I’m so excited to finally have time to write my Persona 5 review. Between the daily grind and prepping for our Cult Cryptic grand opening, I’ve been a busy bee. Which meant, unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to devote my full, undivided attention to Artemis. And ya girl is dedicated to providing quality content, you know? And I especially wanted to do this review justice, as P5 has shot up into the ranks of my all-time favorites. For awhile there, playing Persona 5 was what kept me afloat during all the rush. I pretty quickly fell in love and spent most of my free-time saving Japan and kickin’ it with my fellow Phantom Thieves. But I digress. Without further ado, INITIATE FAN-GIRL MODE, as promised.
Take Your Heart
The long-awaited sixth installment of the Persona series (there were two P2 games), Persona 5 takes place in Tokyo. You play as my boy, Akira Kurusu, a 16-year-old transfer student on probation for a wrongly-convicted assault charge. As part of the terms of your probation, you are required to prove that you are a good seed by staying out of trouble and living an honest student life. But, luckily for us, trouble is kind of Akira’s middle name.
Our protagonist, Akira Kurusu, code-name Joker, all-around badass and dispenser of justice
Although he’s an outcast at his new school and labeled a delinquent, Akira isn’t a bad kid. He just has a strong sense of morals and tends to rebel against toxic social norms. This inner strength leads him to unlock the power of his persona, a supernatural manifestation of himself, which he can use to fight evil. Throughout the game, you build a team — a diverse cast of individuals who have also found the strength within themselves to use their own unique persona. You and your team, appropriately-dubbed The Phantom Thieves of Hearts, enter a mysterious world of distorted reality. Together, your mission is to steal the hearts of those corrupted by twisted desires, effectively forcing them to confess to their misdeeds in the real world and change their ways.
The Phantom Thieves #SquadGoals
Like previous Persona titles, P5 is a solid combination of social simulation and RPG. The marriage between the two genres works really well for the series. A major staple of the Persona series is the unique duality of being a teenager while fighting evil in secret. And in my humble opinion, developer Atlus has fine-tuned this experience in Persona 5.
Beating Up Bad Guys
The combat in Persona 5 relies on a turn-based system. You and three other Phantom Thieves team up to attack your opponent(s). You spend most of your time fighting shadows – monsters dedicated to protecting the boss of each level. These shadows have their own strengths and weaknesses, which you’ll need to ascertain through the process of trial and error. One enemy might specialize in ice attacks but is weak to fire. Likewise, a teammates’ persona may be able to deal out heavy wind damage but get easily knocked out with an electric attack. This is where the strategy comes in – in order to most effectively destroy an opponent, you’re going to have to make your moves carefully. Luckily, Akira (referred to as Joker while in the Metaverse), is able to switch between multiple personas during the course of a battle.
I think the battle system gets pretty in-depth. From a large range of different attack and healing abilities, buffs and debuffs, all in addition to crafting personas, it might be overwhelming at first. I think I was kind of like “WTF?” when I first played a Persona game. There are just so many different ways you can approach a battle. But the more you play, the more the battle system becomes second nature. You’ll even start to remember the difference between Bufu, Mabufu, and Mabufudyne skills. If Persona 5 is your initiation into the series and you’re feeling frustrated, I encourage you to ride it out. It’s well worth it.
The Phantom Thieves in combat, credit: Polygon
The Honest Student Life
While the role-playing aspect of Persona 5 is loads of fun, I particularly appreciate the social side of the series, perhaps because of the aforementioned duality. When you’re not fighting shadow creatures in the Metaverse, there’s a variety of different activities you can do in your spare time. Working a part time job, shopping, increasing your skills through after-school activities, and my favorite, getting to know your friends and supports.
Of course, I have my favorites (Hey, Goro Akechi, heyyy!!), but I found myself becoming attached to just about every character in the game. Even the ones that I didn’t think I’d care for. Take my dude, Ryuji Sakamoto, for example. His high-energy, angry-at-the-world attitude drove me nuts at first. But once I got to know him on a deeper level, I learned to appreciate him. Sure, he may be a bit annoying, but he’s brave in the face of adversity, he’s kind, and relentlessly loyal. The kid’s got heart.
Historically, Persona has gotten a lot of flack for being more of a “dating sim” than a true RPG, but I disagree. Persona 5 gives you the opportunity to spend time truly getting to know the characters in your circle. And at it’s core, Persona 5 focuses on forging purposeful relationships. Each connection you make directly impacts the role-playing aspect of the game. Each time you become closer to a confidant, you gain the ability to create more powerful personas and receive additional perks. But what I love most is that you get to learn their backstories and get to understand what makes them tick. Even more satisfying, you walk beside them in their journey of personal growth.
Hittin’ the ramen spot with your homie, credit: Kotaku
It was damn difficult not to make a ten-page essay out of this article. Persona 5 is just such a deep, immersive experience. So much goes into it. From the characters, to the lore, the different aspects of battle, all the activities and events that happen throughout the game… it’s expansive. And because you can’t possibly do everything in your first go, each play-through is a special and unique encounter. You’re able to become close to the confidants you didn’t get the chance to max out your relationship with and forge different personas with their own set of skills and abilities.
And while I could go on for days about everything I loved about Persona 5, I want to be fully transparent with you. It’s not perfect. There were a couple of small annoyances in this game. The save game system is a pain in the ass. There are a couple of minor cringe-y moments. But the thing that really bothered me about P5 is that, while Akira has the option to date girls his own age, you are also given the option to become romantically involved with adult women. Remember, Akira is only 16. You can (and I did) totally avoid these romantic relationships, but it gave me the heebie-jeebies thinking about it.
I kind of forced myself to look past those aspects of the game. Overall it was an amazing experience and I don’t want that to be tainted. There is just so much to appreciate about Persona 5. On the outside, it’s lighthearted and highly entertaining. From silly quips and banter between characters, to some of the most bizarre monster designs in gaming. But I personally think it goes deeper than that. P5 delves into some heavy subject matter by focusing on morality and personal truth. Because of that, it provides you the opportunity to step back and examine yourself, those around you, and the social norms we adhere to every day. In a way, I think this game can kind of soften the soil, so to speak, so that you can do some digging. If that’s your thing.
So, with that said, if you haven’t played Persona 5 yet, I HIGHLY recommend it. And if you have, can we please talk about it? I’m dying to talk about it!
Persona 5 – PlayStation Experience 2016: Story Trailer
Heart Meter: 4.5/5