Persona 5: A Candid Review without spoiler

Change the Heart with the Magic of Phantom Thieves

RPG games today are quite different from those we have played in the past.  There are several subcategories of this genre to play.  Of course, the most popular type is the fantasy adventure which the player is wandering in the world full of strange creatures. Some are friendly but mostly those creatures are a serious threat to us human being.  Some games deal with a vast expansion of the universe that the player must spend a long period of time to grasp with tons of dialogs and information.  On the contrary, some games may opt to carry the content of world-class science fiction atmosphere.  But when it comes to the fifth installment of PERSONA series, Persona 5 would rather be a fine combination of real-life simulator and fantasy adventure.

The main protagonist.
The main protagonist of Persona 5. In this case, it is you.

Story of Persona 5 

Persona 5 tells the story of a young high school protagonist who ended up with the criminal record and is on the probation from government juvenile office for the crime he didn’t commit.  Well, he just messed up with the wrong guy in the wrong place.  This probation has forced him to leave his hometown to live with the owner of La Blanc coffee shop who is his guardian during his stay in Tokyo.

The game takes the first 40 minutes to show how painful the protagonist had to cope with since everyone had labeled him as a troubled guy with a criminal record. When the game proceeds to the certain level,  the protagonist has stumbled upon the shadow world called Metaverse and finally teamed up with the talking cat-like creature named Morgana.  His hidden power is suddenly awakened and transformed into the force called Persona that helps to fight the shadow of the distorted mind lurking in this Metaverse.  The game has then started kicking in high gear for fantasy adventure.

The game did bring up the real social problem in Japan and made it easy to understand and digest.  Upon stepping into the new classroom, the protagonist had become the center of the school gossips about his probation and criminal record.  In fact, no one dared to talk to him in person and he was left being alone in the whole new society.

Not for long until he met up with Ryuji Sakamoto, who was also banned by other students because of his gangster image.  Both of them found out that they had many things in common.  They were the victims of the adults who had tried to take advantage from youths like them.  With the power of Persona, they decided to use this power to steal “the treasure” from the dark side of corrupted people’s mind and reveal their true mind to the public. The more the story advanced, the more “outcast” people they met.  Finally, all of them teamed up together and used the power of Persona to change the world.

This game is actually the story of the “outsiders” who, regardless of being treated as disgusted, worthless youths by the society, desperate to prove themselves how meaningful, and valuable they are.  Not only does the game deal with a serious subject matter, but it’s also full of funny dialogs, pop-culture jokes, stylish anime cutscenes like its predecessors, Persona 3 and Persona 4.

Infiltration to the palace
Infiltration to the palace

Gameplay

Persona 5, as mentioned earlier, is the combination of real-life simulator and fantasy adventure.  You assume the role of an ordinary high school student. However, when you and your team infiltrate the bizarre shadow world called Metaverse, you will transform into the mighty thief who targets to steal “the treasure” from distorted minds of the corrupted people.

On the real-life simulator part, you have to do all necessary tasks as a typical high school student does which is….to study.  Yes, I really mean it.  Sometimes you may be asked to answer the question in the class.  The correct answer will earn you the knowledge point which is one of five social attributes you have to master.  I will mention this later.

Besides being an ordinary high school student, you have to establish ties with the people around you.  This system is called social links in Persona 3 and 4 but it has been completely revamped into “Confidant”.  The confidant system allows you to spend time with each of your friends.  The more you add up the relationship with the target, the more you will unlock abilities to use in the Metaverse. Some side-character may even offer you 50% discount on various life-saving items.  Additionally, when you max out your confidant ranks with your teammates, their persona will eventually develop into the ultimate form, making it easier to fight with the shadows.

Persona 5 also has social stat system.  Normally, there are 5 social attributes: Knowledge, Charm, Proficiency, Kindness, and Gut.  Each attribute can be leveled up by many activities such as reading books, watching movies, doing a part-time job, crafting tools, or even studying. Some confidants cannot be advanced or established unless you achieve a certain level of each social attribute.

Your life as a high school student.

As the Phantom thieves, you have a constant deadline to steal the treasure.  If you miss out, it’s game-over.  To steal the treasure, you have to enter the dungeon called “Palace”.  It is the manifestation of the distorted desire and each palace will be different depending on the individual state of mind.  Ultimately, you have to secure the infiltration route and exit the palace to send out the calling card in the real world on the next day.  After that, it’s time for the treasure (of course, you have to fight the boss of the palace too).

