Overall - 90%
Though there is a lot to play in 2017, Persona 5 is one RPG you just can't pass up. The wait was well worth it, and you shouldn't be surprised to see Persona 5 pop up on quite a few game-of-the-year lists come December.
After almost 10 years, Atlus’ Persona series returns in a big way with Persona 5. Did the Phantom Thieves steal our hearts, or were we left disappointed and dissatisfied? Check out our Persona 5 review to find out what we thought.
Persona 5 Review
In Persona 5, you play as a pre-made character that you get to name. His journey starts in a vibrant casino in a fancy outfit. Referred to as Joker, you have to escape the casino with the treasure you have stolen. Things don’t go your way though, and you are arrested and taken to a interrogation room, where the real game begins. You tell you story from the start of the transfer from your hometown to another, because you are charged with assault and are kicked out of your school. Shortly after you arrival, you meet up with a student of your new school and accidentally stumble into an alternate dimension via a smartphone app. Here you have an awakening, become Joker, and unlock your first Persona. The Palace is home to a person’s corrupted desires and can only be formed if someone is wicked. Your mission is simple: steal the treasures in all the Palaces and get through the school year without getting into trouble. In all, the story can easily run you from 80-100 hours, so be ready for a long haul.
If you haven’t played a Persona game before, you are probably wondering what a Persona is and if you should start with this release. Persona games are all standalone titles, so you don’t have to worry about missing the others if you want to jump into this one. Personas are the key to fighting shadows and bosses inside of enemy palaces. Your allies each have a specific Persona they can upgrade, but as the main character, you are allowed the ability to switch between Persona. They are like guardian spirits who can use magic, skills, and physical attacks to fight at your side during combat. You gain new Persona buy convincing enemies to join you and by fusing Persona in the Velvet Room. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, so bringing the right ones into a fight can make a huge difference. Thankfully, you can switch your Persona very easily even while in combat – assuming you have extra.
Combat is turn-based in Persona, and it proves that the system can still work. You have your basic attacks and Persona skills that you can use. They also added guns in this one, which you can use instead of an attack on enemies weak to it. The downside to this is they are normally much weaker than a normal attack and you run out of ammo that can’t be replenished until you clear out a Palace. If you can knock all the enemies down by attacking their weaknesses, you will also be able to do an all-out attack. This is a stylish team attack that does massive damage, and if you can kill the enemies with it, you get a different end battle scene depending who started the attack. It is something really simple, but the added effect is pretty cool.
The other side of Persona 5 is its life management simulator. You have to form and improve relationships, strengthen you social skills, and even attend school and take exams. This might sound boring, but it is very streamlined and is one of the more enjoyable parts of the game. As you improve your relationships, you will gain new skills for your teammates. If you max out these skills, their Personas will evolve into stronger ones. The other huge perk to this is the Arcana system. Each relationship and Persona has a Arcana attached to them. For each rank you get in a relationship you get with a friend, you get bonus experience when you fuse Persona into that type. For instance, Ryuji is the Chariot type and when you fuse two Persona into this type, it will get a bonus experience based on your relationship level with him. There are plenty of people to form friendships with, and each one has value. For those interested, you can date one of the main ladies of Persona 5 as well.
Relationships are one thing, but social stats are a completely different beast altogether. Knowledge, guts, charm, kindness, and proficiency make up the other side of the life management coin. These are needed when interacting with some people and sometimes required to start a relationship with people. There are also dialogue choices, and certain ones will require you to have a certain stat to pick the choice. Getting points into these are easy enough, but leveling them takes time. I got my last point into proficiency literally right near the end. These also help with certain things you don’t have control over, like exams and when the teacher throws chalk at your head. Social stats, relationships, and dealing with the Palaces will keep you busy right up until the end. I will say this, the game does a great job of making you feel like whatever you’re doing has value, even if you are stressed about time.
Speaking of stress, I had one big gripe with the game. You play as the leader of the Phantom Thieves, and your allies are happy with you being the leader. In the Palaces this is all fine and good, you lead the pack and that makes sense. When you get back to the real world, however, your leadership takes a back seat to Morgana the cat as far as your schedule is concerned. Pretty much on story-related days, even if you are just chatting with friends, you have to go to bed when you get home and waste the entire evening. Once or twice would be fine, but this happens so often it really gets on your nerves. In the end, I got all the relationships I really wanted and maxed out my stats but it was still annoying having a cat order me to go to bed.
Graphically the game is something else. Brightly colored, its vibrant world makes the game very aesthetically pleasing. Even simple things like the UI and the phone are done really well, and it all adds up. The soundtrack is stellar as well, though that is par for the course in Persona games. Music during the sim is very relaxing and chill, while the Palace and battle music has a more upbeat tempo to set the mood. The intro video is done fantastically as well, painting a picture or carefree characters just having a good time. That’s ultimately what the game is about – a good time.
Though there is a lot to play in 2017, Persona 5 is one RPG you just can’t pass up. The wait was well worth it, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see Persona 5 pop up on quite a few game-of-the-year lists come December.