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'Persona 5': Ow, My Heart


'Persona 5': Ow, My Heart

Shaun Cordingley

It has been a while since I've been able to chat with y'all about what I have been playing, and...well that's largely to do with the fact that I have been playing almost nothing but Persona 5 for the past two months. 
Which is not an exaggeration, I sunk 115 hours into Persona 5, starting in early April, and just having finished earlier this week, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. P5 is one of the best JRPG's ever made, oozing style and substance at the same time, and telling one helluva story. 

Usually when I write a "Backlogging" or talk about a game, I try and reserve my final feelings to the end, but much like Horizon: Zero Dawn, this is a game that I am largely going to be gushing about, so I thought you should brace yourselves. 

Oh, and rest assured, I will spoil nothing, as I know Atlus is being very particular about spoilers (considering they blocked screenshots...), and considering the game is 100+ hours, there's so much to see that is way better if you experience it for yourself. 

For those unfamiliar, Persona 5 is a JRPG set in the Megami Tensai universe, and takes place in Tokyo where "you" (the protagonist) are forced to move after you are put on probation for a crime you did not commit. Over the course of a year, you go to school, make friends, and awaken what is essentially a superpower (your "Persona") to enter the subconscious of adults who have become twisted in some way. The game is essentially split between a Time-Management sim, wherein you are living the protagonists life: having out with friends, maybe dating someone, working part-time, classes, homework, studying, and the other half is a traditional, turn-based RPG where you and your friends/cat become "phantom thieves" are fighting peoples "inner demons" in order to "steal their hearts" and free them from their twisted desires.

First off, the game is gorgeous--the entire thing splits between animated cutscenes, and a stylish, sort of neo-jazz/anime game play. The graphics are perfect for what the game is (especially considering the game is also on PS3), and the whole package just oozes this stylish cool. I mean, even the menus are hyper-stylized, bright, and fun to go through, and anyone who has put any time into a JRPG knows how much time you spend in menus. The soundtrack was largely just neo-jazz, with a few subtle changes, and the odd choral, orchestral, or even rock piece, and while it was not a large soundtrack, it never felt stale over the course of my 115 hours.

The gameplay was a blast; I love JRPG's as is, and Persona 5 was essentially everything I like about them combined into one game: catching and creating spirits to fight for you was always interesting (even though I had to sacrifice some of my favourites whether I wanted to or not because, unlike Pokemon, they do not level fast enough to keep forever), the "One More Time" fight strategy of probing for weaknesses made every fight feel different, as combinations of monsters would be thrown at you to change things up, and I love that I never ran into the bane of my JRPG existence: unexpected insta-death attacks. The longest boss fight I believe I had during the game clocked in at around 45 minutes, and it was suitably tense at the end.

Combine this with the social satire, an (I'm Told) excellent anime reprouction of Tokyo, and just generally excellent storytelling in the time-management sections of the game and you have one of the best JRPG's I have ever played. 

The story, aside from a dip in pace (and a storytelling trope I loathe) hitting in the fourth act, was excellent. I have never -never- cared about characters the way I did about the phantom thieves, and even some peripheral NPCs as I did in this. It's strange to say, but they really did feel like friends in the game, because there were sections of just spending time with them, going to watch sarcastic versions of popular films (the Batman satire is AMAZING), and dealing with regular, day-to-day problems of being in high school (in Japan).  

It feels strange to say, but I miss some of the characters now that I am done...some days while I was still playing it, I would be thinking as I was heading to bed about trying to see if one or another was available to hang out tomorrow (both in and out of game). It was so weird, but at the same time, tells me a lot about how excellent Persona 5 is. 
I should also point out, that building these relationships also had real-game consequences as they would unlock more abilities etc. if they were closer friends with you. This meant that nothing every felt wasted: I always felt like I had something important to do, even if it was just reading a book, because everything had a purpose.
Also, and this is a big one, I never once felt the need to grind. Ever. There was no point where I had to go off and fight lower level demons just to get experience points to get good enough to advance; the progression was near-perfect...and that is something I can really appreciate. I love Dragonquest VIII for example, but boy were there some hours in there where I just had to wander around stabbing slimes...and that stops being fun pretty quickly, and I never had that happen in P5.

Persona 5 is a masterclass in gaming. It should be included in any argument about the best JRPG's of all-time, and is a must play for any fan of the genre. 115 hours of gameplay and I know that there are things that I did not see in the game, missions I missed, and other Personas (the spirits who fight for you) to collect. I'm not one for New Game+, but I feel like after some time, I will definitely be going back and playing P5 again. 

Especially if I continue to miss the characters, as I do. 

Frankly, my Top Games of 2017 is going to be incredibly difficult to suss out this year, because I'm fairly certain that the last two games we have talked about here are in my Top 15 Games of All-Time...It's been a really special time to be gaming on PS4 for someone with my tastes, and I just hope it continues. 

Play Persona 5. You won't be disappointed. 

Oh, and yes, the talking cat with a scarf is the best.

-S (@Shauncord)

PS: Do hit me up on twitter if you want to have a spoiler-y chat about it, because I really would like someone to talk to about it--I know some friends are going to play it, but they are not there yet...