Persona 5 is the fifth installment in the franchise. For this short review, I will try my best to not include not too much comparisons to the third and 4th game which I played because I judge the game on its own merits. Video games are much harder to review than anime in my experience because any little thing that someone might potentially dislike can turn off the experience as I learned from social media of little issues can be spontaneously combust into flames. One related issue was the translation in Persona 5 which I won't go into detail. There were lots of people not satisfied with the issue. It will be hard to list everything. I tend to review anime and anything not from experiences but from others. That's my style.
Oh yes, I need to mention this. I only played Persona 3 and 4. I have not played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games if that needs to be addressed for the review.
Just to make things short and sweet.
Persona 5 involves a rag team of Shujin High School students under the leadership of the main protagonist whose mission as the Phantom Thieves to change the hearts of the corrupted, mostly adults.
Unlike the past games, this game incorporates a stealth element which might feel jarring for veteran players of the Persona franchise but you will get adjusted to it. As sneaking helps to gain advantage in battles when you ambush the enemy, you can strike first. Later on in the game such stealth is no longer needed as the player is strong enough to pulverize the enemy. The stealth in the game wears off by that time. I don't remember if they force you into stealth mode for anything besides enemies.
For combat, it's the same as Persona 3 and 4 as it's turn based and whoever has the highest speed. Unless it's an ambush. You attack the enemy's weak point to make them stumble and you can baton pass to an ally if they have social rank for it which I believe it's only exclusive to this game out of the series. You can keep doing this until all enemies collapse. You have 4 options: all out attack, convince the enemy to be your Persona, take some money, or take an item.
Outside of battle and in-game story, you can do activities around town to increase your social stats: Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness, and Charm which helps you be able to do social link which is now known as Confidants. If you were in Persona 4, Persona 5 does not reward social stat points for answers to questions outside of teacher questions during in-class lectures. You do get points for your Confidants but there aren't a lot of activities for these occasions.
The social link system has improved and added more benefits than ever. Making your Confidants and teammates a must have to make your experiences easier or challenging if you don't want to do them. Your teammates will give you skills such as baton pass, aiding negotiations, protect from fatal blows, and more. Your Confidants can grant you all sorts of stuff to aid you in battle, help with negotiatons, help during daily activities such as massages to do activities after a dungeon which prevent wasting a day.
Additionally, the Confidants or your social link folks are more attached to the story than ever which makes their involvement into more immersive experience outside of gameplay mechanics. You may not like all of them but you will definitely smile when you see them helping you during cutscenes during the story.
The combat system is fast and fluid. Not as repetitive as you can auto run it or skip battles entirely due to a teammates' confidant skill (not to give the name out of spoilers).
The dungeons and Mementos are a blend of the 3rd and 4th game: the in-game story dungeons are unique to the person whose heart you want to change. The puzzles are varied enough to not crossover. You will find some dungeons a pain while others you find them more fun. For me personally, I find the last story dungeon a bit frustrating but it at least feels like the final dungeon as it involves every person on the team with a cutscene. It feels more immersive. As for Mementos, it brings back Persona 3 memories of a random generating dungeon. I know some folks who prefer unique dungeons or random generating dungeons. One thing about the story dungeons, it's easy to get lost when you missed a vent to crawl in or something you didn't see as I spent hours trying to find a terminal in the 7th dungeon. It was hiding in plain sight.
We have a lot to go over.
While the game is very rooted in Japanese politics, you may or may not connect while sharing their experiences. Some experiences may feel foreign to you while others might be relatable to you.
For the characters, they are diverse enough to cater to almost everyone, so you will have your favorites and non-favorites. For the teammates who join early, they don't suffer from a lack of character development compared to the late comers. Without spoilers, I found Haru to be the most severely undeveloped one as her social link's problems could have been solved so easily if she asked that person without spoilers. Her social link doesn't help her character and for the events that lead to a death in family, the game doesn't show her mourning or questioning those who killed her loved one.
To not bring up bad news from the gaming culture but because of that and the increase demand of representation in LBGT, some folks might not appreciate the game's gay Non-Playable Characters and the joke. In the game, Ryuji will flirt with girls and then gets caught and chased by these two men. Which is odd compared to how socially progressive Persona 4 with its characters.
Speaking of representation, while the female characters are strong, there is a bit irony with one of Confidants. Without spoilers, the first dungeon involves a teacher and sexual + physical exploitation of female students and additionally physical harm to male students. We reprimand that teacher who is male for his misdeeds. Yet, we have a Confidant is a female teacher whom we meet in a very unlikely place that brings a lot of social stigma. You continue to use her "services" under the guise of this catering service program which is an ironic thing as it's a mutual exploitation for the teacher to encourage you the protagonist to not tell anyone about her working for a shady establishment. You will romance with her. While I personally have no issue with the female teacher, I did not like the first dungeon as I wanted to get it over with. For those who are teachers, you might not like the first dungeon or the teacher for the Confidants.
Another issue is whether you might find it a problem or not is the over sexualization of Anne who had it rough since the first dungeon especially with the male teacher. When she's knocked in battle, her posture is a bit questionable. Later in the story, the others have Anne take up tasks that involves using her good looks and body to charm the enemy.
Yusuke wanted to paint her naked much to her objections and the others pressure her to do so in order to gain access to Madarame's house.
Moving away from social issues and focusing on the game, there is a shortage of memorable group activities. I do love the cast of Persona 5 but I wish there were more activities or better quality ones. We only have the Hawaii school trip, the school festival, and the trip to an amusement park that bears reference to Disney Land. For your romance options, they pack it after the end of the game with Christmas and Valentine's Day.
For the romance aspect, I didn't find this a personal issue but I notice others wanted this and suggest this. I just note this but I personally don't feel it's a need as Persona games aren't romantically focused type of games. The people wanted their romantic interests to change some dialogue in certain cutscenes when Ryuji asks you if you hang out with a girlfriend.
Speaking of the end, the game doesn't really go much into detail. After you beat the game which has a long drawn out fight, you don't get much time to do anything or prepare for New Game Plus. You have the two romance events along with lots of time skipping. It feels rushed. We don't even go into details of the aftermath of the ones whom we changed hearts for the people and justice.
Lastly, while the music was great, I felt the ending theme song for the credit to be really mellow and not as powerful. It should be high beat music not a somber one to end the game.
Overall, the game is awesome and you can sink in 80 hours and over a hundred hours. The replay value might be short if you are too busy or too tired to do the second playthough. For the second playthrough, they didn't add too much features, just a fight with the Velvet twins and the last Persona to fuse for an achievement. You will carry over your items, money, and social stats to make things faster.
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