Let me start off this review by asking you if you like JRPG’s? If you said yes then you can stop reading this review right now and go buy Persona 5 if you haven’t already because it is the best JRPG I’ve played in at least the past seven years or so. This game has so much content and so many different intricacies that it has taken me awhile to get this review done. If you still haven’t made up your mind on the game and are looking for some new thoughts read on.
To start off while other well known Japanese RPG’s have moved to a more action based combat system Persona 5 sticks to the turn based battle system. You have a pretty large cast of characters at your control but all of them are interesting and fun to get to learn about as the game progresses. This game has a ton of story and I won’t spoil it for others but the basic premise is you play as some High School students who live alternate lives sort of speak as well. They become a group known as the Phantom Thieves in an alternate world and set out to take down some pretty horrible people. The main cast though have some luggage themselves as they all come from different backgrounds so while they are considered the good guys they have some dark or rebellious elements to them as well.
When you aren’t taking down corrupted people you basically play the life of a high school kid. You can explore Tokyo, attend class, hang out with friends and much more. The game has a calendar system built in and it’s really up to you to decide how you want to spend your time. You can hang out and play a game with a friend one moment and jump into a dungeon as a Phantom Thief the next. Doing certain jobs in the game reward you with boosts to your stats while spending time with your friends allows you to learn more about them and level up something called the Confidant system. Doing this can give characters new abilities during battles. If you like romance in your RPG’s then make sure you pay attention to the Confidant level of females in the game. Raising it allows you to enter a relationship with certain characters which I mainly did with Ann. You can romance more than one girl but it will have consequences so keep that in mind. There is much more to the whole hanging out with friends such as the fact that so many things factor into who shows up and when. Things like the weather, time of month, time of day and more all play into this. Another interesting thing I liked about the game is the online features that allow you to see what other players did at certain points. You can see what other players spent their time doing during the day and when in class you can see what answers other players gave when asked questions by the teacher. This game is really deep and I loved that about it.
So let’s talk about the other side of Persona 5 and that is the Palaces and the actual turn based combat. During the game you have to go after targets which involves you entering these palaces in order to reach a treasure and steal their heart. Palaces are huge dungeons that require quite a bit of time to finish and there are seven of them in total in the game. If you don’t have a lot of time you can take breaks at certain points by finding a safe room. There is some puzzle solving and such involved in these palaces as well as you’ll come across locked doors and traps to conquer. You’ll even open up short cuts that lead back to areas you’ve already been. Traversing these dungeons ended up being just as fun to me as all the other elements of this game.
While exploring enemies can been seen roaming about and if you utilize the stealth system and sneak up on them you can get a surprise attack in on them when the battle starts. Of course you can also just stealthily avoid them and keep on your merry way if you choose. When it comes to the fights themselves you have your standard turn based combat but with some interesting systems in place. Identifying elements that enemies are weak to is key as you can then use that element to do more damage. The Baton Pass allows you to use an attack an enemy is weak to and then follow it up with another free attack. The Hold Up mechanic happens when you take down every enemy in the battle with things they are weak to. You then can do several things such as try to get money or an item out of the enemy, try to convince them to join you, or go in for the All Out Attack. This is an over the top stylish attack that ends with the character striking a cool pose. Yes the combat isn’t reinventing the genre or anything but it’s all super slick and it feels really great. When you reach the Bosses at the end prepare yourself for what will probably be a long grueling fight. These bosses take a huge amount of damage to bring down and dying will result in you having to start the fight over from the beginning.
I spent over 100 hours in my playthrough of Persona 5 and there is a lot that I haven’t even seen. That will require more playthroughs which I’m definitely considering with how much I loved this game. When it comes to the games visuals it looks really good as you can tell from the screenshots. Now this game is available on both the PS3 and the PS4 which you can kind of tell. That isn’t saying that this game looks old or anything as the art style itself really does wonders for this game. A great art style a lot of times can be more important then pure technical specs and Persona 5 has the great art style in spades. The characters, costumes, environments, enemies, personas and more all look great and stylish. Story is told through text boxes as well as spoken dialogue and the cutscenes themselves are like watching a great anime. The sound is another stellar element of this game with the soundtrack being an exceptional highlight. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Jazz music but Persona 5 might have just made me one. The dialogue can be heard in either English or Japanese if you download it off the store (don’t worry it’s free). Both sounded good enough to me but not everything is perfectly delivered.
When I was around 20-30 hours into Persona 5 I thought it was a fantastic game. By the 100 hour mark and upon finishing my first playthrough I realized this is a truly exceptional game. Many games try to make me care about their characters and fail but Persona 5 succeeded in this by letting me spend lots of time with them and giving them all great characterization. The Palaces were fun to traverse and the combat is so over the top and stylish I always had a smile on my face even when I was dying. The narrative touches on so many issues and even over the course of a game as long as this kept me invested to see it through. When someone comes to me and asks me to recommend a JRPG to them Persona 5 will be the first thing I say.
*Persona 5 is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. This review was done on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by Atlus.