There are few games that match the level of style and flair that every game of the Persona series brings to players. A combination of Japanese role-playing game, dating simulation, and visual novel make the series a popular choice among RPG fans. Persona 5 is no exception to the series’ level of quality storytelling and awe-inspiring presentation. But while the game doesn’t venture into any innovative territory for the franchise as a whole, it does what Persona does best to the utmost level. The sights, the sounds, and the narrative that Persona 5 stylishly takes you through over its many hours will steal your heart away.
The first thing that will pop out to you when starting up Persona 5 is the gorgeous presentation everything to see. The colorful, and sometimes dark, visuals of everything from the menus to the environments is given an incredible amount of attention to subtle details. Minute animations make even the most mundane aspects about the game feel incredibly special and important in their own way. Walking through any of the areas you visit throughout the story have you engrossed in bustling city streets full of chatter and shops, as well as other locations brimming with personality. While not every location is an incredibly large area to explore, each place has a purpose in many ways that will entice you to visit multiple times. Even if you want to just take a look at what’s around, you’ll love moving around every place Persona 5 lets you explore.
If you’ve never played any Persona game before, you need not worry about diving straight into Persona 5. Though each game in the series shares common themes and elements to their presentation, you don’t need any background knowledge to enjoy or appreciate what Persona 5 brings to the table. Persona 5 focuses on the story about the Phantom Thieves, a group of high school teens that gain the power to summon their inner being, or their persona, and use it to fight demons known as shadows. Everything is part of a narrative that unfolds at a steady pace over the course of one school year in-game, where you visit all sorts of different locations and meet a variety of interesting characters.
The cast of characters you engage with over the course of Persona 5 are nothing short of intriguing, and often both humorous and charming. While there is the occasional anime archetype that appears, Persona 5 isn’t afraid to dive head first into more serious subjects and push the development of each character you spend time with. You’ll still be hanging out with allies and other characters in order to boost your relationship level, much like previous Persona games, but never once does it feel like you’re wasting time doing so nor does it become too inane.
Sometimes taking the time to talk with a character will allow you to open up new abilities and elaborate more about themselves. It pays off immensely to just go out for ramen with an ally every now and then, especially when doing so will help you unlock new abilities for combat as well. Building relationships is very important in Persona 5 and helps influence aspects of your character growth, but it doesn’t become a chore.
But even with the many simulation points you have with characters and the story, Persona 5 is still a JRPG at its core. Combat is turn-based and simple, but can be deep enough for anyone willing to really explore what they can take advantage of. Throughout the story, you can explore different Palaces with different visual themes and importance to the plot, where you can fight enemy shadows and bosses, as well as search for chests and items. The Palaces themselves can get incredibly creative with their visual and gameplay design, making no two areas feel too similar or boring. Once area may have you trying to steal a treasure from a giant art museum with living paintings, while another will take you deep into the dungeons of a mystifying castle within someone’s heart.
However, the Palaces are only part of the places you can explore and battle within, as Persona 5 goes even further and implements another area called Mementos, a procedurally generated dungeon you can explore. Unlike the Palaces, Mementos changes its layout and offers a variety of optional side quests you can complete at any time during the main story. It may look a bit monotonous to some, but exploring Mementos is always rewarding for those willing to venture deeper for more secrets, including giving more context to the events of the main story.
It is without question that Persona 5 has an incredible soundtrack to compliment everything you experience in-game. The jazz inspired musical pieces set the tone of every key event in the story, from the most serious to the more relaxed moments. You’ll never get tired of hearing any of the battle or calm themes you hear over and over again. Simply going from one area to the other is paired with what feels like the right music at the right time, making every move you make in Persona 5 feel special.
But it is in moments where climatic battles and big reveals in the story occur that the music really shines to further enhance the emotion and importance of what is happening. You will be hard pressed to find other games where the background music becomes as important a factor as anything else for making memorable moments stick with you.
There’s so much to appreciate in Persona 5 over the potential 100+ hours you can spend playing it. But unlike other games where your interest will wane over time, the many hours you’ll spend with Persona 5 will always have something to hold your full interest and emotional investment. Everything is only made better with the superb level of quality put into the visuals, soundtrack, and gameplay that is designed incredibly well. This is a must play game for any role-playing game aficionado and a great place to start for anyone who’s never played a JRPG before. Persona 5 is fun, a thrill to experience, and stylish enough to steal your heart away from the very beginning.
This review is based on a digital review code for Persona 5 for the PlayStation 4, provided by ATLUS.