Review: Persona 5 – Stealing Our Heart Away

Pros:
+One of the most artistically stylish games for PlayStation 4 to Date
+Offers a quick push into the action compared to previous titles
+Character development is on key for the Persona franchise
+The Anime cut-scenes are a huge change and add a much needed change

Cons:
-Screenshots and footage capture is restricted
-Micro-managing at times can be overwhelming


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In a generation of games where traditional JRPG’s remain rare, ATLUS has decided to once more change the status quo, and offer up an adventure unlike any other. In their latest story life isn’t at all what it seems for these Japanese high school students Ryouji, Anne, and the protagonist Akira (if you go by the manga). The tale for these specific students is one about adventure, about righting wrongs, and most-of-all, changing hearts.

Much like any past Persona game, Persona 5 carries the weight of a rather familiar theme. It’s once more about a green of teens who want to shift away from the status quo, ones that want to change the world, and break its current state. This game tells that exact story over the case of almost two hundred hours for first timers. For many this could be a grueling task due to its length, the patience it requires, and the fact the game requires a great amount of time management. It’s a game that challenges players to make the most out of balancing out their busy schedules and beating the Hell out of demons while doing so. It makes you truly think of what your options are and how you will go about them.

Just as you’d expect from a Shin Megami Tensei title, this one follows a familiar path of how it tells it story, and drives its narrative home. It’s a game that uses an anime approach to many of its themes and elements. It’s one that does not shy away from these aspects through out its entire campaign. It takes those elements in order to drive the themes of rebellion, politics, and the ability to enact upon social change. It’s a game that is not afraid to approach these themes nor is it one that is brash or outspoken about them. It’s one that stylizes this in a minimalist way without cramming it down the players throat.

What also differentiates this game from past titles is how it manages to thrust players straight into the games core gameplay elements. Within the opening minutes, players are welcomed to Persona 5’s subtle changes. It’s a game that has added in stealth, ambushing mechanics, and the identity that these characters truly are the games “Phantom Thieves”. Much to the dismay of some, the games opening seconds are also the games close-to-end moments where “Joker” has been captured, and his story is told via an interrogation.

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As the game rewinds players are greeted with Joker’s current situation. He’s been sent away from his home town after getting in trouble with the law for a rather questionable offense. Due to the predicament he’s been sent out to live with family friend Sakura Sōjirō. Within a few days of being at Shujin High School, Joker has already assembled a ragtag group of persona users, and is well on his way to telling us an enlightening story.

However, not is all as it seems at his new school, and chaos seems to ensue. Much like Persona 4‘s Shadow World, Persona 5 throws people into the games “Metaverse” where things are rather similar between the two. For Joker, a disgraced ex-track star known as Ryouji, a troubled teen model by the name of Anne, and the student council president who is caught between two worlds, their adventure is no joke. Especially when they all learn they can control Personas.

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It doesn’t take long before Joker gathers a ragtag group of friends, including a disgraced ex-track star, a troubled teen model named Anne, and a human turned cat named Morgana. In true anime fashion, these friends each discover that they have a strange power: the ability to enter a bizarre shadow world known as the “Metaverse”. Because of this they are pressed to help right the wrongs of the world and help those around them. To do so is a bit trickier for them than they anticipated.

Aside from this, the game follows the core plot elements of the franchise rather closely. It doesn’t deviate from this at all except in one way. Unlike previous games, however, this new rag tag group of friends decide not to hide their abilities from the world, and take on a moniker to allow so by dubbing themselves “Phantom Thieves”. They also aren’t afraid that they can use the Metaverse to “steal” the hearts of their targets. Doing so allows them to turn those in the real world that are vile people on a new path. This new one turns them into nicer people, which causes them to change and repent for their wrongs.

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While this seems something that could almost happen realistically, Persona 5 feeds on this pseudo-psychology element, and manages to pull it off perfectly. It’s something that players will find themselves executing quite often through main story missions and side-missions. It doesn’t matter how big or small their conjoined efforts are, they are clear about their goal, which is to change the world. Their goal isn’t that metaphorical “lets make the world somewhere better for everyone,” but instead becomes concrete and realistic.

Unfortunately the game doesn’t drive away from the elements of thinking about how crappy adults can treat kids and how the older generations have robbed their futures in some unspeakable way. It’s one that’s about a younger generation that has decided to step up, fight back against the current wave of things, and to force changes needed for them to live. It’s a game that refuses to break away from this political irony and it’s not shameful in doing so. Perhaps it’s because the game has an unspeakable amount of sincerity of what it’s doing and isn’t scared to show the realistic view of our current state of society. That’s where the theme of “change” comes in and stays true throughout the games core elements.

