Title: Persona 5

Platform: PS4, PS3

Reviewed on: PS4

Genre: Role-playing

Players: Single player

Written by Dragoon 7th May 2017

I'm just going to get straight to the point with this one, Atlus' Persona 5 is without a doubt the best JRPG of this console generation so far. Hell, it's one of the best JRPGs to have come out in a long, long time. We might have had to wait an unbearably long time for it but it was most certainly worth it. For those of you new to the series, Persona is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series and mixes the trademark dungeon crawling of the MegaTen games with a high school life/dating sim. It sounds bizarre and that's because it is but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Persona 5 takes place in a semi-accurate representation of Tokyo and follows the story of our silent protagonist who has transferred to a new school after being put on probation for a crime he was falsely accused of. He and his new friends soon awaken to the mysterious power of Persona and with it become Phantom Thieves, who aim to steal the ill intent from the hearts of adults. All the while our protagonist has to juggle his school and social life in between his activities as a Phantom Thief. As I said before, it's a pretty weird concept but that's always been the way Persona has gone and it only gets weirder as the story goes on.

The story is split into two distinct parts. The part that follows your life as a normal high school student and the part that follows your escapades as the leader of the “Phantom Thieves of Hearts”. You have a year of the in-game calendar and what you choose to do and when is completely up to you. One day you could spend time deepening your bond with a classmate after school and then spend the evening working at your part time job while the next you could be diving into the heart of an evil adult to try and change their view of the world.

The social simulation aspects are a very personal affair, as you progress through the game you will meet various characters who can help you as a Confidant to the Phantom Thieves. These characters range from shop owners to classmates but each has their own personal story which are all fascinating character pieces. Take for example the owner of cafe who takes you in after your probation and at first seems blunt and irritable. As you spend time with him he begins to confide in you about his own personal life while teaching you his trade. Deepening these bonds lets you create stronger Personas while also giving added benefits to aid you in other ways such as teaching you to make special coffee that restores your energy in battle. You can even choose to date some of the female characters if you want to but this is completely optional. These social aspects are one of the key areas of Persona and are a big part of why this game is so great, they are well written and really make the game relatable and involving.

When it comes to your work as a Phantom Thief, it's a very different affair. As you play the game you come to meet some very despicable people who use their status or power to abuse those under them. The story might seem like a fun, light-hearted romp at first glance but it can be surprisingly dark and mature. It doesn't shy away from some of the more controversial topics such as rape and suicide. Your power lets you enter a world inside the heart of a person with ill-intent, known as their “Palace” which takes the shape of what they view the world as. To change the hearts of these people you must sneak into these palaces and steal their treasure, the object that is the root of their evil. Once you do their heart will change and they will confess and repent for their wrongdoings. The Persona series has always had strong ties to psychological science, this time focusing on the science of cognition, how we as people view the world and why. It's all very thought provoking and is definitely original, the story really makes you think and ends up in a very interesting place near the end. The final act may stumble a tad in it's execution but this doesn't detract too much from everything else.

The dungeon crawling parts play out like a typical JRPG. You are put in a linear dungeon and have to work your way through while fighting enemies in turn based battles, eventually reaching the boss at the end. In the past two games in the series dungeons had randomised layouts but in Persona 5 they are always the same. Dropping the randomised elements allowed for some very interesting design choices and each Palace had it's own unique theme and mechanic which made things way more enjoyable. The randomised dungeons have been relegated to the side dungeon called Mementos, which works similarly to Tarturus in Persona 3. You go through different tiers of a tower which let you progress further as the story develops.

The battle system is where the game really shines. When you run into an enemy in the dungeon you start a turn-based battle. The general flow of battles boil down to you trying to figure out the elemental weakness of enemies. If you hit a weakness you knock the enemy down and get another turn where you can either keep the knock-down chain going or tag out to a teammate for them to do it instead. Once you knock all the enemies down you get a few options to do a flashy All-Out Attack which does huge damage to all enemies.

The more interesting option though lets you hold the enemy hostage and talk to them. You get the option to force them to give you money or items but the best option is usually to try and convince them to join you as a new Persona. Each enemy has their own personality type and will respond to conversation topics in different ways depending on it. I love this system, in the past games you had to do a weird follow the card game after battles to get more Personas but here it's actually interesting. This is a system that has been pulled from the main MegaTen games and I have to say, I'm glad they did it.

Persona 5 oozes style in everything it does both visually and audibly. The menus are amazing, they are so easy to use and the way they transition between screens is so stylish. Each menu features a character in the background who will smoothly flip between poses as you switch pages which looks so cool. The battle menus are also amazing, the way they splay out around the turn character looks great and it easily lets you see what you can do and how you do it. The game generally looks great due to its cel-shaded anime graphics with both characters and enemies being well designed and fun to look at. There a few animated cut-scenes which look okay but the animation quality is definitely not high budget and the areas where they are used can be a little strange considering how sparse they are.

The soundtrack has always been one of my favourite parts of the Persona games and it's no different for 5. The music is catchy and there's no doubt you'll find yourself humming along to a lot of the tunes on offer. The english dub is okay, a few voices are a bit too standard and a lot of the Japanese names get butchered when it comes to pronunciation but overall it's a solid effort. For the first time in a western Persona release we have access to the Japanese dub if that's what you prefer.

Persona 5 is one of the best games I've played in a long time. It's like nothing else out there but it owns its unique weirdness with overwhelming style and flair. The social sim aspects are engaging and very human while the dungeon crawling is fun and interesting. It looks great and apart from the iffy English dub it sounds amazing. The story is interesting and even though it stumbles a bit in the final act it's still a well told and genuinely mature experience. My first playthrough came to around 80 hours when I had wrapped up the story and that was with only about half of the confidant stories finished, I'll definitely be jumping into the New Game Plus mode for another go through. You owe it to yourself to play this game, it's definitely one of the best offers on PS4 right now and I can't wait to go through it all over again.


Great mature story,

Engaging battle system,

Fantastic soundtrack,

Beautifully stylish UI.


Iffy English dub,

Trips over itself slightly in the final act of the story.

Final verdict,

Persona 5 was well worth the wait, earning itself a 9/10

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