After five months playing Persona 5 I have finally beat it. I also decided to give a few weeks to let everything sink in in order to write a fair review. The reason I’m doing this is because I love it so much I want to try to remove the hype factor but honestly I think it’s impossible now because of how much I enjoyed it.
With so much to cover I don’t think I know where to begin from, so let’s go in order this time and start with the story.
You play as a silent protagonist, transferring from the city you lived in to the amazing Tokyo, for reason which I will not mention as to not ruin any surprises one might have. Upon arrival you are not well received as you might expect, not even close to the reception you received in Persona 3 or 4, and at those times there was no party thrown for you but here, well, it’s pretty bad. I think this tone you get from the beginning is pretty important as the story in Persona 5 is about overcoming difficulties and injustices life throws at you.
The story of the game is comprised of many arcs, most related to the characters that join your party but not restricted to those. Those smaller arcs all build up from previous ones to create one fantastic tale.
The story of the game takes its sweet time, as we are talking about a very long 100 hours plus RPG, but I’ll be the first to defend the time the story takes to be told. If it were rushed there wouldn’t be the same impact it has on you. Oh, and just because it’s long doesn’t necessarily mean it gets boring because it never does. Each arc has its own climax which then sums up for the overall narrative.
For example, at the beginning of the game, right before you commit to pursuit your first enemy, there’s an event that happens that motivates you, and your friends Ann and Ryuji to seek justice. At that moment my jaw literally dropped. I honestly can’t remember a game that made me feel this way in a long time, let alone the fact that this wasn’t a one time thing, this happens many more times throughout Persona 5’s story.
Overall, the story in Persona 5 is great. Full of twists and surprises combined with the versatility of its characters you may be laughing at a moment, only to be sad and emotional in the next one. Talking about its characters, the story wouldn’t be able to hold its ground if it weren’t for them.
Like previous Persona games, the characters are about as important as the main story itself and they do not disappoint. I found the main characters, the ones that join you on your adventure, to be fantastic. They have different backgrounds but when together they create many memorable moments. From the simple high schooler, to a model, a painter, a detective and even a hikikomori. All unique in their own ways.
If you’ve played the game, or at least part of it, you might have heard about Makoto and how everyone loves her. Well, she’s is undoubtedly amazing but I have to make a stand here and say that my favorite character is Morgana. He is one of the first characters to join your party and I think the game would not be the same without him. Morgana is a cat that guides you through the metaverse but always conveying lot of charm, all sorts of humor and even some emotional moments. Having him with you when you are in class, playing video games with you in your room, watching movies or even when trying to eat a huge hamburger, just adds to making Morgana one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen. Even thought he’s a talking cat, rarely a character felt so real. Also, for someone like me, that had a cat for a long time, just having him around kind of touched me on a personal level.
Not only there are the main cast of characters that go with you throughout the adventure, but there are also many other characters you meet and have relationships with like the side alley doctor who tests her new drugs on you, a reporter, a politician, among many more.
Like I mentioned above, the game takes place in Tokyo, one of the most iconic places from Japan. The great thing here, making a comparison to other Shim Megami Tensei games, and others in general that take place in Tokyo is that it isn’t just a small part of it that is portrayed but many of its famous landmarks are recreated in the game but with a touch of Atlus. If you’ve never been there, it already feels amazing and alive. If, like me, you’ve had the pleasure of going to Tokyo, Persona 5 feels like a trip down the memory lane.
The game is comprised of many connected smaller areas but each of those are so detailed and filled with life. Some people even have shown comparison photos of the game to their real life counterparts and just shows how detailed everything is.
In short, playing Persona 5 feels like you are actually in Tokyo.