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Unfortunately, these elements may drive some newer fans away if they started out with titles such as Persona 4 Golden on the PlayStation Vita. Unlike Persona 4 Golden, side quests will fail to give reason for players to enjoy the Metaverse as they are simple, “go here and change this persons heart”. Most commonly these side-quests have to deal with stalkers, corrupt businessmen, or women who have self-indulged in their own wants. Because of this, the Phantom Thieves feel as if they are just trudging on until the main story elements approach them, and once more throw players into where the game shines the most: the Palaces.

As one would expect, Palaces are the games biggest dungeons, and the ones that serve up the games core narrative. They are places where the worst of the worst have hidden away their “heart” and it’s up to the Thieves to explore it in order to enact change on that person. Doing so is rather similar to any previous Persona game. Players will go in, explore, find treasures, and partake in turn-based battles while managing their calendar the entire time. Battles, as one suggests, are straight forward to those who have played any JRPG ever. The most crucial element to combat is not actually the combat itself.

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Instead the game weights heavily upon its social link system, now called confidants, and relies on these more-so-than previous titles since confidants directly impact the game. Players will need to take time to micro-manage their relationships with certain NPC’s in order to unlock bonuses for combat. For example, leveling a friendship with one NPC will allow you to “pass the baton” in combat more than once. This means characters will do bonus damage on their turn and their ability to pass the baton with a critical hit or a weakness based attack can enact this multiple times.

Others can offer things as health and skill point restoring items appear before you head off into a dungeon. As a point of advice, we strongly suggest players work on their relationship with their homeroom teacher Ms. Kawakami as soon as you are able to. It will ease the burden of getting future projects done when choosing to enter dungeons. This benefit greatly helped in the later portion of the game and continues to do so even post-review gameplay. As one would expect, the dungeons shouldn’t be neglected what-so-ever.

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They are great and by great, I mean magnificent. They are huge, they are fun, and the game shows the meticulous design that Atlus had their designers put into place. Each one feels like a unique set piece that was crafted for each situation, and even takes advantage of driving home the “thief” element to the characters.

Long-time fans of the franchise will not find themselves disappointed as they explore each one while entering challenges ranging from stealth movement to puzzles. This is the first game that has truly driven home the need for rogue-like dungeons for fan to enjoy. Unlike past games, the dungeons aren’t boring, they aren’t randomly generated, which makes them one of this games most enjoyable elements. However, if you want to enjoy the randomized dungeons from past Persona titles, they are still here, and they are completely optional for you to enjoy.

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They are known as a centralized place called Mementos, which is a gigantic labyrinth that seems to grow deeper and more dangerous as players progress through the game. It’s a place that offers up a nice change of pace from the games unique Palaces and offers a place for players to search for loot while carrying through with side missions. It’s a place that even your confidant’s will send you to in order to deepen relationships with them, but if you don’t want to, you can totally ignore those without batting an eyelash.

While the game deserves quite a bit of praise for its creativity, combat is a place that deserves this as well since it manages to follow up the games stylish menagerie of dungeons. The combat deserves this since it’s a necessity for the 100 to 200 hours of gameplay. Combat is faster than one would expect, it’s one that is not rattled by repetitive combat dialogue, and manages to keep battles less than a minute outside of mini-bosses and Palace bosses.

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Persona 5 – PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3
Developer:
 ATLUS
Publisher:
ATLUS
Cost: $59.99
Release Date:
Available Now


No matter what speed you play at, what difficulty you choose, or how you go about it. This game is amazing to look at, but also amazing to listen to thanks to its unique soundtrack, and noire appropriated thief-life characteristics for the games entire design. Unlike many JRPG’s, the game manages to allow players to pull off amazing combos. It’s one that wants you to indulge in the use of knocking enemies out of the air with the use of Persona’s or guns in order to have your entire team attack, and pulling off an animated sequence. If the end scene to this didn’t make you want to re-enact each of these victory poses, something is entirely wrong because something about this game feels entirely wanting of you to do so.

Even with the release of Persona 4 Golden on the Vita, Shin Megami Tensei: Apocalypse on the Nintendo 3DS, Persona 5 is a game that will introduce new fans to the series. It’s one that will allow a broader audience to join in on a franchise without being let down thanks to the game not having an adjacent story with previous entries. It’s one that successfully pushes the franchise forth with a new coat of paint, a little polish on old mechanics, and a whole new sense of charm. It’s one, however, that does have a few scuffs on its fresh coat of paint, but nothing that will draw fans away from the titles colorful sense of personality and mannerisms. Just remember to grab your cool-kid glasses for those killer cutscenes so that you can enjoy them like a Phantom Thief.


Our review is based upon a retail version we purchased. For our review, we used a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 9.5 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on TwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

 

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