A Few… Scratch that, Many Thoughts On Persona 5

With Persona 5 finished, there is now a Persona shaped hole in my heart.

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So to begin, some background. Persona 4 (Golden) is my favourite game of all time, I would attribute that to many things atop it being a fantastic game. The time I played it and the mindset I was in at the time were the biggest factors, along with the theme of the game’s story.

So with that in mind, is Persona 5 a better game? Well on the technical level and the amount of styyyyyyyyyylllllllllle it has, yes it is. The story is probably better written than pervious Persona games as well. But thanks to my Massive bias to Persona 4, I cannot see 5 as the better game. With that said, 5 is still a masterclass of a game and the best made JRPG in many years. Anyways, lets talk about what I did like and what I did not about P5.

The premise for P5 is that you (the protagonist) get’s involved in an argument between a man and a woman on the side of the road, the man falls and blames you for it, threatening to sue. The protagonist is then arrested and given a criminal record, as a result of this the protagonist is sent to live in Tokyo on probation. After going to school there he gets whisked away into a distorted version of reality and becomes a Phantom thief of hearts, which involves “stealing” an adults distorted desires and confess their crimes. As far as setup’s go it is certainly novel, 4 had you move to the country because of the protagonists parents moved overseas for a year. It definitely made 5’s look more interesting.

As for distorted desire’s, an example is that of the volleyball coach seeing the school as his own castle. In which sexually harasses the female students and physically abuses the male students, nobody reports this because he is a nation pride for winning an olympic medal. these setups made for an interesting set of dungeons and the distorted versions of the adults were real scum, you really felt good about changing their hearts by the end.

The game’s battles are the best they have ever been, they are fast and fluid with great music. Each entry in the Persona series has improved the battle system without making it easier, this time it is mostly comfort of life things such as the game automatically remembering an enemy’s weakness. But there are some old Shin Megami Tensei and old Persona mechanics that have returned. Demon negations, in which you can convince an enemy to give you money or an item and even join you as a persona. The other returning mechanic is guns, they had been missing as a battle option since 2 although Evokers in P3 kinda fitted the bill.

The game has a sense of style so good it is gonna be difficult for anything to top it. I have seen the term Kinetic Aesthetic online, that is the perfect way to describe the game’s style. everything is colourful and vibrant, even the text boxes move in some way. It is very pleasing to the eye and makes the game that bit more special, Persona 5 has the best menu’s in video games. To further emphasize style, the game’s music is as good as pervious entries in the series. Every single tune is memorable, both lyrical and non are just damn amazing.

Right then, there will now be Spoilers for all things Persona, you have been warned!!!

Now then, let’s look at the negatives. Happily there are not many of them. First off there is the feeling of constraint, while present in pervious Persona games I feel it was better telegraphed when the game would take control away from you for a few in-game days. It just feels constant and sudden in 5 and the days of freedom seem lower, but this is a very minor gripe which is boarding on a nitpick. Speaking of nitpicking my other complaint is Morgana telling me to go to bed early so I can get up early to do something in the afternoon. It is annoying when the game gives me control and the only thing I can do is sleep because I am in a story sequence, I wish it would just automatically progress to the next day to avoid this annoyance. And with this, all the negatives are out-of-the-way. No on to the mass amount of things I liked.

First up, the Dungeons. They are all amazing (except the Spaceport). With the switch from random generated dungeons to designed ones comes a new level of depth to them. With their own events and puzzles, such as needing a door to be opened in the real world to get through it in Persona 5’s version of the Dark Hour/Midnight Channel. It is called the Metaverse, but more on that later. My favorite of these dungeons is a tie between the Bank and the Casino, both are super cool and they make you feel the most thief like. The Casino had the better music though. All of these dungeons exist in the metaverse and are called palaces, which is a world created by distorted desires, an example being a P.E teacher of the games high school seeing the school as his Castle with him being the King.

