a thrill. Color splashes, red zig zags, hands slapping on screens, crazy font design, ridiculous almost JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure-level poses – it’s wonderful.
– Friends for days: The best part about Persona games is the social interactions. They jammed a huge cast and tons of actions and interactions in P5. If you’re a see/do/hear it all kind of JRPGer, you’re never going to finish this game. I won’t go into any of the details because meeting these people for yourself and learning their backstory is the true joy of this game.
As always, your friendships power you up in the game. Cool mechanics ties abound. They’re still teaching that ‘it pays to have friends’ lesson.
It’s less Scooby Doo and more realistic, too. Well, as realistic as a Persona game can get. Here are a whole bunch of people from different walks (but all from school, haha) getting together under a common theme and goal. And now they’re stealing hearts and changing the world in their own way. They’ll feel like your real friends. It’s that Persona magic all over again.
– Huge world: The early Persona games let you find new areas and explore them, but P3 and P4 got farther away from that. It’s all back. There are so many cool locales to visit. Tons of shops. Hidden areas. Shortcuts.
There’s a super faithful recreation of Shibuya Station, complete with step/turn accurate exits to other lines. You’ll be amazed by Hachiko’s statute. I was amazed that one exit’s turn down a stairwell accurately led to the Den-en-tosh line, leading out to where I used to live in Tokyo. My jaw dropped.
It’s so big that you can actually get lost. And getting lost is a delight. All of the obscure stores in back alleys gives me good Persona 2 vibes. There’s even a good pharmacy song.
You’ll love all of the downtime activities. It’s not to Yakuza 0 level yet, but it’s leaning that direction. I love the food shopping for some reason.
– FUN ASS DUNGEONS: There are people that play Persona games that hate dungeon crawling. That just seems bizarre to me but I know they’re out there. They’re going to like these. You’re going to like these. They’re themed so you get a lot of variety. And new stealth and platforming elements keep things fresh. They’re big and convoluted and there’s a good save/checkout system for exploring for as long as you can before you run out of MP and goods.
Outside the theme/main dungeons, there’s an overall world dungeon you can visit at will for leveling and story expansion. And it’s crazy. And its music is crazy.
– GOOD ASS MUSIC: speaking of music, Shoji Meguro did that mid-career thing that all good artists do where he says, hey, you don’t know me. I’m capable of more. Of different.
Persona 5′s soundtrack is a HUGE departure from previous games. More grooves. More funk. More live instrumentation. More performances. It’s every bit as vocal as the previous couple, but the style is so different. This change gives a subdued initial impression, but this music is so carefully crafted to fit the world that you’ll love it even more than the flashy weird-to-be-weird songs you know from before.
One really slick thing is how the soundtrack is built around the long haul (this is a 100-hour game). I don’t want to spoil anything, but know that the songs you’re hearing in hour 10 will change eventually. Evolve. It’s so subtle that I wonder if some even notice!
I LOVE this soundtrack.
– Your Turn…based: I was relieved to pick up a turn-based RPG after Final Fantasy XV. Love both games but man, I need my strategy time! It’s the same ol’ battle system with a few new tweaks. You already knew that so I won’t go into it. But the challenge level is nicely done. Encounters are handled well. Persona availably is limited early on (which is to say that enemy variety is strangely limited), and that kind of sucks, but you can always blend to make your own. You know the drill.
I really dig the baton pass ability that let’s another party member take over once you land a good hit. It let’s you dig deeper into resource management strategy if you’d like. I also dig the gun attack addition, though it isn’t used as much as I’d like.
Boss battles are big and beefy, and they have some interesting mechanics that tie into the game’s world. And the challenge level is nice overall. Just…nicely done!
– STORRRRYYYEEEEEE: If you want a story with nooks and crannies you can sink your teeth into, P5 is gonna fill you up. It’s deep and multilayered and super stylized and so much more than you’re used to as a Persona 5. They really packed this sandwich. The us-against-the-world story has lots of sub stories, loopbacks, world ties, and surprises. And it plays out over such a long overall arc that you’re going to just kind of suddenly draw connections during your workday and be, like, Oh WOW!
The story is kind of heavy. Darker than usual. Perverted in places. Just plain weird in others. Plenty of moving moments too. There’s lots of social commentary piled on. This plays internationally, but man, it’s really Japan-focused if you know your J-culture. And I love that.
– Curry: Japanese curry plays a part in the story. That’s awesome.
– TIME MANAGEMENT: After about 10 hours of play you’ll feel overwhelmed with your downtime choices. And there are so many things to chase after (story, stats, locales, etc) that you can easily lose your way. There’s a need for a good tracking system for all of the possible actions and interactions. It’s surprisingly messy! The feeling that you’re always close to running out of time is real. And kind of annoying. The game’s loading icon tells you to “take your time” but it often feels like you can’t.
– Stealth Controls are SHIT: I can’t believe how bad the “cover” system is for this game. Latching onto and off of walls in dungeons is a fun mechanic, but the system is so wonky that you’re sometimes finding yourself dancing like an idiot in a room full of baddies. They’ll run you down while you’re fumbling with the controls, and when they attack you’re automatically at a battle disadvantage. It’s scream-at-your-TV bad.
– Morgana, shut the hell up: You’ll see. Especially in battles. You’re cute and I love you, but shut up.
– Busted-ass Japanese names: Ugh. Some of the Japanese proper noun pronunciation is rough! Which is a shame as the voice work quality is outstanding. Your eyes will pop out of your head with some of the pronunciation, sorry to say.
You should play this. But I can’t really imagine a world where someone needs to be told to play a Persona game. It’s the best Persona game of them all.