Persona is one of the rare modern RPG series that has made the trip over the Pacific successfully. It might not have the same amount of cultural cache as Final Fantasy, for example, but it does have a hardcore fan base. The aim of this Persona 5 review is to provide a neutral look at the game and figure out if it is worth your time.
|Type of game:||RPG|
|Total Play Time:||108 hours|
|System Requirements:||Playstation 3 or 4|
The World of Persona 5
Persona 5 is an interesting game that relies as much on its style as it does its substance. In this section, we’ll discuss everything that makes the game tick – the atmosphere, the main characters, the story, and even the DLC. The game has been well-received by both critics and players and this look into the game should help us to understand why. In this section of the Persona 5 review we will be looking at the design elements that make this videogame truly unique.
Atmosphere & Location
This is a game that is largely inspired by the social changes in Japan following the 2011 Earthquake, and that inspiration permeates every aspect of the design. While there’s a lot in the game that should feel familiar to long-time players of the series, there are definitely a few design choices that would not have been present in an earlier iteration of the game. You can very easily feel the change in the background even when it’s not being called to your attention. It takes a bit of deft sleight of hand to make it work, but it does work all the same.
With that said, the game’s atmosphere might be a bit difficult to get into for those who aren’t already familiar with the culture of modern Japan. This isn’t a game about Japan’s traditional depiction or even the Japan that most tourists see – this is Japan as seen by the people who live there. It’s actually a lovely experience for those who are willing to make it through, but those who aren’t Japanophiles might find it difficult to get their bearings.
In terms of inspirations, the game is definitely one that’s built on the rest of the series. While there are quite a few nods to other outlaw narratives, its’ perhaps safest to say that this game is largely a product of the series’ growth. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make it harder for new players to get into this game.
In the great tradition of Japanese role playing games, players of Persona 5 take on the role of a silent, nameless protagonist. Unlike most games in the genre, one does know quite a bit about the character’s backstory from the word go. He’s a rebel and a vigilante, one who does generally have his heart in the right place. Perhaps unsurprisingly for anyone familiar with anime, he’s also a high school student who must deal with the rather more mundane issues that come from being in school despite his less-than-typical outside activities.
While the main character does at least get some background definition on his own, he is still mostly a cipher. This allows the player to better emphasize with the character and to make the decisions that they’d want to make without breaking the character. This allows the player to pursue relationships and friendships with relatively little holding him back, although it can be argued that it would be nice to have a stronger foundation for who this character is supposed to be. A great deal of the game’s plot hinges on believing that he’s done the right thing, but this seems more an artifact of being the player character than doing anything worthy.
The real joy in the game comes from the supporting characters. The Persona games have always had a great supporting cast and this one is no different. The Persona 5 cast really does feel like it was plucked out of anime’s greatest hits, so you’ve probably seen similar characters if you’ve ever spent time with Japanese animation. This doesn’t mean that the characters aren’t fun, though – it simply means that the game leverages its archetypes to help get you involved with the characters from the word go. It’s a good setup from which the game greatly benefits.
The plot of the story is kicked off by the main character’s arrest and subsequent probation, acts that are informed by his attempt to do the right thing and suffering the consequences. From there, he makes his way to Tokyo and is introduced to the core concepts of the Persona universe – the Metaverse and the Personas. In this iteration, the main story revolves around going into various Palaces and changing the hearts of the corrupt and adults who are causing problems in the series.
While this might seem complex, it really boils down to an elaborate series of heists surrounding a conspiracy narrative. There’s not a lot that’s new here, but rather a new window into some well-trod territory. The idea that adults act the way they do because of emotional difficulties – difficulties that can be solved by well-meaning teens – is a popular trope that hasn’t quite worn out its welcome. Players will go after the various conspiracy members and seek to root out the trouble in their hearts while working on their relationships with various team members.
In many ways, this is a classic JRPG in a new setting. It’s got different control schemes and fancy window dressing, but you’ve played this storyline a thousand times before. How much you enjoy the game will depend upon how well the twists and turns of this particular iteration work for you. If you’re willing to give it time to grow and you’re invested in the various side characters, there’s a great deal to discover. The story will not, however, hold up for those who want a game that says or does something new.
DLC & Expansion Packs
There’s actually a tremendous amount of DLC for Persona 5, which is a rare for a single-player JRPG. The bulk of it clothing, of course, but it’s still a bit of an odd situation. Given that no one will ever see you use the DLC and that it has almost zero impact on the game, there’s not a particularly good reason to part with your money when it comes to the paid costume DLC. There’s a slew of similar free DLC that gives you player costumes, van skins, and even a few music tracks, but even these additions are fairly minor.
If you’re going to download anything, it should be the Picaro sets. These sets include new Personas, new skills, and even new materials. They do make an impact on the game, albeit one that you can do without. Given that all of the game’s DLC is basically cosmetic, it’s only recommended if it’s appealing to you on a personal level.
If you’ve enjoyed any of the previous Persona games or you’re a fan of JRPGs in general, you should absolutely play Persona 5. If you’re a fan of RPGS or you just want an interesting, story-driven single player experience, it’s still worth a try. The story and setting take a bit to get into, but it’s more than worth the effort. This is as good an example of a traditional RPG as you’ll find on modern consoles.
What did you think of Persona 5? Did you think it was a fitting entry into the long-running series? Let us know your thoughts by sending in your comments and questions.