The entrance to the metaverse is an application on the main casts phones, which is fun. The reason why the app exists is explained early on, the reason being that series regular Igor created it to train the Main character to be a thief. But nothing more than that is given untill the endgame, more on that later though. The game’s main Dungeons are all designed, but there is also a mega-dungeon which is randomly generated like the personas of old. It is called Mementos and is similar to Tartarus from Persona 3 in which is a dungeon that you climb (or in this case descend) throughout the game. It is explained to be the general public’s palace and is represented through the Greater Tokyo underground train systems. The second difference to the normal dungeons is that you drive a car around it, and that car is actually Morgana transformed, again more on that later.

Then of course there is daily life japanese high school simulator part of the game, and ignoring the feeling time restraint the game improves this part of the game in many ways. The game is set in Tokyo which a stark difference to the rural town of Inaba in P4, and with the big city comes a lot of things to do; Going to the cinema, shopping in the various stores, eating the Burger Challenge and Big Bang Burger, part-time work, studying at the Cafe, using the batting cages and more I cannot think of right now. and that is not even counting the things you can do at home like training, playing video games, reading and having a bath. Point being that you never not have anything to do in P5, then on top of this you have your social links to deal with but more on those later.

The highschool part of the game has also seen improvements, the usual classroom questions now have more variety to them with diagrams and multipart questions. The design of the school mixes 3 and 4’s with 3’s shop and 4’s simpler design, the uniforms also look super stylish. It is also nice to see the protagonist carrying his bag, which was a rarity in 3 and 4. Then there is the social stats, they seemed quite a bit more difficult to max them out this time, in fact I didn’t max them all out on my first play through I only maxed early in the second.

With the game being set in Tokyo, there are many places to visit. While cannot walk around most of them, they still exist for things like dates and access to new jobs and shops. There is a shrine in which you can pray to up your bonds with people (no fox this time, sadly). There is also a church which you can use to help party members remember old moves, then there are places like a park, planetarium and the sky tower which you can take people there on dates. Of course there are more areas, but I cannot remember them now.

Now let’s move on to characters and story. All the characters are well written and feel like people, which I have come to expect from the Persona series characters. So going through the main cast one by one;

Ryuji Sakamoto – Hot headed but not unlikable, he says “For real!!” A little too much for my taste, but it is in his nature I guess. A problem with him is that he shouts about being Thieves too often and to loudly to the point where it annoyed me. His design is pretty good, and is useful in battle. But he was far from a standout character for me.

Ann Takamaki – Not much about Ann stands out, her relationship with Ryuji is refreshing though. Unlike Yosuke and Chie relationship in P4 with their constant bickering, Ann and Ryuji’s relationship is a refreshing change with not really any arguing. They are just friends, and par the perverted look once in a while it stays that way. Her design is pretty good in both casual and thieves outfits, and she is yet another useful party member with her fire skills. On a side note found her friend Shiho to be more interesting, I do wish I could have hung out with her instead, it is also a travesty that she only shows up in the early game and nearing the end of Ann’s Social Link.

Yusuke Kitagawa – probably one of the most interesting characters, he is the first outsiders to join the group that you start the game off with and that makes for an interesting dynamic. His design is alright, many people seem to love it but I find it to be simply just ok. He is fairly useful in battle but was not part of my starting line up. His personality it fairly aloof, and there is some funny stuff that comes from his interactions because of that.

Makoto Niijima – Quite possibly my favourite character in the game, early on she is presented as a nuisance to the group. Her character really gains traction once she joins the group, she is shown to be smart and capable. Her design is great, both in casual and thief get up. She quickly became part of my main battle crew and remained there untill the credits rolled. She was the character I chose to get romantically involved with, which gave me a large insight into her “adorable” personality. To sum her up *ahem* best girl.

Futaba Sakura – The most interesting character of the main group, her being very different from the others with her tragic back story. She is a shut-in and is afraid of people thanks to the death of and the events around her mother when she was younger. This was incorporated into the dungeon and it was done masterfully, with her resolution defeating a monster version of her mother. After she joins the crew she slowly gets over her fear of people, which is even further developed in her social link. She is a great written character with her way of speaking and her design is also top-notch. I think she is the best navigator in a Persona game yet.

Haru Okumura – unfortunately she was introduced in the late game, so I didn’t really have the time left to do her social link. But from what I did see of her was fine, her introduction was great though, it was very nonstandard and interesting. I personally don’t like her design much, although her thief outfit is great.

