The rationale for these 'palaces' is interesting, however (and unfortunately) the potential for the idea is not exploited as much as I had initially hoped it would be. Time spent in the 'metaverse' largely revolves around combat, which although fun is ultimately extremely repetitive.
The same is also true for the design of each 'palace.' Each one usually involves some kind of puzzle, but in later 'palaces' puzzles are repeated with no variation. This repetition becomes exceedingly tedious and the game feels robbed of any challenge aside from the combat.
I am aware that this is a common mechanic for JRPGs. However, it is not one that I find particularly enjoyable, largely because it feels as if the game is not respecting me as a player. Although level grinding is generally not a requirement of the game, it is another facet of design that rather tarnishes the overall experience. I was excited to see how the story progressed, but I was not so excited about doing a puzzle where I had to make sure some flashing lights matched a diagram.
There is one other area of the game that I would like to address briefly. The Persona
series has always been known for the way in which it allows players to engage in relationships with pretty much anyone in the game. Whilst some of these relationships in Persona 4
were a little uncomfortable given the age of the characters, they were still generally innocent and age appropriate.
approaches these relationships in a rather more 'adult' way. Although one of the main themes of the game is the way in which adults can have a corrupting influence on young people, the relationships that the protagonist can enter into are presented as being exempt from this judgement, despite the fact that they are also highly dubious. I will not go into detail here largely because it would reveal elements of the plot, but it is an area with which I did not feel entirely comfortable. Although it can be argued that this is because of 'cultural differences,' it rather undermines the exploration of the central theme of the game.
With Persona 5
it really feels as if Atlus is trying to reach a broader audience. The extent to which it has succeeded is debateable. The game is still plagued by the usual JRPG trappings which rather prevent it from being able to reach the audience that Atlus clearly believes it deserves.
Nintendo took quite a risk with its latest entry in the Zelda
series, Breath of the Wild
. It succeeded largely because the developers expertly chose what to keep and what to discard from the traditional Zelda
design template. Persona 5
finds itself in a similar situation - many aspects of the game have been improved considerably, however Atlus seems reticent to abandon aspects of JRPG tradition that are really holding back the series and preventing it from reaching a wider audience.
This is understandable as their core audience would likely be unhappy with such a change. However, as Breath of the Wild
demonstrates, the rewards for taking a risk can be tremendous. Persona 5
is an excellent JRPG and stands at the pinnacle of the genre. I am excited to see where Atlus goes next, largely because copying the same template again would likely yield diminishing returns and I am sure it really does want to reach an even larger audience. Persona 5
is a great start for anyone who is interested in engaging with the JRPG genre, and will no doubt be embraced by fans. However, it is not quite the revolution I was hoping for.
+ Plot and characterisation
+ Visually stunning
+ Wonderful soundtrack
- Puzzles and combat are rather repetitive
- Elements of the story are rather unpleasant
- Dialogue is occasionally excessive
SPOnG Score: 9/10