Persona 5 is a magnificent game with minimal drawbacks and a distinct, flashy style. The game has a bit of a slow start, and this might turn off some players, but the characters that you are introduced to will get you invested right from the get-go. Half of the game operates in palaces, which are basically dungeons similar to the ones in the previous games, while the other half operates in Japan, at your high school, Shujin Academy. After starting the game, you will be introduced to some locations and characters, and eventually you will enter the first palace, and this is where the real style will begin to shine through. The combat is quick, flashy, and surprisingly simple. For those who have never played a game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, each attack has a certain element, and you have to use these elements against different shadows (enemies) to weaken them and get a second chance at attack. This is one of the fastest-paced combat systems I have ever seen in a jrpg, all buttons have a function, allowing for fast battles if you know your enemy.
Another option you are given during battle if you knock all the enemies down by hitting them with their weakness is to “negotiate” with them. This is an absolutely brilliant feature, as you are able to either take money or items, or you can add them to your team as an extra Persona. Personas are the main source of strategy in this game and you can fuse personas together to make stronger versions. This is the first time in a persona game that you are able to negotiate with the shadows, and bring them over to your team, be it that you are good at negotiation. Taking personas to your side is incredibly fun and addictive, and doesn’t take away from the previous game’s difficulty or gameplay. Not to mention Persona fusion has been improved marginally, because it was already incredibly exciting and addictive to begin with.
The stealth mechanics are pretty simple, hiding around corners waiting for enemies so you can jump out and surprise them. There is a small problem with the jumping between hiding spot to hiding spot, as the camera can become a bit wonky while looking around, but it isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it. It does do a great job of keeping things simple, and it is very stylish to sneak around different locations and jump out, ripping the enemies’ masks off. The surprising enemies does lead to a small issue that I had with the combat and stealth in general though. Sneaking up on enemies will give your team the first strike and allow you to finish battles quickly with minimal damage to your party members, but the enemy will go last after you are all done. This is a problem because the turns return to normal on the second turn so the enemy may get a quick extra hit in, and on the harder difficulties could wipe out your whole party with ease.
The characters are also pretty good, with many standouts, and few annoying ones. The localization and voice acting teams did a great job of bringing these characters to life as well, I found very few voices and translations to be annoying. As with other persona games, social links (confidants) and the characters that are involved in those are an integral part of gameplay, and in my opinion, they are the best they have ever been. Characters have also had their rewards for ranking up in their respective confidants increased, and they are normally pretty incredible benefits you wouldn’t see in the other persona games. This incentive makes confidants fun to rank up with contrasting for past Personas where I had trouble finding any enjoyment from ranking up most social links, save for the extra experience and special Personas you could get from them.
The story is quite simplistic, going on journeys through palaces to change the hearts of rotten adults. Not to say the story isn’t interesting though, it will quickly get you invested with quite a few twists and turns you may not see coming. The main objective is to change the villain’s heart by the deadline, and you can do whatever you want until that point. This is a shtick in most persona games, but it still allows for a lot of freedom in how you approach objectives. One of the main complaints I have seen with this game is having to go to sleep because one of the characters, Morgana, requires you to. Taking away an entire night that you could be using to your advantage. As much as this is a burden, all persona games do this to some extent, it’s just that when it’s another character telling you you’re too tired instead of yourself, it gets annoying.
The story is also one of the few that I’ve seen in video games that really makes you question if what you’re doing is the right thing. Many combative views are shown, and I love having to think about how you effect people in society. You can always see a gauge showing what percent of the population believes what you are doing is just. I didn’t get much use of the online functionality, but it allows you to see how other players have spent their time, and check their average levels at that point in the game, which is obviously very helpful.
There are 5 different difficulties to choose from if you count the DLC “merciless” mode. Playing on higher difficulties, is fun for the more experienced players, and lower difficulties are good for people who just want to experience the story and atmosphere. I played through on hard, and I never found myself needing to grind, save for Mementos, (A large randomly-generated dungeon for doing side quests and other minor story events.) which is actually very rare for rpgs. Safe mode is available which will allow you to basically never die, which is helpful for less-skilled or new players. Overall the difficulty is widely spread out, and is changeable at any time through the config menu.
A minor gripe I had with the game is the ruthless safe room (or save points) placement. I cannot elaborate on how many times I would be almost to the next safe room, supplies low, and one enemy attacks me combos me and I have to go all the way back. The real problem with this is that going back to previous safe rooms is tough because enemies respawn when you leave areas, causing you to be stuck between enemies on one side, and enemies on the other. Obviously, this isn’t a bad thing for a lot of people, it’s just that if you aren’t very skilled at these games, don’t push your luck too far. The environment outside of palaces is quite impressive though.
A large amount of effort was put into the different locations you can visit. The cities are bustling with people, and you can eavesdrop on their conversations to get updates on events, learn about their lives, or just see what they think. This is beautifully implemented with a lot of messages appearing on the sides of the screen, so if you put the game down for a long while, and just decided to pick it back up you can be updated on current objectives. The music is also very well done with more standout tracks than ever before, and beautiful environmental themes. Some smaller things to add are the beautiful menus, each with their own vibrant colors, stylish portrayal of the characters in question, and quick easy to use inventories. The other locations that are very beautiful are the palaces.
Each palace is hand-crafted, each with their own unique style, differing from the past game’s randomly generated dungeons. I feel that this is what Persona was always meant to have, as the dungeons are cool, clean, and beautiful. You can get lost in the scenery from each of the palaces, as well as being very fun to explore. Jumping across platforms is a bit too streamlined for my tastes, as it will just have a button prompt to get from platform to platform, which can get very convoluted when other areas to jump to are around. You can just dash towards the platforms to automatically jump, which does make things a bit more interesting, but the overall atmosphere of the palaces kept me interested anyway.
The voice acting is great with some very talented actors taking most of the characters. There are some times where the voice acting will start to become fairly grating, but that’s mostly during battle with repeated phrases appearing left and right, this isn’t anything new though, the previous Personas also had the same problem. This will be combatted though by the excellent performances by some other characters on your team. The villains are some of my favorite parts of the voice acting, as you will hear them talking normally during the daily life sections, but the huge contrast in the palace versions of them is exemplary. The voice actors for the most part pull this off eloquently, keeping you entertained and invested the whole way through.
Overall I could go on talking about this game for hours. There aren’t many games that can get you up and dancing just from the battle music and gameplay alone, but Persona 5 does this spectacularly. The style in this game is second-to-none from a jprg standpoint. The scenery and atmosphere is magnificent, perfectly capturing the events that take place, the story will be very fun to play through and you will enjoy it, even if it is a bit boring at times. The only gripes I have are some minor things with certain characters, some voice acting, difficulty issues, mostly things I’ve mentioned thus far, but that barely takes away from the overall experience. This game is one of the best jrpgs to ever be released hands down. This game a beautiful display of style, along with satisfying combat, magnificent aesthetics, and convenience that most games fail to achieve.