“Not Another Teen Movie” meets “Ocean’s 11” except it’s in Japan and it’s 90 Hours Long
In the universe of Japanese Role Playing Games there are an infinite amount of worlds that represent characteristics of Japanese culture. The Persona series is one that focuses on cultural tropes centered around the experience of being a high school student. Persona 5, published and developed by Atlus, is the sixth installment in the Persona series, which itself is part of the larger Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Released on April 4th, 2017 Persona 5 is part high school life simulator and part grind based monster slaying RPG tangled up in the web of an intricate story with an unbelievable soundtrack as additional garnish.
Rather than join the over flowing bucket of hyper realistic games, Atlus has chosen to maintain its stronghold on the anime cell shaded art style that fans of the series have grown to adore. With a few refinements for good measure. The fluidity of character movement is hard to appreciate because it is consistently overshadowed by the gorgeous color popping visuals at every environment. Even when exploring thematic dungeons using a consistent color scheme and decor, every new area feels refreshing and exciting. When not exploring the dungeon, the developments team’s determination to recreate the city of Tokyo truly shines through. Train stations and public areas are populated by many unique NPCs. Distant locations never seem broken or incomplete at any point, and shops are full of vibrant displays representative of items the player can actually interact with. Combined with the music, which will be covered later, even the loading screens are enjoyable. The best part are the back and fourth seamless transitions between fully animated anime style cutscenes and in engine dialogue based scripted moments. The refreshing visuals make it possible to play and enjoy endless hours in the world Persona 5.
25 hours in, Persona 5 is “Not Another Teen Movie” meets “Ocean’s 11” in Japan. Although each segment individually provides an incredible narrative providing every reason to want to grind through the missions and palace presented, the overarching story still doesn’t exist. At the beginning a mystery began to unfold surrounding a series of strange events happening in the city, however that premise is quickly overshadowed by the issues that present immediate concern. The big issue with this story is that despite how incredible it may actually be, the amount of cutscenes and time invested doesn’t have anything spectacular going on. The plot bides its time a bit too long.
First and foremost, the soundtrack composition throughout the entire Persona series has been phenomenal but, it was after Persona 3 that series become well recognized for its music. A never ending blend of upbeat jazz and subtle electronic vibes keep things exciting during the slower moments of the game while the intense scoring kicks pop in during battle sequences and heavy monologue. Every in-game object also comes with it’s own unique sound effects, whether it be footsteps, raindrops, or automatic doors opening. Each sound is instantly recognizable without question. The voice acting is also immaculate. Despite Japan’s culture surrounding the overly sexualized sound of females speaking, conversations sound realistic and the emotions portrayed easily resonate. Moments of anger, sadness, and joy truly shine through at all times, appropriately making it very simple to feel for the characters introduced throughout the game.
Outside of the inclusion of the gun as an attack option in battle, there’s nothing new here. Persona 5 keeps the long standing tradition of being a lot of high school simulation with a heavy splash of dungeon crawling thrown in the mix. Fans of the series will be excited to learn about the additional romance options that have been added to the game and also to know that the day management system remains unchanged. Players can accomplish one task per time block per day to develop the statistics of their character and build relationships with NPCs that will help through out the game. One major change in the game can be found in the choice of setting. For the first time in the series, the development team has opted to go with a major city as opposed to the typical small town feel. This expansion, at first, can feel overwhelming but provides the inclusion of an immense amount of stat building activities that keep everyday feeling exciting and non-repetitive. Almost gone are the days of feeling the need to accomplish the same task over and over to build up one statistic, because now everything has multiple ways to build and some places even receive bonuses based on numerous in game decisions and real world timing. Unfortunately, most modern day gamers will be turned off by the turn based battle system relegating this game to a niche crowd almost instantly.
Is Persona 5 fun? The answer is: obviously way more than it ever should be. Persona 5 presents the opportunity to explore the most awkward stage of most peoples lives and get everything right while including a story that only the player can be the hero of. Although it may be overwhelming at first, anyone who is willing or interested in indulging in the prospect of using every day to become the best person, at a social level and heroic level, will find it difficult to put the control down. Add to the mix, a compelling story that manages to dance carefully on the line of childishly ludicrous yet inspiringing and brilliant. Persona 5 keeps every battle mindlessly interesting while educating and entertaining. Ever wanted to be the smartest kid in class, the most charming person at any social gathering, or the most athletic player at any field? This game encourages the player to do that and then go out hunting demons at night with the people whose relationship to the player are most meaningful (because building strong relationships makes the teammate’s physically more powerful). What could possibly be more fun than that?
The world of JRPG’s is a sensitive place in which fan service, intricate story telling, and non-stop grinding dominate and Persona 5 has no problem claiming a seat in the top ranks. It’s quirky characters and dungeon crawling gameplay pave the way for a fantastic story full of emotion that is difficult to pull out of once it pulls you in. Arguably the most compelling parts of the game are the unique visuals and the fine tuned soundtrack, but make no mistake! Persona 5 will live on along side many others as a legendary game.