An Incredible Role-playing Experience
When it comes to role-playing games, there’s no question that the Japanese are the undisputed kings of this genre. With a much improved influx of Western RPGs recently, including the incredible Witcher 3, developer Atlus responds with this absolute monster of a game. Persona 5 is not just one of the best role-playing games ever released, it’s a thought provoking journey in its own right that challenges the RPG genre with its mix of taboo themes and tightly refined gameplay mechanics across its 100+ hour play time.
There’s no world map but the areas are still enjoyable to explore
The story quickly becomes more complicated but to begin with, the general plot line follows a group of regular high school students who don costumes by night to become the notorious group called the Phantom Thieves. The thieves are tasked with entering palaces for various antagonists through the different chapters, battling a whole host of well designed monsters and navigating through ingeniously designed dungeons to find the heart and vanquish the darkness that’s gripped the host. To spoil much more would be a disservice to the game but suffice to say, the story holds up throughout the run time and everything is explained in a way that makes sense within the confines of the game.
Every time it feels like Persona 5 is stagnating, another twist, gameplay mechanic or curve ball is thrown into the game. It’s wonderful stuff and considering the hefty play time this game boasts, it’s testament to what an impressive feat this is, even if you may well feel a little burnt out around the midway mark. Given how massive Persona 5 actually is, its length remains the game’s biggest Achilles’s heel.
The various mini-games serve a purpose other than being a nice distraction
When it comes to the visual design, Persona 5 is unmatched. There’s a consistent colour palette and flair through the world building; the dungeon design, character art and cut scenes work harmoniously together and bring out the unique aesthetic that helps Persona 5 stand out. Even the menus, which you’ll find yourself navigating a lot during this game, are all cleverly designed to keep the trend of bold colours and animation running consistently throughout.
On top of the gripping story and incredible visuals, the gameplay mechanics are just as polished and refined as the plot. Although there isn’t an open world here, Persona 5 introduces innovative solutions to this within the intricately connected Japanese city areas. At the start of each heart-changing palace, which act as chapters in the overarching plot, you’re given a number of days to complete the task. During these days you’re free to explore the city, grow relationships with your team mates, read or play video games and of course tackle the palace itself. These play out like normal dungeons but boast a unique blend of puzzles and ingenious level design to make each feel considerably different. Time management is key and more often than not it’s usually wise to tackle the palace first and then work on growing your team after this has been completed. Every task you choose takes half a day to complete, with the game time split into a day/night cycle, with the exception of the palace which consumes an entire day.
Growing relationships is key to strengthening your party
It’s here that the game opens up and gives you free rein on deciding what you want to do. The main attributes for leveling up are the same as other RPGs – battle monsters to gain experience points which in turn levels up your stats. This on its own would be fine but the system adds an extra layer of depth by putting some gravity on the choices you make during the day. Building relationships makes your team stronger and grants access to special abilities in battle, the various tasks you can do around the city improve dexterity and even flirting can improve your charm which makes it easier to capture various creatures.
If there wasn’t enough going on in Persona 5, the game also boasts a Pokemon-esque collectathon with hundreds of monsters you can capture and become your “personas”. These monsters have an impressive range of abilities and moves and selecting the right monsters to battle for you during the palace segments can drastically alter the difficulty level and subsequently be the difference between winning and losing.
The battle system is simple but also incredibly deep
With so much going on in Persona 5 it would be very easy for the game to wind up a complicated, inharmonious mess. Incredibly, Persona 5 defies expectations and delivers a role-playing experience unlike anything else out there. The world is a joy to explore, the characters deep and well-defined and every element of the game fits together perfectly like an intricate puzzle. With over 100+ hours of play-time, an amazing soundtrack and a unique visual design, Persona 5 is quite simply one of the best role-playing games ever made and deserves the critical acclaim its received.