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View from a JRPG noob

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    Persona 5

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    View from a JRPG noob

    It’s tough to know where to start with a game that took me 119 hours to complete. Persona 5 is a huge commitment, because once you start it and allow yourself to be immersed in its world, you’re going to be hooked and in it for the long haul.

    As a JRPG novice, and this being my very first Persona game, I was a bit overwhelmed upon starting the game and having so much to take in at once. In fairness, it does a good job of easing you into the mechanics of the game, such as offering hints at ways to spend your limited time, and drip feeding newer places and characters in just at the right moments.

    Your hand is held for a certain point up until the game feels you should be accustomed to the rules, and then you’re free to play your way. You live each day as your character, a high school student in Japan, and each activity you choose to do will shape him in a different way. Admittedly a lot of it leads to the same end-point; maximising your relationships, or increasing your social stats.

    I’ll admit to facing a certain level of confusion at exactly how my relationships ¨C ¡®confidants’, as usually referred to by the game ¨C were affected by my character’s Personas. Basically each confidant comes with their own ¡®arcana’, which is reflected in certain Personas that you can collect. If you have a matching Persona in your repertoire, your relationship with that confidant will advance more quickly. I didn’t quite grasp this at first, and had some making up to do in terms of time spent with the first couple of characters.

    Personally I thought there were too many varieties of Persona, and I would have preferred a lesser amount that allowed me to become more familiar and attached to each one. Prior to playing the game, I had heard it very loosely compared to a Pokemon style collect-athon. But I never felt a connection to a single one of my Personas, and even if I had, the regularity with which you acquire new ones or need to fuse two (or more) of them to create a new one, would mean that connection would never be sustained.

    The ¡®Palaces’, in which the combat and puzzles come into play in, do all have a great variety, but some are a little too big for their own good. The penultimate one just seemed to go on and on, with the battles becoming a bore and the puzzles more of a chore than anything. It also had a period where I went over an hour without a save point, with some very tough battles within that period, which I found a bit too close for comfort.

    The negotiations you have to go through to persuade new Personas to join your group seem very inconsistent and illogical. Based on the personality of the Persona, you are supposed to use a certain tone to talk to them with. But it’s very rarely clear which answer is ¡®serious’, ¡®vague’, ¡®funny’, or ¡®kind’. Almost every time it seemed that there was at least two dialogue options that fit that tone I was supposed to be using, and that led to me missing out on a few new Personas.

    It was outside of the palaces that was the part of the game that kept me coming back for more. On paper, I can see the view of it being a ¡®social-sim. But I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. Meeting new characters, developing relationships, advancing their stories, it all had me enthralled. Like a good TV programme; it was like tuning in to see how a group of real life friends were getting on. I had my favourites, but even the others had stories worth hearing. It would have been nice if choosing to enter a relationship with a girl had a little more effect on the game, but there are still some nice little references in there.

    Managing my time was slightly tough to begin with, and like with the Persona negotiations, was more than a little bit illogical and inconsistent. Most days, you get two free periods to do as you wish; after school, and evening. Hanging out with friends, going to the cinema, reading etc will all pass time, as you’d expect. However, it took me a while to get my head around the fact that making coffee would also take up time, but using the train to travel to the other side of the map would not. Doing your laundry would take time, but with no option to read a book or study whilst waiting for it to be done. It’s all done in the name of forcing you into time-management in terms of prioritising skills/confidants and growing your character a certain way, but just a little more common sense wouldn’t have gone amiss.

    I had a great time playing Persona 5, and aren’t ashamed to admit to feeling a bit sentimental and nostalgic upon its end. However, a few flaws, particularly in the real meat of the gameplay such as the combat/palace design, did hold it back from feeling like a true great. But any game that can instil emotion like that in me has done a good job in my book, and as a self-confessed JRPG amateur, I feel like it’s a big statement to say I will definitely be taking an interest in the series from now on.

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