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Persona 5 review

With a slew of sequels and spin-offs across its twenty-year legacy, the Persona series remains remarkably relevant. Much of this vitality is rooted in the franchise’s ability to balance tradition with innovation.  Mirroring the characters who invigorate each successive iteration, each Persona title starts with stock high-school characters fated with saving the world, reflecting role-playing convention. But their assortment of methods across the franchise are what makes the games so special. Power is embedded in each student’s inner psyche, exposing concealed attributes to their fellow classmates and players. Consistently, these reveals are augmented by meticulously-crafted play mechanics that make almost every step of the journey stimulating.

While an incremental improvement would probably be gratifying, Persona 5 offers an exponential advancement, extending one of the best role-playing experiences of the last decade. From plot to procedure, P5 is nothing short of a rousing masterpiece, and seems destined to influence a generation of contemporaries.

Aware that the genre often favors protracted introductions, Persona 5 steals a page out of the action-game playbook, exhibiting a sequence that flaunts the exhilaration to come. Delivered in medias res, we first meet the nameable protagonist making a dashing escape from a heavily guarded hyper-real Tokyo casino. It’s here that players will first encounter the developer’s ambition to make P5 a fluid experience. Although leaps across a series of rafters and taking cover behind environmental objects to elude a vigilant guard are all handled by nothing more than a button press, it’s all handled without a bit of hesitation. When players do face their first instance of turn-based combat, it feels invigoratingly dynamic, with selections triggering an elaborate animation that channels the fluidity and swiftness of a fighting game.

Soon, the story shifts to eight months earlier, establishing the lead’s backstory. When the protagonist witnesses a young girl attacked by a creepy older man, chivalrous action ensue, prompting an injury and lawsuit from the aggressor. Subsequently, he’s expelled and forced to live with a quirky café owner before enrolling at a new school. After arriving at his new abode, he’s ushered to the Velvet Room, where returning Persona personality Igor states that the lead must rehabilitate before impending ruin takes control over his life. Without giving too much away, redemption is pursued by The Phantom Thieves, a puckish group of social misfits, who form the main cast.

Whereas Persona 4 focused on a group of teens getting to know themselves, P5 centers on classmates getting to know, and subsequently influence change, the world around them. It’s a plot that incorporates the traditional tribulations of teenaged years and incorporates poignant ruminations on physical and emotional abuse, suicide, and drug use. More importantly, the game’s overarching theme of purging corruption from the world might sound tawdry in print, but is remarkably affecting in execution. Yes, it’s a JRPG where teens are tasked with saving the world, but in this case- redemption is rooted in the metaphorical, fashioning an entirely exquisite experience.

Story is also articulated in a number of other noteworthy ways. Twenty different Confidants replace Persona 3 and 4’s social links, allowing players to spend their daytime recreational hours developing rapport with a variety of characters. Each Confidant is fully voiced and comes from a broad cross-section of society- potentially providing players with a stat boost in an interconnected area. But the incorporation of these associates is far more than just a reductionist simulation of relationships. Nearly each has a fascinating backstory and enough idiosyncrasy to make them seem more like actual people than conventional game characters. Much like life, there’s not enough time to get chummy with everyone, so you’ll have to make some difficult decisions in your social affairs.

Narrative is also engrained in the game’s dungeons, called Palaces, that recall the representation of character consciousness from Psychonauts. Again, P5 shakes up tradition, shirking the procedurally generated corridors for intricately engineered structures that interweave puzzling, exploration, and even stealth components. Since each embodies the mind of a troubled adult, milieus contain their own distinct enemies, dilemmas, structures, and security systems. While divergent in style, each extends a fervent sense of satisfaction as players work their way through the palace.

Once each Palace have been overcome they’re no longer available for re-entry. Players who need the need to level-grind or capture any foregone Personas can venture into Mementos, P5’s procedurally-generated venue. Initially, the location is rather shallow, but beating Palaces gradually unlocks deeper levels, ensuring the possibility of augmentation to help confront resilient enemies. Devoid of the puzzles that are common in Palaces, Mementos is a perpetually tempting time sink, especially with the quality of combat.

Progressively, P5’s battles oblige elemental advantage, typically found in one of the protagonist’s Personas or the single Persona carried by party members. With the ability to apprehend new manifestations of internal psyches and fuse existing ones into more powerful forms, there’s a wealth of flexibility in the systems, endowing players with a fulfilling sense of control. Landing critical hits additional dominion, with Persona 5’s new baton pass maneuver, allowing players to swap turns with another character, potentially permitting a killing blow.

