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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Persona 5

Persona 5.

Another game that came out ages ago (although not quite as long ago as Dark Souls III), my review of this game was partly delayed by how long it is. I didn't play a completionist run or anything like that, by any stretch of the imagination, but the game still took me over a hundred hours to play through. In a market where it's becoming increasingly prevalent to sell twelve or eight hour games for a full fifty quid price tag, a game that costs an even fifty quid and which provides two hours of enjoyment for each pound is astounding to me.

In fact, it was almost too long. Towards the end, I was starting to become increasingly vexed with the real-life segments (which are never the most interesting parts of a Persona game), especially when I needed a certain level in a social stat and had to effectively spend time grinding that stat with DVDs and visits to the diner. Still, I did eventually finish it, and even felt a little bit sad when I had -- although, with a positive storm of spin-offs lined up, I'm sure that I won't have to wait long to see more of the Phantom Thieves.

Set some undisclosed time after the fourth game, Persona 5 puts you in the shoes of a young man on probation after being convicted of assault, who is thrust into a strange other world when a 'Meta-Nav' app shows up on his smartphone. Under the guidance of Morgana, a mysterious cat who wishes to be human, the young man and his friends become the Phantom Thieves, using the other world -- the Metaverse -- to steal the hearts of criminals, forcing them to change their ways. With ace detective Goro Akechi and public prosecutor Sae Niijima on their trail, though, and a conspiracy brewing in Japan's government, the Thieves quickly find that they're in over their heads.

Suffering in the heat.

So, this game has received a lot of praise for its style and aesthetics, and it's pretty easy to see why. Everything in this game oozes style and personality, with nothing left untouched by it -- the game is a marvel of aesthetics, with everything from the soundtrack and character design to the transitions between menu screens and the level up screens being infused with the jazzy, colourful, pop noir style of the game.

That level of care doesn't just extend to the aesthetics, either. Gameplay is fun and smooth, with battles having their own particular rhythm and flow, somehow managing to never be frustrating or awkward (well, except the aforementioned social grinding); the animation and voice-acting are both superb, with characters having their own little tics and mannerisms that mark them all out as thoroughly unique; and the story, while a fairly typical supernatural heist story at its heart, plays with its genre expertly and manages to keep players on their toes with a decent smattering of little twists.

Just hanging out.

It's noteworthy also how far the character writing has come from Persona 4. I can't say I really liked any of the characters in P4, and they never really meshed as a team for me -- they felt less like people who actually enjoyed each other's company and more like people who were just being united by their shared association with the protagonist. In Persona 5, I actually liked most of the cast, and even when they were at each other's throats, I could see that they were friends with genuine affection for each other. A lot of that was accomplished with surprisingly strong dialogue writing, but a lot of it is in the little things -- the little tableau of them all hanging out and silently doing their own thing while enjoying each other's company that you get every time you go to the hideout, the little cracks between them in dungeons and during battle, small things like that.

(The Prince of Persia (2008) form of character interaction, if you will, where the relationship is sold less by the big, important interactions and more by the little, passing ones.)


The social link system can be annoying at times, when you might spend three or four blocks of time without anything happening, or when you might find yourself unable to proceed with a storyline because one of your social stats is too low (such as when I couldn't complete Yusuke's storyline because I wasn't proficient enough to pick a lock), but it was never game-breakingly bad, and the worst of it only really reared its ugly head during the long periods of time between dungeons.

The game also has some moderately pretty animated cutscenes, done by Production I.G., so those are also nice, I suppose, but usually not really necessary.

All in all, this was a pretty brilliant game, and an easy contender for the Top Games of 2017 list. Bring on the spin-offs, I suppose. Bring on the thousands of spin-offs. Give me Persona 5: Dancing All Week.

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