In addition to the palace, you can test your strength in the randomly generated dungeon called “Mementos” which takes the form of Tokyo’s subway system.  Our goal is to go down to the bottom but the number of levels will increase as you pass through the story in the game.  Since Mementos is a randomly generated dungeon, the layout of each floor will be changed each time you return to the previous level.  It’s like Tartarus in Persona 3 and random TV dungeon in Persona 4.  Many side quests or “request” can be cleared within Mementos.

The combat system of Persona 5 is a classic turn-based system that players take a turn to perform a certain action, once executed, the opponent will take a turn or vice versa.  This system is very common for JRPG and Persona 5 has no exception. However, what makes Persona 5 different from other turn based RPG is that Persona 5 has applied “the Press turn” system from Shin Megami Tensei series to the game.

The game allows you to explore the enemy’s elemental weakness and attack using this particular element.  It usually knocks the enemy down on the floor and you get an extra turn.  If you continue attacking its weakness, you can wipe out all of the enemies without taking a hit.  But remember that the enemy can do the same, especially in the hard mode…..a real nightmare.  Once all enemies are knocked down, you will be given the options whether to perform all-out-attack or talk to them. Negotiation system is also borrowed from Shin Megami Tensei series.  You talk with the enemy and convince them to join you and you can get a new Persona to use or you may ask them to give you money or items instead.  It’s up to you.

Like Persona 3 and 4, only the protagonist has the wild card ability. He is capable of summoning more than one persona in combat.  Switching the persona during the battle is a very crucial step to winning the game.  The old persona will be fused with other personas to create a new, more powerful persona.  More importantly, the new Persona will inherit some powerful skills from the old one.  Therefore, you are able to customize your persona in the way you like with endless possibilities.  If you have already established the relationship with the confidant in a certain Arcana, you will get extra EXP when fusing the persona.

As mentioned earlier, the Persona series is actually the spin-off from Shin Megami Tensei series.  Therefore, the characters design of all personas is exactly the same as “demons” found in SMT series.  Of course, the design is uniquely created by Kasuma Kaneko, the man behind the demons.  Many persona designs have been heavily influenced by the image of God and devil in the myth such as Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Japanese, Chinese, Norse, Greek, Irish, or even local legends from Southeast Asia folklores.  Since the major theme is all about a rebellious group of troubled students becoming the phantom thieves of heart, the starting personas of each member are based on legendary thieves from famous novels or history such as Arsene Lupin, Captain Kid, Zorro, or Goemon.

The protagonist has to live a normal life as a high school student and as a phantom thief.  Each activity must be carefully planned and executed because you only have a one-year time limit at Shujin high school.  You may choose to develop social skill, hang out with your target to improve confidant rank or help other people as a thief.  It’s all up to you but don’t forget that you still have midterm exam waiting for you.

The combat system

Graphics of Persona 5

When compared to the AAA games released earlier on PS4, the graphic in Persona 5 has failed to utilize the full potential of the console. In fact, this game was originally developed for PS3.  However, the underrated graphic quality has been offset by the style of the game.  This game has its own unique art style ranging from color selection, composition, stylish sub-menu, and short-cut to major commands in combat.  The screenshot when battles start or end looks fantastic.  In addition to the 3D character model, the game also features a high-quality anime cut scenes as well.  Thanks to cell shade character model, the game looks and feels like we are watching a good Japanese anime series.

The main game menu.

Background Music and Voice Casts

The voice cast in the game is admirable.  Each character has a unique tone of voice depending on the personality of the character.  A solemn character will have a calm tone while a cheerful character usually speaks with a lively tone.  All of them have done a pretty good job in casting a powerful voice in the awakening scene of each persona.

A background music from Shoji Meguro, a well-known Japanese music composer, is excellent as ever.  Especially, the combat BGM “Last Surprise” which fills up with Acid Jazz sound and touch makes it even more incredible. It’s safe to say that the background music is one of the best features in the game.

Your first persona: Arsene

Conclusion

I have found out that this game is a time-consuming and a very addictive game.  You probably take 80 – 100 hours to complete the first play through of the game.  If you want to get all trophies, max out all social stats, complete all confidants, you may have started a new game+.  Persona 5 is a masterpiece of JRPG to date and is highly recommended to everyone who wants to play a great JRPG game. I personally believe that the content of the game must have some aspects that are similar to your daily life in one way or another.  It is like a coming-of-age version of the game for youth who are desperately looking for the place they belong to.

Cr: Atlus, Sega

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