Persona 5: The Platinum Review

Oh my glob. I have been playing Persona 5 since it released in April and I have been quite excited to finally talk about it. I am a huge persona fan and as a result the subsequent release of Persona 5 had me quite pumped. So for the uninitiated, what is a “Persona” game? Quite simply you take a massive JRPG, stuff it full of dating sim style gameplay and then put in some teenage angst and you have the recipe for a great game. So without further ado, here is the official platinum review of Persona 5. (Spoiler free)

(Yeah…I’m not a journalist….at all)

Story-

Persona 5’s story is one that teeters on the edge of being great, but it’s not quite there. It’s not quite as memorable as Persona 4 or even as weird as Persona 3, but it is much more accessible this time around. Persona 5 once again follows your main character who never talks. As you journey around the world of Persona 5 you are going to meet people and uncover a bigger conspiracy then what was at first glance apparent. The story will last you anywhere from 70 hours + depending on how much of the side quests and other aspects of the game you take advantage of.

The important thing to note here is that there is a lot of story to get invested in. The main story is probably the weakest this time around and that’s just due to the overall generic aspect of it. Where Persona 4 was all about a murder mystery and a who dunnit’ type of setup, Persona 5 takes a much more lax approach. Your main character becomes a thief of ambitions and you and your jolly band of hoods take it upon yourself to change all the bad guys of Japan, one heart at a time.

(Stealing hearts….one corridor at a time)

This story starts out being quite interesting, but in my opinion kind of breaks down in the second half. This is mostly due to what made the other games stories so good, the characters. Now the characters in Persona 5 are extremely strong, but because the major story plot is a little lackluster, it falters.  This could be for a variety of reasons, but I felt that the main story was really weak. I wanted to care about my band of “Phantom Thieves” but by the time I hit the 70 hour mark I felt really dragged down.

It’s an interesting concept, but I think some content could have been cut out or shortened. There is one entire part of the game that feels really drawn out and more like filler content of a sort, and personally I could have done without it. This also is because of Persona 5’s inability to let individual stories exist. Previous entries made the individual stories eventually lead to the ending, Persona 5 is constantly reminding you of the overall plot. It starts to get a little heavy at times.

(The individual character’s stories really shine here, the main story is kind of lackluster)

This type of story issue is also brought to light because from almost the very beginning you always know who the bad guy is. In the dungeons you are always aware and even towards the end of the game when everything is being revealed it all is pretty clear. This is because of the way that you are introduced to the game. The very beginning of the game is actually about 55+ hours into the game and is your escape from one of the Palaces and the game actually takes place as you are being interrogated by the police as you repeat your story to a prosecutor.

It’s a really good plot device, but too much is revealed and makes the end story threads a little loose. I wanted a bigger pop and bang from the ending, but what I really ended up getting was a slow sizzle and eventual fizzle. It’s not a bad story and if you are a fan of JRPG’s you are honestly going to love the stories that are contained within, but be warned, it’s nowhere near as good as what has come before hand.

(I mean it really is just an amazing masterpiece)

Presentation-

Now presentation wise this game is an absolute blast and is a 10/10. I mean honestly. Every new area in the game is absolutely wonderful and it completely overrides the boring and endless halls of previous persona games. First off the world itself. Japan is great to explore as an over world this time around. This is due to the fact that fast traveling is used quite often. Every area you explore in the regular world looks and feels unique.

This level of individuality is present in both the regular world and the “other” world. The metaverse as it is called this time, and it is very wonderfully realized. Palaces or dungeons are now actual realized levels, compared to the endless hallways of previous entries, and the dungeons all follow a type of theme. These themes vary from courtroom casino, Palace school to even the bizarre UFO corporate building. All of these settings help build persona 5’s unique presentation.

(Settings vary from Egyptian influences to the Sci-fi…it’s awesome!)

Now the best part of this is where it breaks away from tradition. Because the levels are actually designed this time and not just randomized dungeon layouts, there is an actual level design. This design allows for puzzles and exploration based fights that just weren’t possible before. So while exploring a certain palace it really brought the whole setting to life when you could jump in paintings and traverse a giant hall. Or you could be in the top part of a tower and enemies purposefully spawn in certain places to test you.

The presentation is just bonkers good. Enemies fit their respective places, no longer is it just shadow blobs that turn into the cool enemies. Now you fight respective guards, like school monitors or even walking casino girls. All of this comes together to make a tight and very well realized world. The level of care and total attention paid here is fantastically realized. Nothing feels out-of-place in this world and the overall aesthetic of Persona 5’s characters and costumes fits in perfectly.

(That pipe with those pants….oh girrrrllll…..)

Good news on the audio front as well. All of the voice actors that are present here obviously speak English and it all sounds great. Haru was the only characters voice that got on my nerves, but her characters voice fit, so that’s just a personal opinion. I really enjoyed every main characters voices and even the random NPC’s/bad guys voices really grew on me. The biggest problem I have with the audio though is the lack of music tracks.

With a 70+ hour game you would expect a large and extremely varied soundtrack, and this does exist in the day-to-day activities. Where it doesn’t exist though is in the combat sections. The music when engaged in the fight is literally only one song. Just one, on repeat. Constantly. I honestly didn’t even notice until my wife pointed it out. Some more audio diversity would have gone a long way in keeping the presentation a little more varied, but with everything else that it gets right, it’s hard to knock it for this slight oversight.

