Atlus / Deep Silver (studio)
04 April 2017 (released)
13 April 2017
It always sucks when you have to wait longer than others for something. Especially for video games in this day and age, when they can be deployed digitally. And so it is, that 7 months after Japan got its fill, Persona 5 has finally reached the western shores… allowing us to get our fill of possibly the best damn game released in some time.
For a start, Persona 5 is an improvement on almost every main aspect of Persona 4’s gameplay. Instead of the main dungeons being randomly generated, they have each been designed, with almost every piece of them feeling unique to each, rather than all being a series of corridors. However, the major new addition in the dungeon crawling is the element of stealth. Key to succeeding is attacking enemies from behind, or outright avoiding them if necessary. While you can still rush them head-on if you prefer, you run the risk of increasing the security, or even getting thrown out of the dungeon entirely if you screw up too many times. It adds an element of risk to your movements, but it isn’t so complex that you need to be a master in order to get anywhere undetected. Besides movement, the battle system itself has been improved greatly. Rather than using a menu as in previous entries, you now have each action corresponding to a button, whether its melee, Persona usage or even the gun attacks, which have been brought back from Persona 1. It’s so simple to understand and yet a great break from using regular menus. Another feature returning from the older entries is the art of negotiating, which allows you to get more money or items out of the enemies, or if you prefer, you can try to sway them over to your side. It’s a culmination of everything the series has slowly built up to, while also being an amalgamation of the best parts from all 6 games, resulting in the best gameplay for the series yet.
But the additions to the way you play don’t stop there. The friendships you build in the game are now known as Confidants (previously called Social Links) and rather than just the main party members having abilities unlocked with each level, you now unlock other ways to fight or live your life as you progress along with all of them. Like in previous games, these Confidants serve almost as a collection of side-stories for the game, each giving you some insight of the lives of others in Tokyo, as well as letting you see a side of your teammates that is perhaps not shown in the main story. Each one feels unique in its character development, and adds an immense level of depth that is rarely seen in other games for anyone besides the main characters.
All in all, the story itself is at the level of quality one would come to expect from Atlus and the Persona series by now. Your main character (who you can name as you please) is a teenage boy on a year-long probation for assault. Sent away from your family to live in Tokyo, things quickly begin to spiral out of control as a mysterious app appears on your phone… and from there you have a complex and well-written story; one that will take most around 60-80 hours minimum to beat. And that’s despite the game having a calendar system, and with most actions causing time to pass, as standard by now for the series. Atlus does not skimp on content or story length, and this entry is no exception. Granted, it does take some time in the beginning to build the story, which means you lack some control for a bit, but soon enough the game is showing you how much fun living a double life can be… and how dark things are in the lives of these students.
Of course, one thing that should be talked about is the quality of the English dub. Now while the option to download the Japanese dub for free is available, you needn’t worry too much; with the exception of Igor, and one confidant that you’ll meet in the latter half, there are no poor voice castings here.
As for the graphics and design, it’s a rare time when I can adore just looking at a menu screen. This game is stunning to look at, but not just for its world or characters; everything about it is gorgeous, all the way down to the button prompts and menu screens. Nothing is standard or passé here; everything stands out with its own flair, and it’s all done in the striking red-and-black motif present throughout the game. But that doesn’t mean the game lacks other colours; whether it’s the sights of Tokyo, or the many Palaces you’ll be crawling through, this game seemingly merges the murky style of Persona 3 with the colourful aspects of Persona 4, and the result is nothing short of amazing. Everything in the game manages to ‘pop’, in a way that so few games these days even try to do.
So there you have it; after three years of delays (this game was originally set for 2014) Persona 5 is in the hands of fans worldwide. And was the wait worth it? Damn right it was. Atlus have knocked it out of the park yet again, with not just possibly the best Persona game, or even the best Shin Megami Tensei game…
It may be one of the best JRPGs in years. And that is not something I say lightly.
+++ Deep and complex plot
+++ Well-written and varied characters
+++ Best gameplay in series
++ Gorgeous UI and game design
++ Very long game, high value for money
+ English dub is good quality with minor problems