Love it or hate it, Persona 5 is a turn based RPG, and I certainly love it! Without going on for long on this, I’ll advocate for turn based games as they allow you to devise different strategies to the challenges imposed to you. In many turn based RPGs some people complain that all you do is “hit and heal”. It may be true for some games but not when Atlus is making the game. Here status effects, buffs, debuffs, they all carry an enormous weight on your decisions. Add to that the “Press Turn System“, introduced in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, and the options are even more. To put it simply, the Press Turn System allows you to act for another turn if you manage to hit the enemy with its weaknesses but you have to bear in mind the enemy can do the same to you, so if you’re not diligent about each battle, even random encounter can pose a threat to you and kill your party when you least expect it.
The enemy encounters are not random, as you can see them before engaging in combat, nothing new here. The new thing, and in my opinion an awesome addition, was a stealth mechanic where you can hide and engage enemies when they are not seeing you to try and get a preemptive attack. This is great because you can make battles go by faster but also it integrates the story to the gameplay in a brilliant way. If you fail to get a preemptive strike, you can hit them normally but you can also be attacked from behind and depending on the enemy it can pose a serious threat.
A feature absent from Persona 3 and 4 but famous for the longtime Megaten fans is the Demon (or should I say Persona?) negotiation. To recruit new personas to use in battle you have to talk to them and I think here this system is the best it has ever been. All enemies have many different subjects you can talk about, and if you manage to make them happy, you can ask for an item, some money or for them to join you.
Outside of battle you live a usual highschool life. Many compare it to a dating sim and in some ways I guess it is. You can choose how to spend your day. You can spend time with your friends and enhance your relationships with them, which in turn have an effect of how strong your personas can be but also, new to this game, they give you some nice bonus, particular to each character. For example, having a good relationship with the doctor allows you to buy healing items for a much cheaper price.
You can also choose to do other activities like fishing, playing baseball, playing videogames, studying, reading, etc. All of those activities help you enhance you social attributes which in turn are useful when interacting with your friends. In short, every little aspect of this game is intertwined beautifully.
This game is gorgeous! It doesn’t aim for photo realistic graphics and instead it goes for style and boy oh boy, it looks all the better because of it. Persona 5 is abundant with charm. Every location has so much detail, so much color, and many hidden little nuances you only notice hours later. Even the menus are beautiful. It’s incredible how the developers managed to make it look so fresh, so new and yet so familiar at the same time.
The character models and persona have received an incredible graphical upgrade when compared to Persona 3 and 4. Animations are more fluid, attacks and spells look beautiful, bosses are visually creative.
The dungeons are a show on their own. They each have a particular design, a theme to them but they never feel repetitive.
Music & Audio
Shouji Meguro, the composer of the game’s soundtrack, has been making incredible music for Atlus for quite some time and in Persona 5 he does it once more. I’ve been listening to this music on my phone for months after beating the game and it still feels fresh. There are many different kind of tunes here and I like all of them with no exception. Of course I have my favorite songs but just think about this, when you have a 100 hours plus game and you listen to the battle theme over and over, unless it is pretty damn good, you are bound to get a little tired of it. Well, that’s not the case in Persona 5 as the battle theme is amazing, just like they were in the previous titles. Boss themes get you pumped up, all dungeons (palaces) have a distinct theme to them. Some more energetic, some more on the soothing side but all a delight to listen to.
Another nice thing to say about the audio of the game is that finally Atlus managed to include the Japanese Voices in the international release of the game. I consider myself a purist and I’ll try, whenever possible, to play a game or watch movie always in their original language; and here my enjoyment of the game was much better because of it. I personally didn’t listen to the English dub but I heard it’s pretty good and in the end, it’s always good to have the option to choose which one you prefer.
With all already said about the game, the sum of its parts make it not only an incredible game but also an incredible experience. I could try to be a little more detailed about how much this game amazed me but I honestly don’t want to risk spoiling anything as I think the best way to enjoy this game is to make it your own personal experience. There are even more stuff to talk about but I think I’ve made my point about how great I think this game is.
A great story, interesting characters, engaging combat, catchy music, Persona 5 has it all. Every little thing about this game is made with so much care and when put together they create an unforgettable experience.
With this said, and I don’t say this lightly, after twenty years I can safely say that I have new favorite game of all time.
I leave my review with the Opening of the game for you to enjoy!