Morgana – Apart from him telling me to go to bed, Morgana is great. He is the games mascot character like Teddie from P4, although Morgana is much smarter and is a cat/car. Similar to Teddie he wonders what is origin is, Teddie ended up being a shadow turned human (at least I think that was the case, or something along those lines). Morgana is teased to be the same thing, but in a late game twist it is revealed to be created by Igor to help the main character overcome the Holy Grail. More on that later. He has a crush on Ann, and doesn’t like to be called a cat. He really believe’s in the phantom thieves and pushes them to do greater things to help people. Other than that if he tells me to go to sleep one more time I kill the little bugger.

Right that wraps it up for the main party, but there are a few more important characters that are part of the main cast I need to discuss. First up,

Goro “Pancake Child” Akechi – on the basic level he is this games Adachi, he is a goody too-shoes child detective who turns out to be a murderer, I didn’t really like him untill he turned as it led to one of the best sequences of the game. He briefly joins the party and was part of my main line up while he was, it is a shame you lose him as I found him to be quite useful in battle. After he reveals himself to be a villain the sequence of events take place that the game starts with.

Then on top of that it is revealed that the cast had already figured out that he was a villain, the player is not told until the reveal which is done through the protagonist forgetting thanks to drugs injected into him in his interrogation. The turning point for the cast figuring it out though is when is the mid game Akechi overhears someone say pancakes, the one who said this Morgana. People cannot normally understand what Morgana is saying unless they have been inside the metaverse. Later when Akichi says he entered the metaverse for the first time recently he acts surprised when Morgana speaks, with him lying like that the crew investigate him and they discover that he is a villain.

Then in the escape from the casino dungeon, he betrays the team and sends the protagonist to prison. But the crew have prepared for this and they fake a suicide to get the protagonist out. Akechi later turns up in the second to last dungeon for a fight, and after defeating him he reveals that his father is the owner of the current dungeon and is going to kill him after he obtains what he wants, For revenge for him and his mother from what I remember. A few more events occur and Akechi sacrifices himself for the group, it seemed like a bit of a quick heel turn but it served the plot in a meaningful way. Overall, Akechi is a discount Adachi but it seems he was meant to be.

Sojiro Sakura – This games Guardian character and he is great. While I think he just falls short of Dojima from P4 he certainly has is great moments. Unlike Dojima, Sojiro has no relation to the protagonist. In fact it is unclear why he took the protagonist in, he says a customer of his know’s the protagonist’s parents but you don’t get much more than that. With Sojiro not being a family member he seems a little cold at first, he makes you live in an attic of a cafe he runs called Leblanc (which is awesome). After a while though he warms up to the protagonist, this is around the time it is revealed that Futaba is his adopted daughter. After a while he learns of the protagonists and friends exploits and he takes it fairly well.  Overall he seems like a cool dude, I mean I would live in his attic.

Sae Niijima – She is introduced in the first hour as a prosecutor who is interrogating the protagonist for most of the game. this is the framing device for the game, the protagonist telling the story of the game to Sae. At points like when you begin a new social link or a story development happens, the game will flash forward and Sae will make some sort of comment. when in the past she is seen working with Akechi to catch the Phantom Thieves. She eventually becomes a target of the Phantom Thieves as part of the plan to trick Akechi unbeknownst to her, afterwards she learns about the team and works with them untill the end of the game. It is fun to see her uncover the story and how her actions have effected it, but sadly she is not a well-developed as she could have been.

The Confidants (Social Links) – As par for the course in a Persona Game there are plenty of non-essential characters to interact and build relationships with. I won’t go super into detail about them, but they each have some things to say about some of them. It is worth noting that this time around that leveling up the social links has more benefits, and those benefits change depending on who that person is. For example one social link will allow your backup party members to earn more Exp and another will teach you more battle tactics. Another first is at certain points in the social link you will need to go into the metaverse and change the heart of someone who is giving the social link-e grief, after doing so the social link can continue.

