Persona 5 is possibly the hardest game I will ever have to review. Why? It is unique. Not just to the point that it has small elements that other games don’t have. No no no. I would possibly argue that this is in its own category of stylistic extraordinaire.
Persona 5 reaches new levels of distinct design in creating a game that is far more than just an everyday Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG). It entwines realistic crime, teenage life and Japanese culture into an animated world of strategy and turn-based eccentricity. I would dub this as the ‘Quentin Tarantino of the gaming world.’ Every chapter has its own brilliant story, each character has amazing depths of background, history and development and it all harmoniously converges into the excellence that is Persona 5.
Persona 5 Characters:
I could never blueprint such brilliant characters with a depth equaling that of Ann, Ryuji and Joker. But this is only a miniscule particle in a network of complexity and much much more impresses me beyond the characters. With 40+ characters that benefit and change the story to noticeable degrees, it must get confusing to remember them all. Either that, or there isn’t enough time to make them relevant… right? Wrong! Each of these characters are developed, distinguishable, relatable and relevant to the story and I remember EVERY SINGLE ONE. But how? With an average of 100-150 hours’ worth of gameplay and the opportunity to play another five times for the sake of completionism, you have plenty of time to get to know, explore and love each character.
The playable characters are the most important – obviously, but the antagonists, the side characters and the confidants are never left out. Which leads me to my next point. The concept of growing relationships with confidants to grow skills, abilities and benefits in battle is wonderful. Not only is it an addition to the already flourishing story, it also allows you to further explore the character that has been created. One does not simply buy a health potion from Tae Takemi, you must earn the right by being her laboratory guinea pig. For me, this is the most unique style of side quests and almost reaches a tell-tale level of excellency.
Antagonists are a huge part of the main story lines, but not only are they bad, evil and easy to hate – they also have degrees to which you could sympathise with them. They aren’t merely evil criminals, but instead they have deep cores to which they are ordinary good people and more than anything, you (on occasions) feel sorry for them. From Yakuza style bad guys, to egoists and even self-hating characters, the antagonists and levels of the story are developed around unique personalities and mentalities.
Finally, the playable characters. There are nine in total and there isn’t much to say without spoilers. Each has dark backgrounds, they all have a distinctive characteristic and they all share something in common. The only game that comes as close to building friendships and relationships as good as Persona 5 was the Final Fantasy 15 bromance. This level of detail gives everyone a favourite character, whether you have a masochistic love for Tae, or an undying devotion for Futaba!
Story and Map:
The map is constantly expanding as you play. New areas to ‘date the ladies’ and new places to take confidants to increase the all-important friendship. Each map is beautiful and drawn to such crisp perfection. As already mentioned, each confidant gives a new story. Each character IS a story and you can develop this by taking characters to specific areas or buying them gifts around the world to increase likeability.
But what about the main plot line? It is… well to me it lacks. It is by no means bad, but when you have around 30 other amazing stories within a story, I can’t help but feel that there could be more. My main issue is how broken up the main story line is. You need to spend a good three playthroughs to see a good 90% of the game, but unless you do a speed run, the main plot feels… like fragments of a puzzle that you need to piece together. Some may like that, I do not.
But regardless of my subjective view, is it good? Well if you make it into a storyboard or you could even watch the god-awful anime, then… YES. It is very good. Pieced together, the story is strong and an amazingly interesting concept.
Is the combat system unique? To an extent. Persona 5 focuses on your everyday JRPG turn-based combat. Strategy has always been a style that I have loved, and turn-based mechanics are at the top of my list in this genre. But what does Persona do to make it their own? Well Persona consists of eight varieties of magic and two types of physical combat. Using these allows you to find the weaknesses and strengths of your enemy and when you discover that weakness you can do one of three things: a powerful ‘all-out attack’, a negotiation or ask for an item. This brings an eccentric style of gameplay and the all-out attack truly adheres to the stylistic animation of the game.
The simulation is the best part of the game in my own opinion. The combat is great, but a part of me loves the days where you just walk the streets of modern-day Tokyo. From love stories and friendship to blackmail, bribery, harassment and street scams, Persona 5 covers a range of contemporary issues in society.
You can participate in jobs, spend time with your friends, bathe, wash your clothes, make coffee, go fishing, go to the batting cages, do crossword puzzles, hang out at the bar, go to the cinema and even become a lab rat for Takemi Tae. There is so much you can do in your free time and it is incredible. No wonder how you can delve into endless hours and still have fun with the story through the relatable life of Joker.
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