I have a love-hate relationship with JRPGs. I love them. The stories are always so interesting, most of them introduce super unique game mechanics, and they just progress well. I hate playing them. To this day, I’ve beaten only… 4 or 5 of the… many that I’ve played. Part of the issue is JRPGs have this longevity that you don’t see in western titles. Let’s take Uncharted 4 for example, I’d argue this is the longest of the series and could probably be beaten in less than 20 hours. JRPGs on the other hand have this obsession with packing titles with 40+ hours of content.
I say this to give some background to my relationship with the Persona series. I’ve played both Persona 3, and Persona 4. I own the third one digitally on Ps3, and the fourth on Ps2. The Persona games are super snazzy. Somehow they blend Dungeon-running mechanics, with a turn-based monster-capture battle system and smoosh that together with high school sim mechanics. Chyeah, it’s the weirdest mesh of things ever, and somehow it’s all awesome.
For those unawares, Persona typically follows a high school student who has the ability to call a “Persona” which is a creature with special ability that the main character and his friends can use. In each game you run through a dungeon destroying shadows trying to reach a goal to free people and locations from evil shadows. You also have to balance the life of the high schooler, by studying, doing club activities, date, and working a part-time job.
The main challenge of these games is trying to reach your goal by a certain time, and each game follows a calendar giving you only a certain amount of time to do what you need to do. Since there’s such a variety of stuff to do, each player can focus how they want to play, which helps in creating a unique experience.
Now for Persona 5. I can’t expound on all the differences and enhancements of the previous games, as I’ve only played part of them, but there are many similarities and several differences.
Persona 5 starts out with nameless character (who I named Yusuke) beating the crap out of a guy harassing a girl. Hero, right? Nah, the dude sues him, and now Yusuke is stuck in another city living in the attic of a coffee shop owned by a grumpy dude. So now Yusuke must lay low and live a boring life to get his life back to normal, but we all know that isn’t gonna happen.
Much like the other Persona games we find ourselves mysteriously transported to a parallel world where we unlock our Persona abilities. In Persona 3, we had to unlock levels of this huge shadow spire to reduce evil influence. In Persona 4, we had to investigate weird happenings to help those who were influences by the evil shadows. In Persona 5, we are transported to “Palaces” that are controlled by people and their messed up perceptions of reality. How do you beat these people and their Palaces? You find their desire and literally steal it.
Unlike past games, these Palace dungeons aren’t randomized, which helps in the long run in trying to progress through the game, and it actually helps with the narrative. For those who miss the randomized dungeon running, there is a special place called “Mementos” where you can dungeon run to your hearts content in a cat-van… It’s super weird.
What I liked about this game is that the narrative is easier to follow, there’s more direction and more connection between the characters. You can do more things to enhance your relationships with your friends, and empower your Personas. I also really liked the dungeons were easier to navigate, and there was less of the aimlessly running around, backtracking trying to find the end of a level. This is way less frustrating.
The high school social sim aspects are still there. You have to work on your studying to do well in school, charm to pick up ladies, and guts to be able to do and say things to certain people.
Now I’m ONLY played about 30 hours into this game, and I’d probably guess I’m still around the 25% point, so I can’t say whether or not you can date (I think you can), or do several of the other things you could do in the other games. But what I can tell you is that this game is fun, and I can actually foresee myself beating this game eventually in the future… Hopefully.
Either way, if you’re a fan of the previous games then you should definitely check this one out. If you’re not, but are looking for a unique and interesting gaming experience I’d also suggest checking it out. It bores the shit out of my wife, but it seems that most of the JRPGs I play do, simply due to how they play. But don’t let that deter you. It’s a fun game.