Do you know what they call Persona 5 in France? Persona 5 Royal with Cheese. Obligatory Pulp Fiction joke out of the way let’s talk about Persona 5.
Much like my interest in the Personal franchise this review went through several stages. What was once going to be a full video became a Couch Critique. The more I played the more I realized that wouldn’t be a good idea. So here we are in So… country. Shorter and more opinionated than anything else. I guess consider this So… Royal edition. A bit more than usual but nothing to really get excited about.
The main reason I am skipping a full Review is well, almost every issue I took with this game was actually a frickin’ plot point and was intentional. It must have been hilarious for my bud Spence, who lent me the game, to hear all my complaints as each one was revealed in the final chapters of this game. So as far as I can say about it. It feels more like a Persona 5 prequel. The game doesn’t start to feel very Persona-y until the end. But when it does well, Persona 3 would like a word with you.
The short comings I thought I felt in this game was really just the game taking its time to set up a larger story. Sure the Phantom Thief bit is pretty interesting. Not going to argue against that. Though the last few hours feel like they should have been the first. Where as the game spends about 150 hours getting you invested in the characters as people. You start to understand them. What they want, where they come from, and why they fight.
It definitely feels like a starter Persona game at first. Overbearingly hand holdy at times. The game loves to rip control away from you in an attempt to force the narrative along. Limiting you actions or even skipping days just to further the story. It gets frustrating and tends to hurt the over all flow almost as much as my immersion. The down side is when I finally get control back I am so eager to play the game I neglect characters and story beats I normally would have followed up on.
When playing these types of games, as in games with choices that affect anything fairly significant, I choose the ones I would honestly do. The biggest asterisk in the world there for if I was as capable as the main character. So I will set my skills based off my real life abilities as well, which makes Bethesda games real reeeeeal hard. And this game doesn’t like to play around with that. Some characters give massive game changing perks when you level up their affinity towards you. So some key gameplay elements I didn’t get until the last few hours of my play through. So this game gives you a real sense of ownership in your ending. Sure it will likely be the same more or less aside from some flavor cutscenes or special items and the like. The game deliveres overall where it counts. So the pacing can be overlooked.
Especially since the real focus of this game is style. Inside every menu, with every attack, booming from each track, and even dripping from the dialogue the games signature jazz punk style never feels to forced. Infact if it wasn’t for the smartphones the game could easily be set in the late 80s early 90s. Fitting as most of the characters are dorky outcasts or hip trendsetters that are also dorks and would be right at home playing NES games and drinking cafe coffees.
Which is all things you can actually do. Minigames and hanging out doing your typical teenage thing all have nominal boosts to your social stats. Ranking up those unlocks more dialogue options with the others, more places you can go, new skills, ability to eat bigger hamburgers and so much more. This definitely isn’t a game to start in a whim. It will require a large time sink and that is putting it mildly. 207 hours of straight playtime is how long it took me to 100% this game without a guide or having played a Persona title since Persona 3.
It’s mostly just do everything atleast once and max out everything atleast once sorta deal and an optional boss. Easy Peasy to be honest. So that’s how I recommend this game. No guides, no spoilers just go for it. The battles are about chaining weaknesses to get extra attacks. You can easily wipe a party of stronger enemies than you in the first round without much effort if you plan accordingly. Which has a draw back seeing as so can the enemies. Every advantage you think you have, the enemies get aswell. Extra moves, healing items, combo attacks all of it.
I will admit it, I got wiped on a random encounter once. That hasn’t happened to me in ages. Best part is it felt fair. Even the hella gimmicky boss Battles still make it feel like it’s your fault you are being smacked around. So combat, story, music, and presentation all get nearly perfect marks.
Let’s cut to the chase here. At it’s brass tacks it’s a relationship simulator with a monster collecting kinda vibe. Like Pokemon meets Stein’s Gate if that helps. You have about one game year to get everything done broken up into practically monthly dungeons. You are supposed to go into each dungeon several times, but the game more or less punishes you for doing so with it’s overbearing dictation on when you are a sleepy guy. Doing a dungeon means you can’t do anything else that day aside from like read a book or watch Mouse MD.
While you are thrust into some Twin Peaks level of supernatural bullcrap you also got to find out who you are and what you want. You do so by helping those you grow close to find themselves. As for me the flow of the game was in chunks of hours. Doing a whole Palace (dungeons in this game) in a day or two leaves you with hours of waiting for the plot to catch up. Then you get a few hours of the next time sensitive combat section that you will do in one long sitting. I’d say between 4-6 per palace and 3-7 per talking and wandering around section.
The plot hits pretty fast. I mean you get invested in the world and characters right away. So the long story based stretches are not that bad, most of the time. Combat is hectic but rewarding with bosses that are more like puzzles than full on fights which keeps you on your toes.
It does tend to drag on at times when you know what you want to do or you don’t care at all about a certain plot point they act like you should. Often I would find myself wishing it would just end already. Then the Persona 5 final section popped up and hot damn I was ready for another 100 hours not gonna lie. Sadly even counting the extra content for Royal it was only about 15 hours. The game pulled a classic persona 5 move and just skipped weeks of time.
It was a crazy coffee and curry fuelled rush that my tummy is still trying to get over. Though I imagine it won’t get that chance with a sequel on it’s way soon it only goes to support my idea that P5 should have been a different series, but as a friend of mine put it “Shin Megami Tensei has already reached the legal limit for spin off series” so I’ll let it slide.
But wait! What would the internet be without unfounded outrage and getting upset at other cultures while claiming to be tolerant? I dunno actually. Heaven? I have a read a few articles claiming this game is insensitive or supports a male power fantasy and well I can see why they could think that. I mean they are objectively wrong. I won’t even pretend to side with them. Still I won’t say they don’t feel upset. They have that right. Just keep in mind this is a Japanese game written in Japan, arguably for a Japanese audience. Maid Cafes and cleaning services or other little cultural moments might come off as tone deaf to some. There are even moments I went “Oh come on really?!” at some content in here. Still context is important. Also in a game where you make choices based on your relationships, you have the power over those relationships. It’s not because he is male, it’s because he is the main character. The easiest answer is there is, why did you make those choices? Spec Ops The Line points out rather well you as a player are equally responsible for what you do. If you are going to be upset, be upset. Just I don’t know about others around here when I get offended about something I tend to stop playing it, watching it, or reading it. Still I feel it only prudent I advise those who are, for lack of a better term, easily offended to do some research first. You might want in on it because of the hype, but enough people have been outraged that perhaps you should read around on websites that share your personal views on media to see what they say. Because I am reminded of Stuart Little here.
A movie most of us never even thought twice about honestly. Though most of us statistically speaking are not adopted. This movie is actually rather troublesome for families who adopt or foster kids. Where we see a fun movie about a talking mouse they see a family adopt a talking pet and give him a full sized room leaving all the actual human children behind. It sends strong mixed messages that you might just forget about, but your brain remembers. So never just assume people are being upset for clicks or attention, but also do try to frame your views around the meaning and intentions behind media.
Ultimately is Persona 5 for you? That’s hard to say. It’s long, it’s engaging, but it’s very much a Visual Novel at it’s heart. If you prefer story and characters above all else then yes. Without hesitation check it out. I’d say it’s more a playable comic book than anything else. If the term comic book upsets you and you want to correct me there, then probably skip Persona 5. It’s not perfect, but it never tries to be.