GAME REVIEW | "Persona 5" An RPG For These Modern Times
It seems like almost every day when some hack-jobbed journalist wants to blame the current generation for the world's problems. They claim we're lazy, unmotivated, and lack the means of escaping from the basements of our offspring. It's our fault that businesses and restaurants that once thrived are going the way of the dodo, they blabber as they refuse to look at their reflection to see where the true blame should be thrown at.
While playing Persona 5, the first original game in the Shin Megami Tensei spinoff series in almost ten years, these stories came rushing into my mind. How the adults seem to treat the next generation in this game is via the same means of these half-assed articles. They look down upon them, claim that they're just a step away from becoming delinquents and ne'er-do-wells, and should have the ways of society shoved down their throats while erasing their own unique identity. Persona 5 is a game that can easily rile up those who relate to the likes of the silent protagonist, Sakamoto, Ana, Morgana, and the rest of those who become part of the Phantom Thieves.
However Persona 5 isn't just a great game because it speaks to our modern times; it also reinvents the turn-based RPG system in all the right ways.
**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS**
Persona 5 starts off where the story seems to end. You're being interrogated by public prosecutor Sae Nijima, and start to tell your side of the story. Already you've been given the short end of the stick, being arrested after saving a woman from being raped by a big-named politician. Given a final chance of a normal life you are sent to a family friend's cafe to live about your year-long probation. After your arrival you start to have strange dreams about being imprisoned by the hunchbacked Igor, who claims to wish to rehabilitate you. A supernatural mobile app is placed onto your phone, which gives you the ability to transport to the Metaverse.
With newfound friends Sakamoto, Ana, and a talking cat named Morgana, the four embark on trying to eliminate the wickedness in the hearts of the corrupted. An abusive volleyball coach, an artist who steals the works of his students, and a corrupt politician are just a few of these types of enemies that you will come across in this video game. Soon other allies such as artist Yusuke, student council president Makoto, and computer expert Futaba join your fold, as you dive into the darkest realms of the most corrupt and power-hungry people roaming about Japan.
What makes Persona 5 such an endearing game is how much it mirrors the current climate of our world right now. The greedy are rewarded, while those who are trying to get by with only the clothes on their back are punished. Even doing a good deed can be flipped around and made to look like you were in the wrong, as your character experiences early on in the story. Right before the game starts, you are asked if you treat this game as just a game or as an extension of the real world. It's soon after you are forced to choose the former where you'll realize how wrong that answer was.
Persona 5 lets you know right from the start that you are about to tread some uncomfortable waters. Even dealing with the first baddie, the washed-up Olympian Kamoshida, you are presented with a real-life kind of villain. He abuses his team, sexually assaults female students, and places himself on a taller pedestal than even the principal himself. This game touches on many issues that'll have many players taken aback, and while there is some humor in how the character is presented in the Metaverse, it treats such a problem with the right amount of drama and respect. It's why it feels so good to take on these types of enemies in the Metaverse, as you deliver a swift kick of justice into the face of the true scum of the world.
Often I found myself comparing the protagonists of Persona 5 to that of Danganronpa. While the Monokuma-starring game had top-tiered kids being pushed down to the level of wild animals in a battle of life-or-death, the protagonists of Persona 5 are scraping the bottom of life's barrel in order to better the world that they live in. The characters in both games are quite similar, especially when they have someone watching from above who can take away their very future with a snap of their fingers. (Perhaps Atlus and Spike Chunsoft should meet up for a drink sometime and talk about the stigmas of modern-day humanity.)
Whether it was in the English or Japanese dub, the voice acting helped to push that realism this game surprisingly presents in its story. You can hear their frustrations, anger, worriment, and even the simple joys of life in the way they articulate. Its quality is up there with that of a Mamoru Hosoda film, one that knows how to push something very humanistic within a fictional place. (With that being said, it kinda irked me every time in the English dub they mispronounced Sakamoto's name, but that's just me being picky.)
While in the Metaverse you are given the chance to fight against a plethora of monsters that roam about before you meet with the true boss of the world. During turn-based battles you can simply kill these monsters, collect your reward, and work your way to leveling up. However taking a cue from the main Shin Megami Tensei series, you can negotiate with a monster when it feels either beaten or knocked out for the count, taking cash, items, or even themselves as new Personas to use in battle. (You can also combine Personas to make more powerful beings via a gruesome Guillotine fusion process.)
Outside of the Metaverse you can build up your relationships with those around you, thereby giving you and your teammates more power, trust, and abilities. Studying, training, hitting the batting cages, and helping at your guardian's coffee shop can also boost your stats, bettering yourself as both a fighter and a decent person. These moments can also help you to understand your character and those around you's backstories, thereby expanding this already vast world into someone far larger than one can already imagine.
Not since South Park: The Stick of Truth have I come across a more enjoyable turn-based RPG. Almost during every battle I was at the edge of my seat, biting my nails worrying that my next attack could be my very last. When victory was bestowed upon me, it was presented with a flair and style I've never seen done in a Japanese RPG. Even when having to grind sometimes to level up before a bigger battle, it never felt like a chore thanks to the way it was showcased.
Visually Persona 5 is like an anime made by either Banksy or Shepard Fairey. With its usage of red overtones and stylistic action, every frame that's presented is shown with the care of an artist's ink brush. The world's you traverse are often filled with life, sometimes cheerfully, other times heavily with the weight of the work world on some of the NPCs roaming about. Production I.G's cut scenes give us a taste of what we could expect from an inevitable TV adaptation, and from the looks of these scenes alone we could expect something that matches well with the in-game vision.
While there isn't much in regards to replay value once it's over, Persona 5's 100-hour timeframe gives you more bang than your buck can ever handle. You can easily tell that there was much love, care, and consideration that was placed in development of the latest chapter in this series. Even if you've never experienced a Persona game, it'll be very easy to jump into the fifth incarnation thanks to its eye-popping experience.
- Amazing story, voice acting
- Great battle system
- Beautiful worlds, art style
- Hearing "Sakamoto" being mispronounced every time in the English dub
Without a doubt, Persona 5 is what the new standard for turn-based RPGs should be. A story that grabs you, a fun battle system, loads of personality, and a fulfilling experience is what Atlus's latest chapter in the series delivers. Take my advice: play Persona 5, and don't be surprised when you find yourself relating to the game's world with your very own.
Promotional consideration provided by Atlus USA. Reviewed on the PS4.
Background Noise: Is This the Life We Really Want? by Roger Waters - When it comes to the troubles of the world, no one brings the anger out quite like the former Pink Floyd frontman. Political, philosophical, and screaming for peace and relief, Roger's first new album in 15 years gets into the face of the world's wickedness and spits in its face. Like the Phantom Thieves in Persona 5, Waters is looking to change the hearts of those corrupted with greed, lust, and severe god complexes, and have them come to terms with the horrors they dished out.