For the first time in nine whole years, we finally get some original new content from Atlus, Persona 5. Since Persona 4 was released in 2008, Atlus found several new ways to bring back the P4 cast with critically acclaimed sequels which include the Golden re-port for PSVita, Arena Ultimax and Dancing All Night. They proved to be very successful as fans now highly anticipate similar sequels with the cast of Persona 5. With Persona 5 now on the market, and several months after it’s release, it still rises to be one of the top-selling games in the PlayStation community, shipping over 1.8 million copies both physical and digital, and proves itself to be among one of the best Japanese role-playing games.
Without further ado, let’s get on with this review. As a newcomer to the entire Shin Megami Tensei franchise, I had no idea what to expect from a Persona game. I knew the story would be separate from previous installments, but it still would have been nice to know what Personas are how they came to be.
Kicking things off, the plot of the entire story is completely unrelated to the previous games, although there were some references here and there, but nothing story related. The plot revolves around a group of teenagers who utilize Personas to change the hearts of society’s corrupted adults. Our protagonist, Akira Kurusu (every Persona protagonist has been silent and nameless, until an eventual anime comes out with a named protagonist), comes to Shibuya on an assault charge. Already, this backstory has set him apart from the protagonists of P3 and P4, since this guy is a criminal. While the game originally marketed Akira as silent, he isn’t completely voiceless, as there are several in-game cutscenes where we hear him speak. Honestly, it’s a bit frustrating to have a silent protagonist, but at least we get to hear him talk in some instances.
The plot flows along very nicely, with each arc having some sort of connection to one another, and actions do effect the consequences that inflict the characters in some way in the future. The prologue provides a look at a mission that the characters take on in the future, which eventually led to their apparent public demise. Akira is forced to retell his story all the way from the beginning again…. until we reach Sae’s palace, where we finally reach the point that the prologue left for us. Writing was excellent, and the plan to trick Goro Akechi was magnificently staged, with several in-game points where mechanics intentionally blank us out to create the tension and suspense it intentionally set in us players. The path the game takes is executed visual novel-style, with the choices Akira makes directly affecting whenever to fail or succeed in the plan.
Dungeon crawling is certainly not a bore, as all palaces are intentionally different from each other, providing a different atmosphere and new puzzles to challenge the inner Phantom Thief. The formula seems to stay the same though, beginning with a thorough infiltration of the palace to find the treasure, sending the calling card, and defeating the boss to trigger their change of heart. The first infiltrations follow this method, however after Sae’s palace, the team seem to slightly diverge from this formulas as their enemies grow stronger, especially with Shido.
Character development also seems to be a marvel in this game, especially with the painful to eventual familial relationship Akira has with Sojiro. While each of the thieves are different in their own right, they also share a common sense of justice for society, which unites them as the Phantom Thieves.
The soundtrack provided for the game is pure amazement, with vocals provided by Lyn Inaizumi. Several songs are played during specific moments, and they are most certainly memorable, especially with Last Surprise during battle, Life Will Change during boss build-up, and Rivers in the Desert during high-tier boss fights.
New Game Plus is fairly useful, however the story can get dull during NG+ if you’re really trying to complete the compendium and fuse Satanael. You are also forced to re-establish confident relationships in order to use their farewell gift,which is received if you MAX out their confident relationship in any of your previous playthroughs. This is quite annoying and their stories also get dull if you keep trying to rank up at no avail.
VERDICT – 9/10
Despite not having played any previous SMT games, I didn’t believe I would enjoy this as much due to less understanding of the core concept of the series. However this game had exceeded my expectations for a JRPG and most certainly had me hooked for hours. However you’re forced to play through the story several times, which can get dull. Despite this, this game is a masterpiece and should be a part of any PlayStation player’s repertoire.