Gameplay-

Describing gameplay in a Persona game is like describing my average day. I wake up drive my way to my boring job, then I talk to some people and on the way home I have to decide between battling monsters or spending time with my friends. It’s a pretty harrowing life I lead I know, but someone has to. Persona’s gameplay has always been the heart behind the series and Persona 5 is no different. You still have your relationships you have to keep up, social stats, grades and even yes your love life. Alongside that you are playing a giant JRPG with a Pokémon style gotta catch em’ all vibe.

So first things first, the combat in this is just fantastic. I think this is the best combat in a persona game so far. Now guns have been added into the mix, which at first I was really apprehensive about, but they actually add quite a bit of variety to the game, especially once you unlock the ability to customize them. On top of that you have the typical elemental attacks that certain enemies are weak to or even some that absorb and repel those attacks. This back and forth style gameplay really leads itself well into the strategy turn-based gameplay that has been popular for years now.

(Adding guns into the mix was an unimaginable, but welcome addition)

The amount of sheer abilities present is still overwhelming, but is manageable. As always your main character can have multiple personas and unlocking more personas is a doable task as your ever-present roster can be made up of snakes, birds or even yes….giant phallus shaped blobs. It’s an Atlus game people….get used to it. The turned based gameplay works extremely well and it’s all capped off with the confidant system. This has been called many things in the past but this time around it’s just as important as always.

Since persona is part dating sim style game you have to spend time outside of battle. That means going to the arcade with your buddies-in-arms and maybe even sitting down and having a nice warm bowl of ramen. As you spend more time with them you “level” up your relationship with them which not only unlocks more of their personal stories but also gives you additional abilities in battle. Some of these abilities are purely social as well, such as giving you the ability to slack off in class or even some abilities that let you level up social stats faster. Regardless, every confidant has a reason for existing.

(All of these…and so many more)

They become more important too when you are actually creating new Persona’s. The higher your ranking with that confidant the more powerful persona’s become when you create that certain class of persona. So what I’m saying is the game is super well put together where no matter what you do, your working towards a million other things as well. Of course there is always other things to do as well. Plant a garden, play video games, go to the batting cages or even catch a movie. That’s only to name a few, but regardless there is plenty for you to do and you should never get bored.

Now for the biggest gameplay change to the series it is actually the inclusion of real levels. So in previous persona games you could always go back to the central dungeon, since it was in a fake universe and explore to your heart’s content. Everything in Persona 5 follows the idea that it is temporary. So once you defeat a dungeon it closes forever, meaning that there are no side quests in the main dungeons. This also means that the levels themselves are actually designed as well and not free form.

(Actual level design and puzzles bring some much-needed uniformity to the Persona series)

This is my favorite change to the formula by far. With actual designed levels it brings a sense of wonderment to the levels themselves. I loved going to the next floor and discovering what was in this art museum. That being said there is still that old school dungeon crawling with no set levels for gamers that want it and that is in Mementos. So you have your typical dungeons from persona that take the place of story dungeons and then there is an never-ending maze known as Mementos. This is the more typical Persona dungeon.

This is where all of the side-quests are done, which I wasn’t a fan of, but regardless it is a good way to spend time. You can level up here, spend time grabbing as many personas as you can as well as get some pretty good gear and items to craft with. There are tons of gameplay elements in the newest persona that from what is listed I have only scratched the surface, so let’s go over a few of the negatives.

(So much content….so….much…content)

The game is long but I felt like it was short. What I mean is that normally in a persona game you get a whole calendar year that you play as your character and spend time with the people in that universe. In persona 5 you only spend about 8 months with the characters. This is super disappointing and I would have liked for the game to have either cut some dungeons out completely to make for better ending content or to move them around to make it seem more compact.

There is about 1 dungeon a month, which isn’t terrible, it’s quite good, but I would have liked to spend more time in the world. Comparing it to previous persona games I wasn’t quite as attached to this world as I was persona 4. At the end of Persona 4 I was crying because I didn’t want it to be over, at the end of persona 5 I was just kind of happy it was over, and I beat persona 4 in a month, so I put a lot of time in quickly with that game. The shorter time span led to a more well crafted story, but I felt like something was missing at the end. It’s good, I just think it felt a little rushed at points.

(Characters like Haru feel rushed in and I wish I had more time with them)

Trophies-

Now for the hard part….Trophies. This is a JRPG which means yes…if you are a trophy hunter like I am, it’s going to be a long platinum ahead for you. No trophies are tied to difficulty so that’s one huge positive, but the huge negative is you are going to have to play through  about 1.5 times. So the big hitters trophy wise are as follows. First you have to collect all of the persona’s. One is only unlocked in new game+ so be prepared for that. Second big one is getting all of the confidants to max rank.

I personally do this on my second run and that’s because it makes more sense to me. If you try to do this the first run you are going to have to do a lot of micro-managing and I reserve the first run-through for fun. Other big trophies are going to be getting all your social stats up, beating some secret bosses and doing all of the requests for the phantom thieves. Most of these are really going to be a specific run-through, which is why I say to wait for the second run and just make sure that by the end of the first run you have all of your social stats up.

Overall it’s a pretty achievable platinum, but you are going to be spending well over 100+ hours on it, so take your time and enjoy it.

 

The Verdict-

I loved persona 5. In the beginning I was smiling so big, meeting characters like Ryuji and Ann were just some of my biggest highlights. Towards the end credits my smile wasn’t as big, but I was happy with the journey that I experienced. It is the perfect follow-up to the old but unforgettable Persona 4. I just wish that some of the elements from the previous entries would have stayed. That being said, if you loved the previous entries you are going to love Persona 5 and this is the perfect game to jump into the series. For new fans and experts alike, and so with respect I give Persona 5 my Platinumist rating of: