QCF: Persona 5
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Ser Flash in Atlus, No BS, Persona 5, QCF Reviews, RPG of the Century

hen I was ridiculously unemployed, I was afforded the opportunity to see what the all hubbub was about with regards to Atlus' Persona series, starting with the excellent Persona 3. 130 hours later, I asked myself, “How could this series honestly get any better?” Immediately (and almost foolishly) I dove right into the then recently released Persona 4 and found the answer after another 110 hours: Persona 4 was hands down the greatest RPG I had played until then, and ended up being a game that was never matched.

It was a game so good that not only did I spring for the game again – in the form of the P4 Golden: Solid Gold Limited Edition for PlayStation Vita—I also bought a PlayStation Vita for that express reason alone. Yet another 100 hours well-spent.

Naturally, when Persona 5 was announced, I was pretty stoked: If P4 was able to so easily crush P3 with the kind of quality that dripped from its DVD case, what will Persona 5 do? Once again, new hardware was obtained to guarantee the best possible experience – in this case, the PlayStation 4. Another huge box was preordered to continue the Limited Collector's Edition streak that has so far remained unbroken. Was it worth the wait?

In a word: Yes.

Now, there's a lot to this game that I just can't talk about without serious spoilers and, if I'm 100% honest – and blatantly frank – you should really just stop reading this review and buy the damned game and either a PS3 or PS4 to play it already. But for those of you who need a little more than that, this review will focus on only the gameplay mechanics that it boasts, for the most part. That said, anyone who's even mildly interested in this title really does need to experience the whole thing for themselves when it comes to the actual narrative, which is bizarre, intriguing and mother-flipping excellent.

Without going too far into detail, the main protagonist of your naming stumbles into a bizarre metaverse, which reveals that things aren’t quite what they seem at his new school, and there’s more than meets the eye. Through a series of events, he and his newfound comrade, Ryuji encounter a strange cat named Morgana. Things get dire pretty quickly which eventually gives rise to the player's other self; his Persona. There's only one way to right the wrongs that have been discovered: stealing the most treasured possession away from the twisted shadows of criminals from the real world by acting as a Phantom Thief... and so the story unfolds.

Still here? Okay. As an RPG with a heavy emphasis on time-sensitive storytelling, the in-game social interaction between player and non-player characters and turn-based battle mechanics, Persona 5 is still a breath of fresh air, despite games similar to it being around for three decades. Somehow, Atlus has taken what Persona 3 started and Persona 4 refined and made it the ultimate in roleplaying excellence. Players make their way through the main protagonist's daily life, balancing school, jobs and social interaction within the space of about a year, in-game. How the player chooses to spend their time is totally up to them, though they will be constantly reminded of their objectives as time goes on.

In dungeons, players will be able to see enemy shadows roaming around, pushing players to decide whether to attack or avoid them. Players can hide behind walls and other various pieces of furniture to ambush these shadows or creep up behind them to initiate a preemptive strike. However, if a player is caught off guard, the enemies will have the upper hand, often with devastating effect.

In battle, knowing what enemies are weak against what element is crucial to progress; if an enemy's weakness is hit, the player gets an extra turn with that character. Understanding this is crucial mechanic will be critical to players ability to make efficient progress in Persona 5’s challenging dungeons. Unlike other entries in the Persona series though, Persona 5 doesn’t rely on cards for new personas, extra money or items—it takes a much more Megaten approach to it, with the implementation of SMT’s Demon Negotiation.  If all enemies can be knocked down, players then can either negotiate for demons to join them, extort money or items for an enemy's escape or perform an All-out attack for massive damage. Bosses can't be extorted or invited, but knocking them down is still an absolutely essential tactic. Knowing what to say in response to a demon’s line of questioning is essential to getting them to join. Say the wrong things and they bugger off, leaving behind an item. Really botch it and you’re right back in battle.

Many colorful characters will be encountered with a decent group actually joining the player's party, typically by. Up to four can be taken into the Metaverse at a time, and each character has a specific major Arcana attached, as well as an elemental strength. Interacting with these characters over time will build the player's relationship with them. This will, in turn, increase the player's rank of that particular Arcana, up to a maximum rank of 10. Especially in the case of player characters, the higher the rank the player has with them, the more they do in battle. Recovering status ailments, healing, changing characters without skipping a beat to ensure that all enemy weaknesses can be exploited as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Building non-player character ranks are useful too; when fusing collected demons, players will get a boost of experience that can send the persona above and beyond the highest possible level that the player can technically handle, especially at higher social ranks. 

All the while, Persona 5’s story takes center stage with excellent writing as well as a superb plot. It’s not just a good story though—it’s genuinely mature without gratuity. There is a lot of pretty dark content here that will surely have players saying, “Well…. shit.” Each character’s personality shines with fairly believable traits that make each one more than interesting to interact with. Getting to know each one and learning their backstories and intimate details are what makes the persona series as a whole one of, if not the most engaging RPG series there has ever been. Admittedly, Persona 5 is a touch weaker than Persona 4, but not by much.

Accentuating Persona 5’s excellent script is an absurdly good sense of style that won’t be found anywhere else. The character design, the crowded, shady back alleys, city centers, subways, heck, even the shop menus—it all come together to make one of the most visually striking yet appealing games to come about in many years. Add to that excellent sound design, terrific, localized English VO and yet another standout OST by the one and only Shoji Meguro and you have a game that can walk the walk, talk the talk and takes it all over the top.

It all comes together to form the kind of game that really only comes around once a decade or so. If RPGs are your jam, you can't go wrong with Persona 5. Masterful combat, masterful story, masterful sights, and sound—Persona 5 is a masterclass in RPG gameplay mechanics and storytelling and it’s absolutely a game that shouldn’t be missed.

Article originally appeared on Press Pause Radio (http://www.presspauseradio.com/).
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