Now that I’m 40 hours into Persona 5 I can confidently say that it has blown away my expectations. The game had a lot to live up; Persona 4 is one of the greatest Japanese role playing games of all time. So, to see Atlus just knock it out of the park with this latest entry in the Persona series is awe-inspiring. It’s been 9 years since the original release of Persona 4, and while we’ve all grown to love the cast of 4 through the various spin-off games, rerelease, and animated adaptations, it’s time to move forward and steal some hearts.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Persona series has been the balance between your daily social life and dungeon crawling. Persona 5 doesn’t stray too far away from what 3 and 4; You play a quite teenager in Tokyo, spending most of his days going to school, hanging out with friends, and working part-time jobs. But unbeknownst to the general public, you assume the role of a phantom thief who invades the inner worlds of ill-natured people and forces a change of heart. The game does a marvelous job of keeping me engaged, having me make those tough daily decisions like sitting at home and reading a book or slaughtering legions of demons.
One cannot comment on Persona 5 without speaking about the outstanding visual design. The game simply oozes style. Being a largely text-heavy experience, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to look at. But every menu, combat screen, and cutscene have visual flair that makes each moment stand out. The first time I beat an enemy and the protagonist began his sprint through the end of the battle screen, my jaw dropped. These little touches help differentiate the experience of dungeon crawling, heavily contrasting the more mundane elements of daily life gameplay. However, I have to admit that you can tell this is a game that started development on the Playstation 3. The models and environments are fairly basic. There are a ton of low-resolution textures, most notably on the various signs throughout Tokyo. But what Persona 5 lacks in visual fidelity, it makes up for in its grandiose sense of style. One of the shining examples can be seen at the end of an all-out attack:
More than anything, what really stands out to me is just how much Persona 5 respects your time. Every action you take benefits your playthrough in some way. Maybe you work hard to raise your guts stat. This could potentially lead to a new relationship becoming available. As you strengthen your relationships with the various characters found in the massive city of Tokyo, the more powerful your personas will become. Teammates will unlock new abilities during combat, such as finishing off an enemy for you or blocking a mortal blow. You can tackle request to change people’s hearts in the central dungeon Mementos, affecting character relationships in the real world. Everything comes together in such a cohesive experience that just leaves me smiling every play session.
I don’t want to say too much about the story as I have yet to finish the game, but it’s continuing the high standard of quality I’ve expected to find in the Persona series. Characters struggle with internal dilemmas, the ethics of forcing people to change their ways, and the mystery of the metaverse continue to hook me for hours on end. Atlus showered us with phenomenal Persona 4 related media for such a long time that I began to believe Persona 5 would never come, let alone live up to the hype its predecessor helped set. Yet it did. It even went beyond my wildest expectations. Alongside the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this is easily my game of the year candidate and one of the easiest recommendations I will ever have to make.