In this post I’m going to be reviewing Persona 5 for the PS4. I’m going to try to answer the following question: Is it worth the price (if you don’t have a lot of time)?
I have never really been into turn based combat or JRPGs, so I wasn’t excited for Persona 5 at all. I had no idea what the Persona franchise even was and I had no intention of finding out. That all changed when I saw video after video on YouTube praising the game. I saw people that I followed on Twitter praising the game and I wanted to see what I was missing out on. I requested a copy of the game to review in May (big thanks to Matt from Deep Silver for hooking me up), but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I had heard that the game was large and it took over 80 hours to complete, but I thought that was just the estimated amount of time it would take slowpokes and people bad at games to beat it. I want to clearly say right now that I have not finished this game. I usually like to finish a game before I review it, but with my current schedule I only get to play Persona 5 for a few hours at the weekend and at this pace my review would be released mid next year.
I’m going to tell you guys what I think of the game so far and letting you know if it’s worth the price even if you don’t have the time.
There are 2 main sides of Persona 5. There is the part of the game where you live as a schoolboy, organising your schedule and choosing when to study, work or hang out with friends. There is also the other side where you battle shadows in the metaverse using turn based combat. I’ve got to be honest and say that I enjoyed both sides of the gameplay.
The two sides of Persona 5 also interlink with each other. While you’re in the real world you can forge relationships and level those relationships up. Those relationships will give you different perks depending on the person. These perks can help you with battling shadows in the metaverse by granting you new abilities and XP bonuses when you fuse new personas.
There are honestly so many aspects to the gameplay in this game, so we’re going to stick to discussing the 3 main gameplay loops: the real world, the metaverse and collecting personas.
The Real World
When you’re not fighting shadows and stealing treasure, you need to go to school and basically live the life of a schoolboy. You are usually able to choose what you want to do each day, but sometimes you are forced to do something for story purposes. You can generally pick around 2 activities to do a day - one after school and one in the night (some activities are limited to daytime or night-time).
These activities usually either help you increase 1 of your 5 social stats or help you get closer to a confidant (a character in the game you can befriend), which can help you with things in the metaverse.
You’ll also have to take school tests each term which test your memory. Throughout the term you’ll be asked a few questions in class which test your knowledge (knowledge which I didn’t have). I saw many questions about things like Japanese history and culture, so Google answered all my questions for me. If you get these questions right then you’re given a stat boost to your knowledge, so instead of guessing I chose to choose what I thought the answer was in my head and then use Google to find the right answer and enter that option.
After you answer the question in class, your teacher will expand a bit on the subject and you’ll generally find that subject brought up again in the tests.
The metaverse is where you tackle the main missions in palaces or side missions in mementos. Palaces are curated, themed multistage dungeons, while mementos are randomly generated dungeons with multiple floors.
In palaces you are tasked with getting deep into the palace and stealing the treasure of the owner of that palace. There are usually various simple puzzles and enemies to fight along your way. There may also be a miniboss or two and the palace will end with a boss fight.
Combat is turn-based. I’ve never been a fan of that style of combat, but I became a fan after playing this game. The combat is largely centred on the strategy of finding your enemy’s weaknesses and using those to your advantage. If you know your stuff and you play well, you can get away from a lot of battles without even letting the enemy have their turn. In the boss battles this generally changes because some bosses have no weaknesses and you’re forced to fight and keep your party alive until the end of the fight.
You can have a party of 4 members at all times. Your party members have their own specific persona while your main character is able to use multiple personas. Personas are kind of like Pokemon in the sense that they have elemental attributes and attacks as well as a variety of skills you can choose to use in battle depending on the persona.
The tutorial system in the game is done very well. New aspects of the game are introduced over time so they don’t overwhelm players like me who have never played a Persona game or a game like this before. These tutorial messages can be accessed at any time from the menu (which looks great, but we’ll get to that later).
I also always felt like there were new additions to the game and the game was expanding. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to finish the game for this review, but I have no doubt that more gameplay features would have been revealed down the line. This truly is a big game.
Personas are kinda like the Pokemon of the spirit world and in this game your personas are stored in masks instead of a poke ball. Each persona has its own weaknesses, strengths, abilities and personality.
Fighting a new persona for the first time and trying to figure out its weakness is an exhilarating feeling, especially when that persona is kicking your ass and you accidentally use an ability that heals it.
If you target a persona’s weakness you can do something called a “hold up”. This results in you surrounding the enemies and pointing your gun in their face - at this point you can negotiate with the persona. You can either try to win the persona over to your side or you can extort it for some cash and items- all in a day’s work.
Collecting personas is a fun part of the game. I found myself wanting to find new interesting personas to add to my catalogue or combining the personas I had to make new ones. You may also find yourself trying to obtain certain personas just so you can combine them with other personas to get the end result you actually want.
This serves as a fun little meta game that appeals to the completionist within me.
Persona 5 has an overall story that we’ll touch on in a bit, but the main bulk of Persona 5 focuses on the individual stories of the characters you meet.
I found some of these stories very interesting and others not so much. I really dislike the Ryuji and Mishima characters, but I pretty much liked everyone else. However, you must remember that I didn’t finish the game so maybe those characters became less annoying and redeemed themselves later on. Although, if you’re an annoying character 60+ hours in then I don’t really have much hope that you’re going to turn it around.
I think Makoto was probably my favourite character and Yusuke was also a cool dude.
The overall story is something I really don’t want to spoil. The basic summary is that you were sent away for being a bad kid and there’s also some strange happenings going on in the city. People are having “mental shutdowns” which results in people suddenly losing their minds and committing suicide.
After every palace is completed, you are able to read a recap of the story up to that point. This is VERY valuable to people like me who don’t have a lot of time and may have to put the game down and come back in a week.
Overall, I found myself very interested in the story and many of the characters. I am still burning to know how the game ends and I will probably create an updated review after I fully complete the game.
Graphics & Sound
The graphics are okay. They’re certainly nothing special, but they don’t really have to be. In the in-game cutscenes the lip-syncing and character models leave a lot to be desired, but everything works well in combat. The animated cutscenes are great too - I just wish there was more.
There is a little voice acting, usually when you are doing something important to the story otherwise you’ll generally have to read the dialogue yourself. The voice acting is pretty good, but keep in mind that if you HATE reading you probably won’t enjoy this game.
The menus are something that many Persona 5 reviews have touched on, and yes the menus are cool, but when I play a game I don’t play it for the menus. I play it for the gameplay and story, so I don’t really care that much about how great the menus are.
The music was cool, I really liked the main theme and the music in boss battles although I could’ve used more variety. As far as I remember there are only a handful of tracks that you hear for the majority of the game and that can get tedious to listen to.
Is it worth the price (if you don’t have a lot of time)?
First of all, if you have the time and you like JRPGs, then this is 100% worth the price. The amount of content you get here for the price is amazing. If you’re like me, however, and you don’t have a lot of time then I’d still suggest you grab this game. It has the story recap option for you to remind yourself what’s happening and the sheer amount of content is wild. Remember though, it can take you over 80 hours to complete.
If you don’t like JRPGS or you’ve never played one before, this seems like it could convert you or act as a good starting point. I never thought I’d enjoy turn based combat in my life, but now I really don’t mind it and I may even play other games that use turn based combat.
Here are some pros and cons to help you make the decision for yourself:
Thanks for reading, let me know what you thought of Persona 5 in the comment section below. If you want to check out the rest of my reviews you can click on this playlist, I'll see you with the next review!
Also published on Medium.