Most importantly, battles feel fantastically fluid given P5’s prodigious programming and design. With your repertoire of tasks mapped to the face buttons, decisions are instinctive, lending smoothness and snappiness to every encounter. And while user interfaces don’t usually earn mention, P5’s menus deserve lavish praise. Somehow, the game intermingles an assortment of styles in a unified, vibrant theme. But more importantly, each feels amazingly sinuously, whether you are making a dialog choice or sorting out you inventory. They’re so smooth, don’t be surprised if you find yourself scrolling through options, just to revel in the painstakingly precise pattern of clicks each emits.

Like previous Persona entries, your nocturnal life might be spent in dungeons, but your days are largely autonomous. Much of the allure stems from P5’s sense of autonomy. Whether you prefer working to earn some spending yen or would rather recreating to earn stat boosts, the choice is years. But masterfully, there’s always the nagging sense of passing time courtesy of the in-game calendar. While you might fret over time limits in games, Persona 5’s are necessary, reminding players of the fleeting nature of our lives and how important the decisions we make are. While it’s not heavy-handed, the game has me second guessing my real-life decisions, which is pretty unusual for a video game.

With preparatory design dating back as far as 2009 and a substantial amount of development on the PlayStation 3, Persona 5’s student visuals are a bit surprising. But peer past the rare low-poly object, and the title offers one of the most authentic recreations of Tokyo outside of Yakuza 0.  Whether you’re venturing through the lively Shibuya, the otaku paradise of Akihabara, or just venturing through the narrow arteries which branch from Tokyo’s main throughways, P5 delivers a dazzling amount of detail. Complementing this output is a stylized aesthetic that bleeds coolness, while Shigenori Soejima’s character design articulate the personality of the Phantom Thieves as well as any dialog. Largely, it’s so stylish that I wouldn’t be surprised if Hot Topic starts selling plaid skinny pants this summer.

Sonically, frequent franchise composer Shoji Meguro returns, offering an aural array of delectable ear worms.  From the opening song that exhibits a spirited acid jazz, Lyn Inaizumi-vocalized number to rocking boss battles, the game’s musical stylizings are delightfully diverse. More importantly, the variety manages to avoid feeling disjointed, with the sound complementing and occasionally adding nuance to the on-screen action. Although the game ships with a slightly blemished English language voice over, the option for Japanese audio is available via a free download.

In the West, the Japanese role-playing game has dwindled in popularity, never quite reaching the critical mass experienced during the late ‘90s. Persona 5 has the power to change that, offering an accessible and immensely enjoyable experience with the power to single-handedly reinvigorate the genre. While there are a few missteps along the game’s waning moments, the first hundred or so are pure bliss, making P5 an essential purchase for PlayStation owners.

Persona 5 was played on the PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher. 

Persona 5
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release date: April 4th, 2017
Price: $59.99, retail, PSN download (PS4), $49.99, retail, PSN download (PS3),
Language(s): Japanese or English voice, English Text
ESRB: Mature
With a slew of sequels and spin-offs across its twenty-year legacy, the Persona series remains remarkably relevant. Much of this vitality is rooted in the franchise’s ability to balance tradition with innovation.  Mirroring the characters who invigorate each successive iteration, each Persona title starts with stock high-school characters fated with saving the world, reflecting role-playing convention. But their assortment of methods across the franchise are what makes the games so special. Power is embedded in each student’s inner psyche, exposing concealed attributes to their fellow classmates and players. Consistently, these reveals are augmented by meticulously-crafted play mechanics that make almost…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 100%
Story - 100%
Aesthetics - 100%
Content - 100%
Accessibility - 100%

100%

Excellent!

Summary : The protracted wait was worth every minute. Persona 5 is easily one of the best role-games of the decade. Whether you are a die-hard franchise fan or new to the series, P5 deserves your recreational hours.

User Rating: 4.56 ( 4 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

70 comments

  1. Just missed the launch day coverage by 30 minutes!

    Good long review, though.

    So this is better than Witcher 3?

    • Singing Swordsman

      Witcher 3 is completely different. Western role-playing game vs Eastern.

      I’m not saying one is better than the other but each has their own style.

  2. Is the English version as bad as they make it sound?

  3. The only thing missing from the review was an overview of the characters, but I’m guessing you didn’t want to spoil anything.

  4. God, I wish this was on the Vita.

    If there’s a god, they’ll make P5 Golden and all will be right in the world.

  5. I came home early expecting it to be waiting for me. UPS wanted a signature. God knows when I’ll get to play it now. 🙁

  6. How much fan service is in P5?

  7. I’m getting a Tuxedo Mask vibe from the main.

  8. I can’t wait to play this. I’ve been waiting months for this moment and it’s finally here.

  9. All the praise being sent this game’s way has me curious, even though I don’t like JRPGs

  10. Heartbreaker Combo

    After reading this, I wish you would have reviewed Breath of the Wild. Wondering if you would have scored that as high.

