Persona 5 has left me feeling very conflicted. On the one hand, there is an awful lot to like about the game - it is incredibly stylish and I have found the characters and story far more engaging than the game's predecessor.
The game's recreation of Tokyo is a wonderful place to spend time and there is such a breadth of things to do. Although the plot of the game hits a number of the same themes as Persona 4
, there was enough that was different to keep me interested right up until the end. The game's soundtrack is superb and the visual styling and character development is second to none.
However, other elements of the game are more troublesome and rather prevent it from reaching the broader audience that Atlus is clearly interested in engaging with.
follows roughly the same structure as its predecessor. As in Persona 4
, the game begins with the protagonist starting a new life. Whereas the rationale for this in Persona 4
was rather mundane, Persona 5
hits the ground running as the opening sequence details the unfortunate circumstances that lead to the main character's introduction to life in Tokyo.
Visually, the game is incredibly impressive. Where the recent Yakuza Zero
presented a slice of Japan in the 1980s, Persona 5
depicts a stylised version of modern society.
The soundtrack in particular is really impressive. Despite the bright colour palette and anime styled character designs, the darkness of modern society lies at the heart of the game's plot. Superficially this focusses on the corruption of youth by the adult population and the way in which the characters decide that they cannot suffer in silence. However, far deeper questions regarding the nature of control and free will in society are explored later in the game.
Although JRPGs are well known for providing stories with depth, Persona 5
feels significantly more well thought-out than most. With one or two exceptions, I found the majority of the characters in Persona 4
to be rather forgettable. In contrast, all of the individuals I interacted with over the 80+ hours I spent with Persona 5
had their own believable and well developed character arcs that I found very satisfying to follow.
This greatly-heightened the emotional impact of the ending and I was left feeling genuinely sad that I would not be spending any more time with the group. Although there are problems with translation in places, the voice acting is generally of a very high standard. I found myself listening to dialogue rather than reading, a rare achievement.
My only slight criticism here is the extremely verbose nature of the script. Japanese anime is well known for adopting a 'slow burn' approach to story development. Persona 5
follows this tradition, however there were certainly times when I was beginning to wish that the scissors had been used on sections of the script.
Structurally, the game divides each day into sections. The protagonist attends school during the day, answering questions in class and engaging in dialogue with teachers.
After school, the player can choose what he/she would like to do. The hook with Persona
has always been the management of your character's virtual life. There is limited time to improve your character's statistics and choices must be made as to whether you will focus on building relationships with other characters or engaging in solo pursuits, such as study, part-time work or the other myriad options available in the city.
The range of options here far surpasses previous games in the series, although I did find the management of time far more stressful. This was largely because of the number of options available, but also because of the way in which the progression of the story sometimes prevents the player from making any choice about how he/she spends their free time.
Outside of the real world the player enters the 'metaverse,' a different reality generated by the feelings, thoughts and desires of the population of the city. The protagonist and his team resolve to reform society by entering the 'metaverse' and changing the desires of the corrupt adults that are controlling it.
They affect this change by entering a 'palace,' the metaverse's
representation of a corrupt adult's inner feelings and stealing a 'treasure,' representative of the primary desire of the individual. By stealing this 'treasure' the heart of the adult in the real world is changed, their corrupt nature defeated. In contrast to Persona 4
, these story-based dungeons are not randomly generated.