The best social links outside of the main characters include Tae Takemi, a doctor who dresses like a punk who supplies you with medicine in exchange for taking part in “clinical trials”. Sadayo Kawakami, your home room teacher who is moonlighting as sex worker/maid called Becky (lemme smash https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSJ5I5v8zwQ), Paying for her services to earn money will alow you to slack off in class and do other things like reading or making infiltration tools. Hifumi Togo an expert Shogi player and a model who will teach you new battle tactics in exchange for you playing her. Yuuki Mishima, a classmate who runs the Phantom Thieves Phan-site who will give you requests from people who want’s someones heart changed, ranking up his social link will give you more Exp for backup party members. there are plenty more, but I would be talking about them all day and this is getting long, soooooooooo…….

The villains – Each of the dungeons (par the 4th) had great villains you love to hate, from a volleyball coach to a mob boss the game had a great cast of villains. The main antagonist being Masayoshi Shido, a politician who knows strives to be prime minister of Japan. he is a great antagonists and has the best boss fight of the game. There was one disappointing villain though, Okumura he was a disappointing boss at the end of a terrible dungeon. But I feel that it was the point (not the bad dungeon, but the disappointing boss) as it is revealed that the phantom thieves were set up and coaxed into going after him, it makes sense as he isn’t usually the sort of person they go after, he wasn’t doing anything “wrong” he was just as ass.

The Velvet Room, Igor, Caroline and Justine – The Velvet Room in Persona 5 holds the biggest twists of the game, which I will get to in a second. The Velvet Room of P5 is a prison, which fit’s into the theme of rebellion which the game prominently displays with the whole thief angle. It looks nice, and the new way of fusing persona’s in fun with all of the execution stuff. Caroline and Justine are fine residents, although they don’t hold a candle to Margret or Elizabeth from 3 and 4.

Now then, the twist. First, the fact that The Velvet Room is compromised make me think that the God of the game is a threat on the level of Nyx from P3. Izanami from P4 was great, but I never felt the threat was as high as the one in 3, Yaldabaoth though dose. I did not see Igor being fake coming, as in Japan his voice actor died so everyone assumed that they changed his voice so drastically out of respect. But it turned out to be not the case and that The Velvet room had been taken over and Igor had been imprisoned. the twist got me super excited and it was so nice to hear is original voice (Well not’s not the same voice actor, but it was similar enough).

Another interesting part about the twist was that Caroline and Justine were in fact one person, split into two. The real resident is called Lavenza, and she is much better than when she was split. This entire sequence got me really exited for the finale.

The Holy Grail/Yaldabaoth and the Ending – The game begins to wrap up on christmas eve, when the party get to the deepest point in Mementos and find that at the bottom is the Holy Grail, r rather it is the God of control Yaldabaoth. he is the one who had been impersonating Igor since the start of the game, he tells the cast that he set up you and Akechi with the power to enter the metaverse. With the protagonist and Akechi having opposite morals Yaldabaoth used this to form a game, if the protagonist won he would leave the world be and if Akechi won he would destroy the world and begin anew. But Yaldorbath rigged the game and is set on destroying the world anyway.

He causes Mementos and the real world to merge, but only a few people (the social links) seem to notice. He also causes the phantom thieves to disappear from the world, this is when her reveals that he is not Igor. The real Igor helps the cast reunite and they head out to fight the Yaldabaoth. the fight is fine, but is the weakest of all the Persona final bosses. There is a great moment when you summon the Persona of the people and he is huge but you beat him and return to normal life.

after things have calmed down Sae approaches the protagonist tells him that he will need to serve time in juvie to help make a case against Shido who has been elusive even after his change of heart. I don’t think it really to be necessary as it doesn’t really result in anything as Shido is put away thanks to the efforts of Sae anyway, if Atlus was to make a Golden for P5 I think that could be taken out to allow the player more game time.

Anyway, after getting out of juvie the protagonist goes about his life until April, in which you can then run arround all of the places you have been to say goodbye to everyone as is standard for a persona ending. Then the ending cut scene takes place and the game is over, making my play through of Persona 5 a total of 90 Hours and 14 Minuets. Persona 5 is a masterpiece, and now I sadly back in the wait for Persona 5’s Golden equivalent or better yet Persona 6.

To sum up, Persona 5 is good.

Well, until next time……..

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