I’m pretty much a stranger when it comes to JRPGs, (Japanese Role-Playing Games), but with so much hype surrounding the latest iteration in the Persona series, I decided now marked the perfect opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about. However, even after spending countless hours with the game I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, so bear with me as I try my best to formulate my thoughts.
Persona 5 is an adventure that focuses heavily on character development and the building of relationships, but beneath its social simulator veneer lies a complex world filled with dungeons, demons and mystical powers. It features a wacky Japanese story which is dripping with style and in some aspects bears a strong resemblance to the mind-bending Christopher Nolan movie, Inception.
The game is set in Tokyo and follows the life of a high school student who has been falsely accused of assault. As a result he is transferred to a new school to start afresh by making friends and staying out of trouble. During the course of a school year he and his colleagues discover they have Persona powers and suit up as masked vigilantes, otherwise known as the Phantom Thieves. What are Persona powers? Well, a Persona is a manifestation of a characters’ inner psyche and these metaphysical beings are available during turn-based combat scenarios in a parallel realm known as the Metaverse. Still with me?
This alternate dimension features Palaces wherein distorted desires reside and can be accessed via the “Metaverse Navigator” app. At the heart of a Palace and its dungeon-filled map lies the emotional root of a selected individuals’ behaviour and whilst exploring these dungeons is fun, there are a lot of enemies standing in your way. Its turn-based combat offers a lot of options when it come to fighting and your Persona is an integral part to defeating any opposing forces. You can plan your attacks and use your resources to find an enemies’ weakness, before using an elemental attack from your Persona, firing a gun, or executing a melee move. On occasion you’ll be lucky enough to strike an enemy and leave it dazed and if you happen to daze all enemies within a single fight then you can negotiate for them to give you money, an item or lend you their power. If they allow you to use their power then they will join your collection of Persona’s and become available to use in the next fight. If you begin to acquire duplicates then you can blend Persona’s together in order to craft newer, stronger variations.
On the Phantom Thieves’ first mission they break into the heart of a teacher they suspect is abusing his pupils. Once they successfully find the treasure that represents his true self, they remove it from the Metaverse and he ends up confessing his crimes. Essentially, players must infiltrate any corrupt adult’s heart in the hope of reforming them back in the real-world.
As a newcomer it took me a while to digest everything that Persona 5 has to offer. The first 15-20 hours act as a tutorial and as a result the game takes a while to get started. It sticks closely to an in-game calendar and each day you have a finite amount of time to indulge in conversation, head to a part job, or relax in a variety of leisure activities (these include watching a movie, playing baseball, or even bonding with a friend over sushi). The more activities you partake in the more your stats (Charm, Guts, Kindness, Knowledge and Proficiency) will increase. Gaining better stats will open up new conversation paths and give you a better standing against higher level tasks.
Overall, Persona 5 is an experience that will take well over 100 hours to complete and after the first Palace in the Metaverse is defeated the playing field is a lot less restrictive.
The game’s publisher (Atlus) has disabled the Share functionality and stopped anyone taking screenshots or video, hence why all of my screenshots are in Japanese and from sourced from Google. It’s a real shame considering how beautiful this game is.