Think back to the long lost year of 2013. It was a simpler time, when man could walk the streets without fear of dragons falling from the heavens and One Punch Man wasn’t massively popular in the west yet. One day Atlus appeared before mankind and gifted him a trailer that showed chairs tethered with balls and chains and liberal use of the color red. The video ended with a line of text that read Persona 5 Winter 2014 for PS3. Mankind went wild with excitement and praise for the gift bestowed upon them by the Atlus overlords and for a brief moment all was right with the world until man realized the newest console on the market was Playstation 4. After some time the God Emperors of Atlus decided time was on their side and worked tirelessly to present Persona 5 to man for the PS4, thus adding an extra layer of polish. And after a series of events, Persona 5 was placed in the hands of man in Japan and months later… the rest of the world.
Much like Persona 3 and 4, you take on the role of an unnamed male protagonist who has temporarily moved to a new location for one year. Luckily a man by the name of Sojiro has taken you in by giving you a place to stay and act as your guardian for the next year to help keep you out of trouble. You start with practically nothing and will have to attend a new school where negative rumors have already spread about you before your first day. Like previous Persona games, your year will consist of many activities such as making new friendships, helping people with their problems, fighting shadows, and learning to be a Phantom Thief. As a Phantom Thief your goal will be to steal the heart of your target and make them confess to any misdeeds they commit. While the term heart is used for what you will be stealing, you are actually stealing a treasure that unique to the target that they consider to be the most valuable possession.
Persona 5 maintains the fun turn based mechanic the series is known for while making some great additions and changes. In addition to a regular melee attack, every character now has a gun option that can exploit an additional weakness in your enemies. While guns are usually much weaker and limited to the amount of ammunition a character starts off with they can be a great asset for hitting multiple enemies in a single turn and even gain additional turns. The addition of guns also allows for performing a hold up on enemies once they’re knocked down allowing for all-out attacks or to negotiate with shadows. Negotiations with shadows is a nice callback to earlier Shin Megami Tensei games where you try to convince a shadow to join your team as a new persona for you to equip… of course you could always just rob them of money or items in exchange for letting them live. Another new addition is the cover mechanic that allows you to peek around corners or hide behind furniture giving you the option to ambush or sneak past shadows. There is the added function to taking cover that allows you to take instant cover at nearby places such as behind a chair. I personally love stealth abilities in most games and this was easy to use and should be added to future entries in the series.
If you played Persona 4 you might remember the TV World locations were based on a character’s personality, such as one person having a video game world or another having a world based on a castle. Persona 5 has a similar concept but you won’t be jumping through an TVs. These new locations you will be infiltrating are referred to as a Palace and each one will be based around the owner’s inner feelings. Unlike the previous game, each palace will not be randomized to allow for puzzles that must be solved to progress. Most puzzles will be based around preventing theft, but as you are a phantom thief, nothing will get in the way of you and your treasure. While a palace is not randomized, there is a location that is known as Mementos. Mementos is similar to Tartarus from Persona 3 and you will be going there to gain additional levels, personas, and completing multiple side quests.
The Velvet Room is back complete with Igor and two assistants. While the Velvet Room is unique to each individual, the first thing I actually noticed was Igor’s voice is now much deeper and ominous sounding. Though I found this particularly odd, the only reason I could find was that his previous Japanese voice actor, Takeshi Aono, passed away but that just added to my confusion since this is the English dubbed version. The new assistants are Caroline and Justine, who are polar opposites that may treat you harshly. I think the biggest change to the Velvet Room for Persona 5 is the fusion process. Usually you would talk to Igor and pick which personas to fuse into a new one with a scene showing some cards spin around or something. This time around you are given a scene where your two personas are covered and placed into two guillotines and it just gets darker from there. I found things particularly grim when a fusion failure occurred..
Social Links have been renamed as Confidants in order to match the tone of the story. Confidants still function as social links meaning you can still build relationships with certain people in order to get advantages with the arcana (special attributes that can help your personas to level up) that person is associated with. I have also noticed a lot of confidants have very interesting stories and that made me want to hang out with them every chance I could. There are multiple female confidants that you can choose to romance for additional story, meaning you can pick the best waifu for you. (Yes, I was looking for an excuse to say waifu.) I had a hard time trying to decide which character I wanted the romance scene to occur with but in the end it is entirely optional and will have no effect on the story.
While reviewing Persona 5, there were multiple DLC outfits and other goodies made available. The outfits are mostly cosmetic but they do change your battle music to that of the game they originate from. I honestly loved running around with my team in full S.E.E.S. gear from Persona 3, but eventually I started to mix everyone’s outfits and now they look like a group of cosplayers. Aside from the outfits there are accessories that will give special bonuses to money, experience and other things making the game easier in a small way. There are also multiple personas that are DLC from previous games such as Izanagi or Orpheus. The extra personas you can get as DLC can be redeemed through the Persona Registry in the Velvet Room. While getting access to these old personas is great, they can easily break the early game since they start at a much higher level and have some powerful attacks. I remember being about level 30 when I purchased some of the DLC and could access a level 68 persona if I wanted. I would highly recommend not using DLC personas until you are close to their level but if needed they can get you through some tough spots in the early parts of the story.
I was honestly pleased with how much fun I had with Persona 5 and will definitely play through it again soon. Atlus has done phenomenal with the story and any long time fan of the Persona or Shin Megami Tensei series will most likely agree. At some point during the era of Persona 4 Arena and Dancing All Night there was a strong lean towards friendship-heavy plot points and I was worried that this would transition into the next Persona game, but I’m happy that did not happen. If you have never played a Persona game you can easily start with Persona 5 and have no problems understanding the story and still fully enjoy it.
Review Copy Provided By Atlus
Played entire game on Normal difficulty
Total Play Time: 137 HOURS!