  11. Been waiting on this game forever. Looks super good and I’ve been avoiding everything about it to not spoil it for myself. Thanks for the chance to win!

  12. Great review. Thanks for not spoiling the plot.

  13. I really am excited to play P5. I loved P3 FES and 4.

  14. Can’t wait to play it. 🙂

  15. Holy sheet. A perfect score. GTFO!

    That’s some serious praise.

  16. Anthony C. Nwankwo

    I couldn’t really get into Persona 4 Golden, but I plan on giving Persona 5 a try.

  17. Haven’t play any of the others. After reading this I am interested.

  18. nice game

  19. Excellent review. Better than Jim Sterling’s because it went more into depth and really covered a lot of things.

  20. Nice review!

  21. Game’s coming along nice! Thanks for the informative review, can’t wait to see more.

  22. I’ve never played any of the games in this series. Would it be okay to start with this one and not be lost?

  23. JayAKAflipdog666

    Game looks great! Good reviews as always.

  24. Great review! I can’t wait to play this game.

  25. Great review, I really enjoyed Persona 4 and going with what you said in the review, it looks like a nice follow up to the series. Thanks!

  26. Persona 5 looks so cool and i have so little time 🙁
    I’ll get it anyway!

  27. A lot of good PS4 games coming out lately. Twitter: sirdan357

  28. I’m normally not a fan of JRPGs, but the buzz around this one has me interested. This review has me at the tipping point…

  29. Very good review.

    I’m really excited for P5. It’s been hard trying to avoid streams, spoilers, and discussion, but I’v been strong. Hopefully, I’ll just have to hold out for a few more days.

  30. Sweet review and no spoilers either! Man the ps4 is KILLING it this year with all these amazing games..Best year for a sony console ever?? Either way,I’m super happy to see japan games reviewing and selling well once again! 🙂

  31. Sweet review and no spoilers either! Man the ps4 is KILLING it this year with all these amazing games..Best year for a sony console ever?? Either way,I’m super happy to see japan games reviewing and selling well once again! 🙂

  32. I’ve never played this series before. The graphics looks really good though.

  33. I had no idea that you could explore representations of Tokyo in P5. I feel very intrigued after hearing this. My interest is piqued! Reminds me of traipsing through Yokosuka in Shenmue.

  34. so excited to try it!

  35. Nice review, haven’t played a Persona game before looking forward to starting with this one.

  36. Great review. Super pumped to play.

  37. I’ll just leave my “Comment” here 🙂

  38. This is one of the best reviewed games of the year, so definitely count me in!

  39. a little typo “the choice is years” 😀

    Persona 5 will be a blast

  40. Looks good retweeted @PuppetMasterXB

  41. Almost missed this! Thankies for the chance!

  42. Good Review. Persona 5 could be my favorite Persona game.

  43. Great review, can’t wait to finish Nier and dig into this!

  44. The hype is real. I keep hearing only great things about this game and waiting to get my hands on it.

  45. very interesting read!

  46. I can’t believe it’s finally out. And with an option for Japanese audio too. Looks like it’s totally worth the wait.

  47. Excellent review. I have this site bookmarked now.

  48. Whoa, perfect score. It’s a great year for Japanese games.

  49. Great review, can’t wait to play this!

  50. I have it on PS3 and I’m really enjoying t so far. I would love to play it on the PS4 too when I get one.

  51. Loved P4G, have very high hopes for this one.

  52. Love the review, keep them coming.

  53. Great review! Definitely can’t wait to get my hands on this game. I need a new fix now that I am done with BotW.

  54. Wonderful review and glad you enjoyed it! So happy that Winter 2014 has finally arrived!

  55. Played halfway thru 4 and never finished it but going back to finish it and hopefully can play 5 right after.

  56. Great review, can’t wait to pick up a copy and start in on it! Never played any of them but I’m in an ego mood lately and this would be perfect to play on my new ps4 pro

  57. Well, that certainly sounds like a good game. I’m hearing such great things from other reviews too. I haven’t played a Persona game since Eternal Punishment on PS1, so I’d love to dive back into the series.

  58. Commented! NEver finished P3P though.

  59. Thanks for the giveaway!

  60. Thanks for the review and the contest.

  61. Even if it’s just a 100% due to weeb factor, giving it an 100 definitely has my interest peeked. I mean a 100 percent. I bet the voices are shit but you know . Fighter was alriight heard the games were too

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