Persona 5 Review
Persona 5 is one of the best games I’ve ever played. AAA games tend to be really bland and mediocre to me. They feel like the marketing division had a bigger hand in their design than the actual developers. This feels like the antithesis of that. A high production value game where it really feels like this was someone’s vision. This is a story they wanted to tell, with an aesthetic that is entirely unique.
The artstyle in this game is absolutely next level and so far beyond what most games are at these days. Many games try to be minimalist, this injects as much style as possible into everything. Even something as simple as the menu UI or the UI for various stores feel like so much work was put into it. It’s truly impressive, and it’s something that needs to be experienced. Combine this with an absolutely stellar soundtrack, and the game just exudes a style unlike any other game I’ve played.
I could go on about this game a lot. But in respect for your time, let’s cut to the chase. This game is about a high school student that has been branded as something of a delinquent, and even a criminal. You’re a social outcast struggling to just get by. You meet other people that are in a similar boat, and through some strange events, you have the power to really do something about it. I don’t want to go into the story all that much, as I don’t want to spoil anything, and there is A LOT of story. The story in a general sense is about social reform, how people in power tend to abuse their power, and why people are reluctant to do anything about it.
The social links follow this theme as well. All of them are social outcasts trying to find a place in the world. The pacing of the game is fantastic as well. It took me 100 hours to beat the game, and I enjoyed every last minute of it. The characters are all very well fleshed out, and you really get invested in them. Most of them make an initial first impression that they’re a specific archetype, but later you find they have much more going on. For example, one character has very typical “quirky nerd” traits, but they have very good reasons as to why they act that way. To make a comparison to Persona 3, I felt more tension in fighting the first boss of this game than I did in that games final boss. I was emotionally invested in what I was fighting for.
There is one moment in the story that I thought felt very rushed. A particular “villain” is introduced without much build up, and you get a party member as well without too much of an introduction. It’s one minor hiccup though, and it’s actually meant to feel a little “rushed”. Even still, I can’t help but think that at least the party member could have had a bit more of an introduction. At first glance, it just feels like they slapped another character into your party, but later she gets more interesting.
The gameplay is equally fantastic. The SMT/Persona formula continues to be polished. There are guns now, which provides a different method of physical attacks. They are limited, but generally stronger than your melee attack. The psychic and nuclear elements make a return, and there are also bless and curse attack skills outside of the hama/mudo abilities. This gives a bit more variety to the combat, and now every party member has an element unique to them.
Persona 5 also borrows demon negotiation from the SMT mainline series. Rather than playing some card mini-game after a battle, you can convince a shadow to join up with you. When you have all enemies downed, you can either do an all-out attack, try to recruit them, or try to ask them for items or money. If you ask to recruit them, you have to negotiate with them the same way you’d do in a SMT game. Each enemy has a personality type, and that effects what kind of answers they want to hear. Negotiate successfully, and you have a new persona.
There’s also a slew of abilities you can get from doing social links. One is called baton pass. When you hit an enemies weakness and get a ‘Once More’, you can either attack again or pass that turn to another party member. It’s a great addition, though I feel like this should be a default ability rather than something you unlock. There are instances where some party members don’t have their s links available, and so you don’t want to use them, since they don’t have baton pass. Another feature I think should have been default is the ability to swap party members in and out during a battle. Most of the other abilities I was fine with being bonuses. Stuff like being able to continuously get money from demons, or getting double money if you take enemies out in one turn.
The biggest improvement by far is the fact that dungeons are not randomly generated. They’re all designed, and they’re all great. No more walking around barren hallways just searching for a staircase. These dungeons are much more complex than that. Perhaps not as complex for those of you into dungeon crawlers, but I don’t think anyone will have a problem with these. These are honestly some of the best dungeons I’ve seen in JRPGs. There is one that felt pretty tedious though. The fifth one, to be precise. There’s one segment that has you running back and forth a pretty large area with some pretty nasty enemy encounters.
If you really like random dungeons for some reason, then have no fear, as there is one in this game. It’s a hell of a lot better than Tartarus though. Each floor is fairly small, and you have very good movement speed, which means you don’t have to spend a whole lot of time there. All of the side quests in this game are completed here. You find someone that needs their heart changed, you fight a little mini-boss, and that’s it. No grinding for certain item drops this time around. I kinda wonder if the inclusion of this randomized dungeon was actually necessary though. I don’t think it hurts the game, but I don’t think it really adds anything either. At the very least, it IS incorporated into the story very well, so I’ll give it that.
This games localization has been under fire a little bit. There are definitely some awkward lines, some typos, I won’t deny that. However, I felt like the overall product was acceptable, mostly due to the major character dialogue, the stuff you’re gonna pay more attention to, being totally fine. I don’t want overly literal translations, I don’t want it to “sound Japanese”, I just want good dialogue, and after playing through the game twice, I think it delivered on that more than it didn’t.
One gripe I do have is the continued use of honorifics and Japanese words like “senpai”. This sort of thing always struck me as a crutch. Sure, most people are probably savvy enough to understand it, but some might be perplexed by it. Even if everyone does understand it, I still don’t think it’s okay to just slap Japanese words in an English sentence and pass it off as being normal. This, however, is an extremely minor issue I have, and it barely effects my enjoyment of these games.
If you’re wondering why I’m not droning on about some bad design choices, or being really nitpicky, it’s because, well, there’s not much here to nitpick, at least not without heavily going into spoilers. I honestly covered all the problems I had with this game that I felt were notable. I’ve decompressed from this game, and I think I moved on from the infatuation stage. This is why I put a hold on putting this review out. Even after all this time though, I can find very few issues with it, and I think I’ve come to appreciate it even more.