There are very few games that make me want to play them multiple times. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Persona 5 drove me into a world of self-imposed bliss. It introduced me to a deeper love of JRPGs, a genre I may not have given a second thought about. To date, I’ve spent at least 100 hours playing the game. I’ve started a new game plus, with the intention of completing my non-maxed confidant levels and essentially obtaining all extras within the game.
Remembering how I found out about the series, I walked to my nearby GameStop, with no intention of purchasing the game at all. Hearing that it was “The” JRPG to play of early last year. I was intrigued, but not compelled until that fateful day. When the game was on the shelf, preserved in a SteelBook casing, with the words “Persona 5” written along the front on sale for $29.99 used. I did what anyone would do, or so I believed. I checked online for reviews. 4.9 stars on Amazon. 9/10, 10/10 it went on. On a whim, I decided that it was time to hit the checkout.
Accustomed to certain JRPGs I’ve played over the years. Never have I been infatuated with the genre. The usual long completion times, often stale commentary, incredibly-tedious grinding, and the annoyingly robust gameplay mechanics. Often drew me away. But, there I was inserting the disc into the system.
The game starts off similar to a visual novel, initially drawing me in, was the interesting tone of this game. It starts off rather dark, a bit of the plot goes: A young high school student attempts to rescue a lady in distress from an older man harassing her. Accidentally assaulting the older man, the boy is detained and then transferred to a school in Tokyo, called Shujin Academy. Where he is on probation for a year. Here, he meets several acquaintances and changes individuals hearts. No more spoilers after that.
It’s a vague description and one that might shift you away from playing it, however, it’s a lot better than it sounds. The game features a monster battle-system. You collect monsters in a similar vein to Nintendo’s well known Pokemon series and if you played any of the Shin Megami Tensei entries, it’s nearly identical to it.
You can hold the enemies hostage in return for a ransom, capture or use your ultimate against them. There are numerous ‘Personas’ you can collect, each with different capabilities and some you might need in order to progress through the game.
Thankfully, there is a fast-forward toggle when battling, therefore allowing your characters to automatically attack the enemies in front of you. I was able to get through simple and less demanding enemies quickly to level my hero up. However, leaving it on puts you at risk for getting taken out when you’re not aware of it.
Experiencing Persona in New Eyes
I usually dislike the handling of turn-based gameplay in JRPGs, sometimes forcing you to fight against a weaker enemy each, wasting time from having an eventful battle. One thing especially was the Random Encounters. It was a system that involved random enemies appearing when you traveled along the overworld on the map.
It could be tolerated in some games like Pokemon, but in games like Bravely Default, they were too frequent (Added you could adjust the frequency in the settings).
I loved the visual encounters of Persona 5, and I feel more games should use this feature, it’s far more immersive when compared to random encounters and you could pick and choose what strong enemy you want to face and if it is worth the challenge.
The story is very interesting. It focuses on topics like remorse, guilt, hatred, politics, friendship, and romance. You meet new friends, discover intimate relationships and learn your role.
Increasing confidant levels were fun, you learned about the characters you were dealing with this way. It was personal, well thought out and engaging.
The music was absolutely brilliant. The translation was great. Dubbing of the character’s voices from Japanese to English was very natural and while there were times in which the dubbing felt a bit out of character. It played out very well.
My protagonist Joker made for an interesting dynamic in the cast of characters. Immediately, sticking out to me as I played Persona 5, was its ability to tell the story.
You play the anti-villain, your friends are the black sheep of modern society. To get what you want, you’re faced with a decision to change the hearts of those who you deem need justice.
I was engaged in every aspect of the relationships between the main character and the NPCs.
Learning to Love the Grind
Personally, I’m not a fan of grinding, and still am not. However, Persona 5 added value if you took your time to grind. I didn’t feel like I was trying to level up quickly to fight a stronger enemy.
The combat was so well thought out that I intentionally wanted to get into a fight so that I could fuse better ‘Personas’ together and form a stronger team.
For one, I was more than happy to travel around the map of the game, finding any hidden extras there may have been. Persona 5 had given me a chance to explore a beautiful world, with fantastic music playing in the background.
Upon completion of Persona 5, I began a hunt, looking for JRPGs I might have missed due to my appeal of the genre at first. I was entranced, I was in a rush. I couldn’t shake off my thirst for a game like it.
My crusade continued on, I played Shin Megami Tensei IV, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Earthbound, etc. All amazing games, all of which were already highly regarded, but they were ones that I missed a chance of playing.
I’m waiting to play Shin Megami Tensei V, Ni No Kuni II, Yakuza 6, Dragon Quest XI and etc. I hope my new found passion doesn’t dwindle. I’m more than excited to be encapsulated by the new adventures and see what kind of stories will take shape in what this genre has to offer. From then on I’ll be exploring and playing catch up.