Persona 5 Review

Turns out you really can have too much of a good thing

 

Change Your Heart

So who or what is Persona 5?

Persona 5 is Japanese Roleplaying Game about a high school student and his pals fighting people’s inner demons in an alternate reality ruled by desire. It’s as weird and – at times – wonderful as it sounds.

Interesting…well, tell me more!

 Persona 5 plays out as part-social simulator, part-turn based dungeon crawler. In the ‘real’ world, you spend your days building relationships with your peers, earning a wage working in shops around Tokyo, and upgrading social skills such as knowledge, charm, and guts (or balls, in more colloquial terms).

But time is precious; you can only take part in a certain number of activities every day, and you have to juggle them around school. So you have to make sacrifices – and I’m sure you can’t see everything the game has to offer in a single playthrough.

And in the ‘metaverse’, the otherworldly realm of Persona 5, you break into bad people’s ‘palaces’ – where they protect their deepest, darkest secrets – in an attempt to reach the heart of their warped desires, and change them for the better.

And the game itself oozes style. From the in-your-face, red and black themes that pervade the menus, to the soundtrack and other audio flourishes, the game just is cool, without ever trying too hard.

And on the whole, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And that’s refreshing for modern AAA games.

Cool! What’s the combat like?

It’s relatively standard affair for a turn-based RPG. The player character, a dishevelled and quiet teen, is joined by up to three other team members, and you take turns to batter ‘demons’ for the usual rewards of experience, items, and cold hard cash.

 

Fights play out in standard JRPG turn-based battles – with undeniable style

Sounds like the sort of thing I’ve played before. Does it have anything to make it stand out from the crowd?

In a way. Most enemies have a weakness, be it bullets, critical hits, or a certain element or magical power. This is nothing new, but when an enemy is hit with this weakness, they go prone. And if you manage to knock every enemy prone in a round of combat, you can do an ‘all-out attack’; a flurry of hits that often ends the battle.

This means you can quickly despatch enemies. It makes you feel powerful, which is obviously good in a game!

So what about the team?

On the whole, they’re a colourful cast of teen misfits. Whether it’s the mouthy ex-track runner who was kicked off the team, the shut-in hacker who hasn’t left her house in years, or the Caucasian student who’s struggling to be successful in the Tokyo modelling world, you’ll enjoy finding out more about their stories.

 

All your mates, just hanging out in totally natural poses – and yes, that’s an anthropomorphic cat…

 

And as you hang out with them, you’ll progress their storylines, unlocking a number of handy combat bonuses you can use in the metaverse. No action in the world goes unrewarded, which makes playing the game incredibly addictive.

So far, so good. But looking up at that sub-title, I sense you came away from it with a bad taste in your mouth.

Very astute. Like a lot of Japanese games, the script could do with a hefty bit of editing. Games from the East, either in their original form or during translation, do tend to over-explain plot points (Metal Geeaaarr?!?! springs to mind).

How hefty of an edit are we talking?  

Well I clocked about 106 hours by the time the credits rolled.

106?!

Yep. It’s a massive time-sink, which isn’t helped at all by the final 15-20 hours, which – without spoiling anything – turn into battle of attrition against late-game enemies that don’t have any weaknesses, meaning battles can go on way too long when you just want to see the ending.

But is the ending worth getting to?

Yes and no. There are a few bizarre twists and reveals toward the end, which turn a reasonably grounded tale convoluted and ridiculous. But you’ve spent so much time with these characters that you still want to see what happens to them when all’s said and done.

 

Here are some of my gang hanging out and planning to break into someone’s heart. Persona 5 is all about sharing crisps and definitely not underage drinking.

 

The game could have easily rounded itself up by the 80 hour mark and left players satisfied, but it throws some ideas and characters in toward the end that don’t add anything new or interesting, and instead only serve to bloat an already long game

That’s a shame. So, all told, would you recommend it?

Absolutely. Persona 5 is a game that’s absolutely worth playing through once. The frustrating thing is that these problems are relatively easy to fix, but incredibly hard to overlook. Sadly, if they didn’t exist, I’d have just finished a great game, rather than merely a good one.

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