2017 has been quite a loaded year for games on the PS4. Guerrilla games came with the astonishing Horizon Zero Dawn, Naughty Dog produced the single player campaign all Uncharted fans had been waiting for (and brought back an iconic character) with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Not to forget the massive scares also given to us this year with the return of Resident Evil 7 and Evil Within 2. However, there has only been one that has still been playing on my mind and for a person who doesn’t play JRPG’s but love the look of them, Persona 5 was just an instant hit for me.
Set in a modern day Tokyo, Persona 5 is about a group of high school students dealing with the conflicts of their internal and external self-being, living their dual lives as Phantom Thieves. During the game, you live out their daily lives as a normal Tokyo high school student via your protagonist (in this case mine was called Riley Yashimi) by going to school, attending classes, taking part in after school activities, having a part-time job whilst trying to create bonds and improve your social status.
In addition to this, society forces people to wear masks to protect their vulnerable hearts, so their protective masks must be ripped off and their inner selves are confronted resulting in their inner power being exposed. This is then used to help the ones in need. The Phantom thieves’ mission is to enact social change to the present society.
One of my favourite things about Persona 5 compared to its predecessor (which I briefly played on the Vita) was the art style. I love the look of anime and drawing them but it wasn’t just this that got my attention. Visually distinctive, the game is like a massive comic with a huge, stylish UI from in-game to the menus, making the game look sharp and stunning. And if that’s not enough the smooth transition from the characters to the victory screen after a battle are just a joy to watch. Hashino wanted to demonstrate how a small shift in perspective could alter a boring life to an exciting one, which is precisely the context of the story. This is communicated through the UI, introducing us to the striking pop-punk design.
The characters are easy to get attached to as you live out their daily lives, make friends, hang out with these friends and learn new skills along the way. It’s a long process that can’t be done without paying quite a bit of attention to as your actions will be reflected later on. For example, I built up enough skills to start dating Takemi, the doctor who runs her own underground GP. Other than her being much older and thinking I could get a reduced price for the supplies I needed, she was interesting and needed a guinea pig for her clinical trials so I thought she would be the type of person Riley would date. This was great but I also had a really good friendship with who I considered my best friend, Ann.
A moment came where she was in need of a good friend and Riley was there, however after being really nice to her, it popped up that we were now in a relationship! So Riley was now dating 2 people and it all came back to bite me in the end. Takemi was very verbal about what she thought was going on. I did manage to calm the situation and I think she believed me. I also think Ann didn’t know what was going on so phew! The struggles of leading a dual life.
The gameplay was very easy to get to grips with. JRPGs can become very confusing for those who haven’t played them before, yet Persona managed to counteract that and give us a JRPG that literally anyone can play. The main element of each battle is the enemy’s weaknesses and how to exploit that with certain Personas. The boss battles are not majorly difficult however when it comes to the last few palaces, it really gives you a run for your money. I had a mega tough/rage quit moment with the Shadow cleaner in the palace before the final palace (true ending) and he wasn’t even the palace’s final boss.
I don’t know if I was just worn out from all of the battles and palaces but some of the bosses were just unnecessarily difficult, there was just no need. The game is long enough with 8 palaces in total and the long and winding Mementos. For all the pros and cons, this is my only real con.
Fusing Personas was another really essential attribute to progress better into the game, so even though I didn’t use the whole velvet room to my advantage, my fusions became more tactical. This would be something I’d need to explore more on a second play-through.
The soundtrack is very addictive. I think I played the game for so long, I still have multiple ear worms of the songs, and I’ll sing them without even realising that I’m singing/humming them. The main songs during the menus, walking around in different places etc had a very acid jazz vibe about it, and then during boss battles it was more of a rock element to emphasise that you were about to get your arse kicked. That being said, the music was another favourite part of Persona for me.
Taking all of this into consideration with the awesome locations such as Shibuya, Yongen-Jaya, Shinjuku and so on, Persona 5 really left a massive impression on me, this is why it’s my game of the year.