Reviews: Persona 5

Starts strong, but quickly looses steam. (Story review)

While I was initially skeptical of the game, given my opinions on the previous game, I'm not afraid to admit that the first segment of the game was a real pleasant surprise. A strong villain that felt really evil but also felt evil in a real way, and an equally strong sense of importance permeates the games first arc. The characters all have stakes and provide some interesting viewpoints and overall feel like a step up from the previous game.

It all acts a start for greatness.

Sadly, that greatness never materializes.

After that point everything just starts to feel more and more contrived, with villains that are presented as so mustache twirlingly evil that they almost seem like the walked out of a Saturday morning cartoon. You could almost be forgiven for thinking they are satires. To make things worse, most of the time we are just told that they are evil but never shown, and if shown, it is done in a manner that has nothing to do with their actual crime. It ends up feeling less and less important and more like going through the motions with just some excuse for why it is happening.

And by the finale it all really falls apart, piggybacking of tropes and cliches from past entries and end up losing what little identity of it's own it had in the process.

The game's central theme equally stumbles. It presents it but then simply stops there and never actually explores it and only uses it at face value, resulting in an unfortunate case of Protagonist-Centered Morality, and the full ramifications of the characters actions are never addressed. Despite the game trying to present shades of grey, it simply ends up one sided, determined to never make them dirty their hands even the slightest bit. All it does is simply Debate and Switch.

And finally, the way it all is presented falls equally flat with a delivery that lacks subtlety and endlessly repeats itself over and over. Even the lines feel sterile and lifeless.

Ultimately, it felt it had so much potential that was never meant to be.

This Game Stole My Heart

Having played Persona 4 Golden on the PS VITA about a year ago, I came into Persona 5 with high expectations, which the game then proceeded to surpass, improving upon the previous game in several regards.

The story is that of a teenager who, after trying to do the right thing and ending up with a criminal record, is forced to transfer to Shujin Academy, and ends up joining a group of other troubled youths who seek to change corrupt adults by stealing their hearts. What follows is a captivating tale that offers relevant commentary on the abuse of power, what it means to stand up to injustice and how evil often triumphs because good people do nothing.

The Social Links return in this game as the Confidants, and feature the same variety of deep and interesting characters, both from your party and outside it. This time, they offer benefits apart from more powerful Personas- one might increase how much experience you gain, while another might allow you to buy better equipment. It adds a fair bit of depth and incentive to pursue them, even if some Confidants are inevitably more interesting/useful than others.

Like in previous games, you'll have to manage your time well, balancing dungeon exploration and level grinding with advancing your Confidants and developing social parameters that you may need to advance them. Many parameter-increasing activities are minigames that aren't particularly deep, but provide a nice element of interactivity.

The combat system retains the ability to shift between various Personas, which can be customized as they're created and when they level up, allowing for a fair amount of depth and choice. Combat includes many new features, such as the ability to switch your party members mid-battle (which, combined with an unlockable ability to share experience, encourages you to use all of them this time), and the ability to make demands from downed enemies or finish them off. Above all else, there's a great deal of choice involved, which keeps it from being dull, and in-game tutorials help ease you into things without feeling overwhelmed.

Dungeons are longer and more elaborate than in 3 and 4. Instead of a series of randomly generated floors, they include a variety of environments to navigate, various puzzles and other features that keep them interesting. There is a long and randomly generated dungeon, Mementos, an area for sidesquests, level grinding and Persona collection that serves its purposes well.

One annoying part of the game is that a fair amount of the optional contents, such as costumes, various Personas and even the hardest difficulty setting, is DLC. It it can be frustrating that you have to download or potentially pay for some content that was naturally included in previous games.

Ultimately, if you have a Playstation 3 or 4, Persona 5 is one of the best RPGs I've played lately, and thus well worth your time.
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