Three Early Lessons from Persona 5
Tips from a former Persona quitter
The web has been littered with stories about Persona 5 for the last couple of months. It’s definitely true that any new Persona game tends to be a big deal, owing to the series’ cult major cult following. Remember, too, that the last big release of the series was Persona 4 Golden on PlayStation Vita back in 2012 (I’m not counting the spin-offs here). For these reasons alone, it’s not surprising that the latest instalment has kept keyboards around the world clacking away with all sorts of Persona 5-related musings.
And yet, there’s one major thing separating Persona 5 from its predecessors: sales. After only a week of availability globally, Atlus (the game’s publisher) reported sales of around 1.5 million. This would be a staggering achievement for any game, let alone a quirky and offbeat Japanese RPG. For reference, Persona 4 Golden sold about 1.16 million copies through its lifetime.
I’m always a bit hesitant to get into the whole sales thing, but I mention this because the sales indicate that there are very many people for whom Persona 5 acts as an entry point into the franchise. And if you’ve ever played a Persona game, you’ll know that the barrier to entry can be quite high for the uninitiated.
At this point I’m going to assume that you’ve at least dabbled in Persona 5 and that you have some familiarity with the game’s basics — if you’d like a primer on the series though, I recommend checking out Kaylee Kuah’s great introductory piece on Persona.
For the record, the only other Persona game I’ve played is Persona 4 Golden. And I’ll be honest: I got through a couple of the dungeons, and then gave up because I couldn’t beat the time limit. After being unceremoniously booted several days into the past on more than one occasion — only to repeat several days of work — I threw in the towel. I found myself getting frustrated; I’d work hard to prepare for a dungeon, and I found it so gruelling and difficult that I’d get close to the end with almost no items left and with no SP (which had no obvious methods for replenishment other than leaving and returning to the dungeon).
There was a great deal about Persona 4 Golden that I was really drawn to, and I wanted to like it. So, when the time came to consider Persona 5, I was a little torn; do I buy this game, knowing that I might experience similar frustrations? Well, in the end, I took the chance and I made a concerted effort to learn how to tackle this very unique game — how to play by Persona’s rules.
I’m now around 15 hours into Persona 5, having completed the second palace just recently. As a former Persona quitter who is now really enjoying Persona 5, I thought I’d share my top three tips to help break through the game’s barriers. If you’re a series veteran, these things might seem obvious — but if you’re a former quitter like me or a totally new player experiencing some frustrations, these tips might just be life savers.
If you’re completely new to the game, then you may consider some of the items below to be minor spoilers. Don’t worry though, I won’t spoil anything related to the plot or major game events.
Tip 1: Learn how to make coffee
As I said above, one of my biggest frustrations in Persona 4 Golden was that I’d keep running out of SP, which is vital for combat. The importance of SP is no different in Persona 5; you’ll quickly find that managing your SP is absolutely critical to success. You’ll also find that there are very few ways to replenish SP while you’re exploring a palace.
This is where coffee comes in (I always knew coffee had magical properties, hm…)
Fairly early in the game, you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to make coffee from Sojiro, your new-found caretaker/parental-like dude. Ostensibly, the coffee lesson is all about helping out around Cafe Leblanc — if nothing else, it makes sense to help Sojiro in order to deepen your relationship with him (he is, after all, a key confidant).
Most importantly though, each coffee you brew can restore a whopping 30 SP. So, having a few coffees in your inventory can make a massive difference in palaces, especially when fighting bosses.
In addition to being a great way to restore SP, your coffee-brewing skills will act as something of a social lubricant with other characters later on in the game.
Tip 2: Balance your life
These tips are in no particular order, but this one is probably the most important from my perspective.
If you’re brand new to the Persona series, one of the more stressful elements is the idea that each “mission” (which typically involves a dungeon crawl through a palace and then a boss face-off) is time-limited with a hard deadline that triggers a game over if reached without completing said mission.
The game doesn’t say much about how to tackle missions, except that you should “prepare” before going into a palace.
The mistake I made — and maybe I’m the only who made it — is that I’d spend days preparing in the real world (building up relationships with my confidants, gathering necessary items, working and spending the money on upgraded weapons and clothing) before entering the palace for the first time. It turns out that this just doesn’t work, really. If you do this, you’ll leave yourself with limited time in the palace and you’ll be rushing to beat the boss maybe a day or two out from the deadline.
The better approach? As soon as you have access to a palace, enter it immediately. Battle your way through at least to the first save room; where possible, make your way deeper into the palace — several save rooms in, if you can.
Remember that when you’re in a palace, time essentially stands still in the real world (if you enter a palace after school, you’ll emerge in the evening of that day, no matter how long you actually spent inside the palace).
The idea is to knock over a good chunk of the palace early on, and to return to it regularly to move from save room to save room. You can then take breaks for a couple of days at a time in the real world to progress other important areas of your development (like earning money or building relationships, which in turn help you in the palaces).
Another helpful tip here: as you visit save rooms, remember to consult with your party. You’ll get important advice indicating your overall progress in the palace — for example, you’ll find out when you’re roughly halfway through the infiltration, or when you’re very close to the treasure. These little temperature checks with the team will help you to understand your overall progress on the mission, which in turn helps you to plan out your activities leading up to the deadline.
Tip 3: Regularly fuse personas
This final tip is another one that may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget. As you play through Persona 5, you’ll regularly encounter new personas that you can add to your arsenal.
The key here though is that you really want to make the most of the personas you have, and you won’t be able to do this simply by collecting them from battle. You’ll need to invest some time on a regular basis fusing personas in order to discover the very best personas and to maximise their available skills.
Fusing personas can be tricky for the uninitiated, so I recommend checking out some further advice that details the process before proceeding (having said that, the game itself does a reasonable job of explaining the system).
One thing that game doesn’t emphasise (at least from memory), is that you may want to register your persona in the Compendium before proceeding with any fusions — once you’ve fused two or more persona, they are lost, having been replaced by the new persona resulting from the fusion process.
Registering a persona in the Compendium ensures that you can retrieve it later on, which is rather handy.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. They are the three big observations that stood out to me as someone who didn’t “get” the Persona games initially.
I know there are many more useful tidbits out there though, so please feel free to share your number one tip in the comments below (especially if you think it might help in my situation).