|Platforms||PS4 (reviewed), PS3|
|Release Date||April 4, 2017|
Review by Paul Shulver (@)
Where do I start? To say that I have been looking forward to this game since its reveal is an understatement. My time with the Persona franchise has been a relatively new one, completing 3, 3 FES, 4, 4 Golden and now 5 in the last 8 years. I have dabbled with 1 & 2 but they’re two very different games to the Persona titles we have now, more akin to the Shin Megami Tensei main titles and borderline impenetrable by the hand holding standards of today.
Persona 5 is an immaculate in any heading/category you want to judge it under and certainly delivers in the £/per hour ratio with a whopping 120 hours under my belt.
You play as Akira Kurusu, or whatever you want to name the largely silent protagonist. Akir is accused of a crime he did not commit and as a result, you move to Tokyo for a year to setup in a new school, find new friends and essentially get away from your past.
Once in Tokyo you become embroiled in a number of incidents involving criminals where it appears that the adults who should be taking action against these individuals are quite happy to turn a blind eye for their own personal gain. You and your newly found friends begin to realise this and take via the metaverse, an alternate reality where people’s cognitive view of the world takes shape in the form of their very own safe place, or ‘palace’.
As a result of opposing these criminals in the metaverse you and your friends awaken to their inner power, their persona, which can be used to combat the criminals in their alternate reality. Calling yourselves The Phantom Thieves it’s now your mission to steal a manifestation of a criminal’s desires known as a treasure, which will trigger a reform in their heart making them confess their crimes and change their ways in the real world. AND BREATH.
The infiltration of a criminal’s palace is depicted as a dungeon and follows the usual traits of a dungeon crawler. Enemies appear on the over world map which upon contact transition you into a traditional turn based battle. Turns are organised by whether you were able to approach and initiate contact with an enemy before they knew you were there or whether you were attacked first. During the encounter it is imperative to identify an enemies weakness as quickly as possible as by doing so will earn you another turn and knock down an enemy.
By managing to exploit the weakness of every enemy and knock all of your opponents down you are given the opportunity of executing a hold up. A hold up will give you the opportunity to enter into a dialogue exchange with the demons you are fighting which may result in them joining you as a summonable persona, receipt of an item or they’ll try and bribe you with money in exchange for their life.
Alternatively, you can carry out a team attack that will usually see all of the enemies on the screen die or a massive amount of damage will be inflicted. Being able to execute team attacks is usually your go to in resolving encounters quickly. Outside of the dungeons you are also tasked with managing your daily life. You will attend school, make friends, go to the cinema and read books on your daily commute all to enhance your character’s more human qualities which allow you to create social links.
Your character is given a rating for their Charm, Proficiency, Knowledge, Guts and Kindness and by enhancing these traits allow you to open more social link opportunities with people in Tokyo. Social links are tied in with different arcanas which translate directly to the personas/demons you encounter in the metaverse so by levelling up a particular social link in the real world will directly affect the power of the personas you create/wield in the metaverse as well as some other bonuses.
By interacting with these characters you will learn about them as they will come to you for advice for situations they are finding difficult and for other problems only you can solve. By having these interactions with a number of supporting characters really fills out the world and makes you care about the different characters and their daily lives in the persona universe.
Unfortunately it’s not possible to spend as much time as you want with all of your friends as you would like as the entire game is on a timer and taking part in certain activities will progress time. You will need to think carefully about what you do and who you want to be spending time with as you are only permitted one or two actions per day depending on what you choose. When infiltrating a palace you are given a deadline of approximately two weeks in which time you will need to of stolen the treasure else the game will be over.
The feeling of not having enough time is probably what will put most people off but it does aid in making decisions feel more consequential and also keep the story moving at a steady pace. Presentation wise everything on screen is a joy to behold. Everything seems lovingly crafted and although Persona doesn’t employ a fully open world map it does concentrate on the little things to make it feel like what you have to play with is part of something much larger and living.
The soundtrack, as with other Persona titles, is absolutely killer and masterminded again by Shoji Meguro. While other soundtracks may tug on the heart strings of nostalgia, Persona’s is just track after track of genuinely good music and while we won’t see it appearing in the Classic FM Hall of Fame with Uematsu and Shimomura it is every bit as good. When Rivers in the Desert kicked in after a long dungeon culminating in a boss fight it was 2am and I just wanted to crank it up to 11.
Persona 5 is an absolute masterpiece and like many other reviews, I can’t help but echo the positivity here too. If you’ve never played a Persona game, play this one and work your way back. If you have played a Persona game then I imagine you’ll be playing this now and loving every minute of it. Buy this game, it’s one of the best RPGs in the last 10 years.
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