December 14, 2019 at 9:47 PM #1007
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
Persona 5: A game that lives or dies by its writing (minor spoilers)
Persona 5–the latest numbered game in the series with such a rich history. And, by nearly all counts, it does NOT disappoint. Arguably the best jRPG to come out for the past few years, and one that puts both the series and the genre back in the forefront of gaming.
There is a minor spoiler warning for this review. This writeup assumes that you know the main party’s names (for easy reference). This writeup also assumes you know the buildup of the central plot, which happens in the first 30 minutes of the game.
This review will measure the following criteria: Story, Characters, Gameplay, Miscellaneous
Gameplay – 9.5/10
I think it’s important to start here for any person new to the Persona series. You can consider this half RPG, half visual-novel. It’s unique in that the game lives out the day to day life of a protagonist–literally. Each day is vital, with not one that should be wasted.
When you’re not slaying monsters, you build up "social links"–a friendship building mechanic that is by all accounts a trademark of the series. Building up your friendship with people helps you in battle and in the game in general, so you are given every incentive to get close with your friends.
That is par for the course for Persona games though. What makes it great in Persona 5 is the writing.
Every character is interesting in some sort of way. There are a few stereotypes, but also quite a few twists in each one. The game encourages you to put people into a box, only to take that box away. You will be engaged all the way to the end–as the game is designed to do. More on this in the Characters section.
The battle portion of the gameplay is fantastic as well. You are given timed dungeons which you have to finish in a certain amount of days. Fail to do so ends in a game over–each with a unique ending.
I highly encourage you to not get these intentionally however, as they WILL spoil the game for you. Watch these after you beat the game, should you feel inclined.
The battle system itself is hallmark jRPG. You, as the main protagonist, have the ability to control Persona–each coming with their own attacks. However, while your party is limited to one persona, you have the ability to have multiple ones. This makes you the most "powerful" and versatile member of your team. This comes with one drawback however–you will lose the battle and get a game over if your protagonist falls in battle.
What makes the system good in Persona 5 is the depth of possibilities that come with having multiple persona. It makes gameplay very fluid and dynamic, with multiple possible strategies available depending on the dungeon you are in. And, these dungeons are LONG–longer than typical jRPG dungeons at least. So, strategy and time management will be key.
Characters – 9.5/10
I’ll be brief here–the characters are bar none interesting. You will genuinely hate the villains and like the heroes in different degrees. However, apart from a few exceptions, every character is multi-dimensional. I As mentioned earlier, the game "tricks" you by putting characters in a box, then challenges the very convention you based your decision on. This is particularly important for the sake of the story.
Speaking of which…
Story – 9.99999/10
This is… by far… the best part of Persona 5. And again, last chance, minor spoilers of the first 30 minutes ahead.
Ready now? Good.
The game starts with showing a time in the present, with your protagonist being the victim of betrayal. In other words, you are put in a bad spot from the start.
Then, the game does a flashback to the "start" of your journey, a few months back. The game then regularly cycles between this present and your past, all the while dropping small hints on how your character got to the bad spot he is in. Moreover, each character you encounter has the potential background and means to be that betrayer.
This hook is extremely effective. Never have I personally been this invested in the game’s story for this much. I usually do not mind spoilers, but this was the first game that I had anxiety over getting spoiled by even a simple title on the Internet. I had to do a straight playthrough of the game (with no guide) until I got to a comfortable point of potentially being spoiled. Not a second before.
And that, is unfortunately all I feel comfortable in saying regarding this. The leadup to this present is by far, some of the best writing I’ve seen from a jRPG. Some element of the story WILL surprise you, I guarantee it. Why you were betrayed, who/what/how many betrayed you and how did he/she/it/they betray you–at least one of if not all of these answers, to borrow from the game’s main battle theme, you will never see coming.
Oh, and the 0.00000000…1? I did not like the way the story gets to its climax/end. But, this is personal preference, nothing more.
Miscellaneous – 9.5/10
A few + and – points here:
+++++++ THE MUSIC. Seriously, get this game’s soundtrack. It has some of the best video game themes that have come out in a while. Definitely a permanent part of my audio collection. I have paused doing things in the game just to listen to the background music. It is worth your time and money–DO IT.
+ Even outside of the main characters, the world felt very alive. The conversations that happen, the side effects of the main story events on the public, the side commentary… everything. You are genuinely living out the days you spend ingame here (if you take your time, as the game suggests on every loading screen).
+ Graphics and colors are top notch. Very vibrant, worthy of a PS4 title.
+ Main protagonist design. I’ve gotten accustomed to calling him the proSWAGonist. It’s that good.
+ Futaba. Sakura. Up there for BEST character that the series ever created. And for some, the WORST character. I’m personally for the former, but every popular character has their haters.
+ English voice acting of the main cast of characters is superb. I can’t name one that didn’t make sense or grating to hear. Very well done.
- Battle animation and before/after battle sequences are relatively long. You do not get in and out of battle as quickly as you might other games, which pads up the time quite a bit.
- Outside of the main cast of characters, filler characters have "meh" VA’s. I get that they are filler, but still. Some of them were annoying.
Final Score – 9.5/10.
So, why 9.5? Persona 5, I feel, hinges on its writing. If you do not like this particular style of story, there will be little else exceptional about Persona 5 for you. While I maintain that the characters and mechanics are superb, there are other games this year that can and have done that.
Persona 5’s main selling point is how well you resonate with the story. So, if you’re still thinking about getting this game, I have a suggestion for you:
Watch the first 30 minutes on YouTube. Don’t read the comments, and really think about the game. If you are hooked afterwards, or if the game successfully kept your interest, then I believe this game is a must-buy for you.
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