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They took my heart away!

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    Persona 5

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    They took my heart away!

    ***QUICK REVIEW: This installment is a Persona series fan or jRPG enthusiast’s dream. Story-driven real life/dating simulator. Characters are fully fleshed out. Battles are turn-based but you can either avoid or rush through them. All major dungeons no longer have randomly-generated maps. No online trophies. Not open world. Time management heavy. True ending path is easy to achieve. One playthrough is at least 70-80 hours.

    ***DETAILED REVIEW: This may be the nth review/wall of text to be written for Persona 5. There may be elements that some reviews don’t have, so I’ll do my best to document everything that the game has to offer.

    You’re immediately thrust into playing the role of the protagonist, Akira Kurusu (cannon name; unofficial?), a 2nd year high school transfer student. The game’s official trailers reveal that he’s a juvenile delinquent and has to behave himself for a year. Otherwise, his life’s over.

    STORY AND REPLAY VALUE: The story is very much based on real life and eerily mirrors the world’s current and worsening societal and political landscapes. The main campaign is basically made up of flashbacks of Akira’s daily life, social interactions, decisions and involvement in events during his one year sentence. All these lead to the game’s initial sequences and give you a clearer picture of everything that has transpired. The way it all gels together in the end is astonishing. While the plot is not as dark as most claim it to be, it’s still a superbly told tale and that’s what really matters. Even the antagonists’ back stories are relatable! I also like the way the game shows how the internet and smart phones have heavily impacted today’s lives. Two playthroughs are not recommended to fully enjoy the narrative. However, it’s a must to unlock awesome content or make certain events happen earlier than would have otherwise taken days or months (in-game time). You can even go for more playthroughs to see how certain decisions with your friends will play out especially with the ladies.

    GRAPHICS AND SOUND: I can’t believe I’m looking at 3D graphics and not an anime. Much love and effort was put into Persona 5 and it really shows. The presentation is superbly done, and I feel like I really am in the locales. Even the loading screens and menus were given thought, style and attitude. There are important anime sequences sprinkled throughout the game and they’re gorgeous. This is also, by far, a game that has a fun, engaging and memorable soundtrack. It enhances the overall experience and really gets you into the mood and groove of every scene. Shoji Meguro totally outdid himself here.

    GAMEPLAY: The area and cafe you’ll be staying it will be your "hub town". The map will gradually open up as you go through the story but not all locations can be explored. The first awesome thing I noticed is that you can now save anytime and anywhere in the real world. QUICK TRAVEL to any major locations you’ve previously accessed can also be done and it’s easier than the last two games. Saving and loading are also as quick as the blink of an eye. This helps a lot when you think you responded poorly to your CONFIDANTS (social links). This and TIME MANAGEMENT have been the series’ major gameplay element since Persona 3. You’ll be pleased to know that their significance has been buffed to near bursting with abilities that will aid you in battle and not just make you learn extra skills, discover HANG-OUT SPOTS, fuse the highest persona of an arcana or transfigure a party member’s persona. Maxing them all out is a must.

    SOCIAL QUALITIES still play a huge role so don’t be callous towards your friends. Advancing to some confidants’ next level or even starting one will be impossible if you’re not charming, intelligent, kind, proficient or brave enough. Thankfully, there are a ton of activities to help improve your social qualities. Keep in mind that these also make time pass so time them well. They include hanging out with specific confidants, studying at a diner when it’s raining, being understanding when waitresses commit mistakes, reading books (at home, the library or if you manage to grab a seat on the train), watching movies at a theater or at home, playing video games, fishing, taking care of your indoor plant, answering to a TV quiz show, drinking weird shakes in the subway every Sunday, answering correctly to recitation and being top of the class, dodging a piece of chalk the teacher throws at you, CRAFTING INFILTRATION TOOLS, going to the sauna, working out in your room or at the gym, doing the laundry and taking on part time jobs. You can even go to the batting cages to test your timing and, hopefully, hit a homerun. One confidant, once her social link level is high enough, can give you a massage. This helps save time and open up night exploration if you recently returned from exploring the other world. She can even do chores for you while she’s away or give you idle time in school!

    As for exploring the other world (metaverse), PALACES (main dungeons) have been given a major overhaul. Randomly generated maps are now restricted to the minor dungeons. Also, they are not only unique in themes but their layout is now different from each other and that includes every floor. Each one is really expansive and have lots of puzzle-solving elements throughout. Treasure chest locations and contents are fixed. Save points (safe rooms) are now found in every area and you can quick travel between safe rooms and the palace entrance. You’ll get kicked out if security alert level is high. This happens if you always let the roaming enemy sprites detect you. Closing in for an AMBUSH or getting to strike them first will reduce the security alert level. Palaces will be gone after clearing them.

    On the other hand are MEMENTOS (minor dungeons) where change of heart REQUESTS (sidequests) can be fulfilled and where the entire bestiary is at. There are no more fetch quests but mementos have really neat items and gear in them. There’s no security alert and weak enemies will flee from you but stay idle for too long, and you’ll be in for an unsettling surprise (much like in Persona 3’s Tartarus). It’s up to you if you want to do all the requests but a good chunk is needed to advance most of your confidants. A major event is also linked to reaching mementos’ final area by a certain date. Make time for it but I recommend gathering requests and taking care of them in bulk as it will also make time pass. Try to visit mementos, too, during pollen, heat wave and flu seasons. See what these weather changes can do to enemies especially flu.

    Speaking of bestiary, the minor enemies in the game make up the PERSONA COMPENDIUM. You can execute two of them in the VELVET ROOM through GUILLOTINE (normal fusion) and find new ones. Other enhancements include LOCK DOWN (puts a persona behind bars for a time and make it overcome its weakness), GROUP GUILLOTINE (results in horrendously powerful personas), GALLOWS (kills off one persona to strengthen and grant a skill to another) and ELECTRIC CHAIR (turns persona into equipment or SKILL CARDS). You can customize any Persona you own by using skill cards so go crazy and create a god! Just don’t forget to REGISTER the changes you’ve made! Also, if you’re lucky and security alert level is high in a palace or if it’s raining during your mementos visit, you may encounter TREASURE DEMONS. These are also personas but they can’t fight. Catch them before they run away. The electric chair may bring out the best in them. ;)

    BATTLES are turn-based but you can avoid them under certain conditions through a certain confidant’s strength, stealth or rush through them if you’re confident about your party’s abilities. Switching party members can now be done ANYTIME outside battles wherever you are. In battles, though, you need to make sure a certain confidant is at max level to be able to freely switch. Knocking an enemy down or reducing some of them to HP that’s near-death will make you TALK to them. You can obtain them as personas or get items or money. The last time I’ve seen this was in Persona 2. Alternatively, if you knock all enemies down, you can perform an ALL-OUT ATTACK, put them out of their misery, and marvel at the finishing animation unique to the character that knocked the enemies down.

    OVERALL: Persona 5 is definitely one of the most anticipated games to come out for the Playstation 4. However, no matter how polished it is like some of its contemporaries, it still has one foot firmly planted in the Playstation 3. It’s not a bad thing but this game isn’t revolutionary as far as pushing the PS4 to its limits is concerned. If you’re all about visuals, real-time action and open world exploration, this is not the game for you. However, if you’re after a well-crafted jRPG, then get it if you haven’t yet.

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