Persona 5 is the latest instalment to ATLUS' world renowned Shin Megami Tensei series and arrives 8 years after the release of Persona 4 (excluding spin-off's). As amazing as it looks, is it really the game fans had hoped for or is it over-hyped nonsense? Read on as we explain this and more, but be warned, there may be some spoilers ahead.
Much like previous Persona titles, the story takes place across a number of locations, with Shujin Academy being the primary spot for our protagonists, closely followed by a number of Dungeons within the mysterious world of shadows. The protagonist (Joker) is a 16 year old student who was recently transferred to the Academy (located in Shibuya) from his hometown for being a bit of a troublemaker. The game begins with Joker part way through a heist as one of the Phantom Thieves, which is where you learn that Joker is in fact the leader of the Phantom Thieves. Who are the Phantom Thieves exactly? Well, they're a group of thieves who mainly target adults, invading their psyche's to steal/cleanse the corrupt hearts of said individuals.
The cutscenes here are beautifully animated and create enough intrigue to keep you playing and wanting more. During this exact mission however, something goes wrong and as you make your escape, you end up surrounded by a SWAT level resistance force, ending in your capture. You're then taken in for questioning, with you identity revealed and during your interrogation, past victims of the Phantom Thieves are brought up, leading to flashbacks which take you back to the targets of the past.
This is interesting because as you reveal more information to the woman questioning you, we as the players end up learning about the Phantom Thieves past objectives at roughly the same time the interrogators do. This is because the story is told via flashbacks, with each one taking us back to a target of the past. It makes for interesting story-telling, especially as the hidden agenda's, motives and dark secrets of each individual touch on pretty serious matters not usually explored in games. This includes sexual harassment, stalking, power hungry dictators abusing those they see as below them, bullying and suicide. It's pretty dark, contrasted only by the upbeat personalities of your party members and the incredibly stylish (and colourful) visuals.
As mentioned above, the colourful and ultra stylish visuals have come to be a unique trademark within the Persona series and Persona 5 is no different. Throughout every dungeon and realistic environment (such as Central Street in Shibuya) within the game, P5 isn't afraid to flaunt its visually stunning and overly stylised graphics. The gameplay is incredibly fluid, transitioning between battles and exploration practically seamlessly. It's a very cinematic experience and certainly keeps you immersed within the story at all times. Transformations and Persona switching is incredibly slick and it's truly impressive how effortlessly the game fades from fights back to the environment you were previously roaming around. The 2D animations and cel-shaded visuals only add to the fun. Adding to this, the English voice work is great. The voice actors/actresses have done a really amazing job in giving each character their very own set of emotions and a personality that really sets them apart from one another. This isn't just limited to the main party members, either. Even the background characters feel unique in both visual styling and personality. It's a good thing too, because the European release only features English voices, though you can download the original Japanese voices as a free additional add-on from the Playstation Store if you really want to.
Persona 5 also brings with it a new element to the Persona series - The Third Eye. Additionally, you're also presented with a new crafting and sneaking system, allowing the player to hide around corners and in the shadows to avoid demonic detection. This also opens the path to perform ambush attacks, giving you a healthy advantage in battle, while the Third Eye allows you to see what you couldn't normally. As such, detecting hidden items and estimating how strong the enemy is in comparison to your party has never been easier. When inside a Palace or Dungeon, you'll also have an alert meter to deal with. The more Shadows/Demons are aware of your presence, the higher the meter raises and if you're not too careful, you could end up with 100% detection, forcing you out of the dungeon for the entire day!
Persona 5 also brings back the best elements from previous Persona titles. The ambush element allows you to deal more damage to enemies and/or be the first to act in a fight. Additionally, the gun elements of Persona 2 also make a return, allowing the player to fire off gun attacks, damaging enemies and offering yet another exploit to gain full advantage over Shadows and Demons weak to such attacks.
Before this, our Editor, Nik had never played a Persona title outside of Persona 4: Ultimax in his life. P4: Ultimax was a side-scrolling fighting much like the Street Fighter series and was set within the Persona 4 universe as a spin-off title. Due to this, I felt it worth adding his thoughts to this article below.
Nik - I discovered a little title known as Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call back when I was in High School. I wanted it so much because not only did it look stylish, it was different and as a huge Devil May Cry fan, with Dante as a playable, unlockable character, I couldn't not have it. It was tough and I still have my save file ready to one day return to and complete it. Upon playing I immediately fell in love with the series, later buying Digital Devil Saga 1 and 2. I'm also yet to finish those, but Atlus really opened my eyes and showed me there were other great RPG's out there outside of the Final Fantasy series and now, years later, as a lover of art and all things flashy, I couldn't help but get excited for Persona 5. The story is its own, so not having to play through the previous four games to understand what was going on was a huge plus and let's be honest here, the intro/theme for this game is so catchy you couldn't do anything to prevent the overwhelming hype and level of excitement this game had so perfectly generated. At 25 hours in, I still find it incredibly hard to put the controller back down. The fast paced gameplay is incredibly addictive, offers a great challenge, is one of the most visually pleasing games I've played to date and I've been loving every second of it!
As a Persona fan since 2007's Persona 3, Persona 5 is a great addition to the series, combining the best of previous Persona titles from the vivid colours, unique art style, beautiful environments and clever cinematics, which only serves to compliment player immersion and the execution of the overarching plot. Tackling such serious issues only serves to keep the game relatable to gamers of all different backgrounds and as such, Persona 5 was definitely worth the near decade wait.
I think it goes without saying that Persona 5 lives up to the hype and is one of the greatest and most realised JRPG's out there, making it a must play for any fan of the RPG genre.