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Persona 5 Review

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The Persona series has always found ways to push characters’ personal insecurities while combining thorough dungeon crawling with a gripping story. This not only keeps fans of the series coming back, but craving for more. The newest installment in the long running series (now 20 years) Persona 5, comes up anywhere but short of its predecessors.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, describing the scenarios that take place in the nefarious world of Persona can easily come off as misleading or uncomfortable. The best way to understand is to take the dive and have the long, intricate story wrapping around you is well worth the loads of time completing the game.
Revisiting last gen’s Catherine will immediately see the similarities, with distinct graphics and comparable mechanics. Rich color tones, bold lines deeply rooted in Japanese anime design, traversing through Tokyo’s crowded subway stations or even more crowded narrow market streets feel more alive than any game in the series to date.

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Starting the game sticks you directly in the middle of what seems to be a covert operation gone awry. You’re briefly shown the ropes of the game battle mechanics and a meager taste of carefully crafted dungeon areas now called “Palaces”. These palaces represent the distorted view of someone who has a negative, selfish way of looking at life. It becomes your duty as a Phantom Thief to steal their precious treasure in turn changing their heart for the better.

If this is your first go at a Persona game, the battles may seem moderately familiar. Much like the traditional turn base rpg system from the vaguely similar games, Persona 5 has added a few updates to keep battles new and refreshing. Each player gets one turn between offensive and defensive measures. Physical or elemental attacks, a variety of buffers/debuffers, healing or aiding moves, simple melee attacks or the new range weapon attack, a specific gun model for each character all play important roles on successful assaults. If you manage to hit the enemy’s weak point you get an extra turn. Kick all of your foes to the ground and the tables really start to turn. From here you are in “Hold Up” mode where you can choose between performing an “All Out Attack”, which like in previous titles performs a large amount of physical damage to all enemies. The other option you have is to negotiate. From there you can use your wit for money, useful items or the ability to absorb their power turning them into a personas.

What lagged in the dungeon crawling portion of the game previously has been heavily upgraded and now seem to have raised the bar for future action/ turn base rpg’s. The tiresome and repetitive nature of “Tartarus” or “The TV Realm” in more recent entries has been greatly improved. The game now offers much less randomly generated maze like areas and much more of a stealth like adventure approach. Let’s say an infiltration approach, keeping players aware and on their toes throughout each palace you explore. Though the randomly generated dungeons are still very much a part of it, it’s not the only means of dungeon crawling.

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After a few hard-earned hours engrossed in the game, you will start to notice it opening up. You’ll find yourself with a few recently acquainted friends and right in the middle of a dramatic high school scandal. The familiar juggle between who to spend time with, should you study, acquire skill points from various mini games or activities like playing video games, watching movies or hitting up the batting cages, or spending the rest of the day fighting off shadows in the other world known as Mementos becomes the basis for the rest of the game. Regardless of how you spend your free time, there are loads to do and plenty of relationships to develop, rewarding you along the way all with their own perks.

Living a double life, commuting between your everyday high school distractions and fighting evil with your newly acquired persona’s is the structure that made home to a new type of rpg. One that Atlus put their name on and continue to develop deeper stories that you couldn’t otherwise tell in other styles of the broad genre. If you’re looking for a game that goes after emotions, a game that isn’t afraid to tackle the underlying social struggles of today’s world then you have no better option than to start right here. Straining through local catastrophes, striving to be an honest, civil student in the bustling city of Tokyo has never felt more immersive. After putting easily over 100 hours into your hectic student life, you’ll find yourself feeling at times, ultimately sucked in and every bit a part of the Persona world.

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Pros:

  • Well crafted, deep story keeping you immersed with plenty of lovable and despicable characters.
  • Loads of play time and high replay value keeps you coming back for another go at developing more relationships (requiring higher skill points) you can only unlock during the second (or third) play through.
  • Much improved and intricate dungeon crawling experience leaving you wanting more as opposed to recent Persona titles that felt like the dungeons were more of a chore.

Cons:

  • Cluttered towns and subways make the game confusing to explore at first. A good idea is to spend a little time getting the feel of each area and using the quick travel menu often.
  • Some characters feel a little recycled from previous titles. Without giving too much away certain cast members play very similar roles from preceding Persona games. (Student council president, hard nosed father figure, high school detective, etc.)
  • While the soundtrack to all persona games is somewhat of a namesake and can be completely mesmerizing in most situations, it’s also very repetitive and a little lacking compared to previous Persona scores.
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