Content is super important.
Most modern games boast lots and lots of content. Assassin's Creed Origins had 60 hours of it! People still play games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 and continue to rack up days and days and days worth of playtime. Unfortunately, a lot of times these games lack any real substance in all of this content. You're stuck with useless fetch quests and annoying radiant quests that you repeat over and over again.
Up until I played Persona 5, I could count on my hand how many content heavy games provided and complete experience. That's not always the worst thing - after all, not everybody can be CD Projekt. But it does make games with real, in depth content a pleasant surprise. And that's almost what I want to call Persona 5: A pleasant surprise. But, I'm not sure if it totally delivers - especially after playing through so many hours and still not being finished!
It's crazy. This game is crazy.
Persona 5 is a huge game with a very long, linear story. You start as a new student at Shujin Academy in Tokyo. After a mysterious app appears on your phone, you enter a strange new world dominated by the twisted desires of the people around you. Throughout the game you meet various people who are being taken advantage of by oppressive, tyrannical adults - eventually forming The Phantom Thieves of the Heart. With you ever expanding team, you fight against these evil adults' inner selves and change them for the better. But, you can't get away with it forever, especially with nearly everyone from your principle to the police hot on your tail.
There's a lot of good here - most of the game is practically perfect. The characters are well-written, dynamic, and fun to play with. The setting seems typical, until you get to the very first Palace (a mental manifestation of a person's twisted desire). Honestly, you could fill a book with all the good, but I'm going to try and focus on some key points that I felt really stood out as I played through this monster.
It's very rare for me to like every single main character in a game - and even rarer for me to want to play as all characters in said game. Persona 5 manages to create characters that have such personal, intimate problems and make the game about these characters finding strength in overcoming those problems. This forces the player to identify with them in a specific way, each time they are introduced.
The best example of this is Ann Takamaki, a popular girl in school, who is a model and perceived as a well rounded girl on the outside. But, the more you get to know her, you find out about the dark secrets that haunt her, as well as Shujin Academy. These inner demons define her character, and the game makes sure that you see her struggles. I can't reveal too much about what happens, but it's dark, shocking, and very real.
This realness makes her eventual acceptance of herself and her act of rebellion all the more sweet. In the first Palace of the game, you find Ann. She has been captured and you don't know if you're going to save her. Then, she steps up to the plate. She yells at her aggressor - and unleashes her Persona, Carmen.
For those unfamiliar with the Persona franchise, Persona are manifestations of characters' mental state at the time. Each Persona game's Personas represent something different. In Persona 5, they represent the characters' want to rebel against the oppressive outside forces that seek to control them. I haven't spent too much time playing the other Persona games (for now), but I have been assured by forces that each one is pretty different.
Other than astounding characters, I really want to talk about the dynamic battle system. It's turn-based, which usually turns me off, but the game devs really made a point to refresh the typical (and boring) staple of the genre. The battle menu is fun, the movement works, and there is a lot of variety in what the characters can do. They can do a regular melee attack, shoot a character-specific gun, and cast spells in the form of the various Persona that you collect as you play through the game. You also have a very interesting ability to "hold up" your opponents and hit them up for cash, do a massive attack, or command them to join your team.
It's just really, really fun! I love it so much! I played this game for fifteen hours straight, and I never got tired of fighting - unless I kept on dying, which is just me not taking losing well.
Again, I can go on and on about all of the good in this game. So, I'm going to give you some bullet points really quick:
The setting is also primo - each Palace is different, and filled with new challenges.
- The side characters are also mostly dynamic, and if you take the time to talk to them, you will be treated to a lot of great story and world building.
- It does a really good job in showing what it's like to be a teenager in a world that seems to be dominated by adults who don't care about them. It's beautiful to see these kids fighting back. Why? Because that's the kind of world we live in now.
There's a few things I have a problem with in this game. The main issue has to be with just how much you can do in this game. This sounds strange, but it's definitely valid. Most of the time - takes people between 80-120 hours to complete this MONSTER. And, a lot of times, it felt excessive.
Persona 5 depends on social links and interaction on top of battle and leveling up. Through these social links, you can unlock different types of Peronas, perks for your party member, etc. Social interactions such as working and studying also increase the character's statistics - which matters a lot depending on who you talk to. It's intricate, and it plays a large part in the game. On most days, you won't even fight. You'll just go and talk to someone, and assist them in some way. Or you go shopping, or you study at a café.
It's very interesting to see a game focus so much on the social aspect. In modern RPGs, we see a lot of this social side of things in regards to other characters - usually companions or important NPCs (faction leaders, etc). But Persona 5 takes it to a whole new level, to the point where most of the game is about improving your character's social standing with various - often times random - people that he meets throughout Tokyo.
Now, why is this an issue? You see, there are nine playable characters in this game. And then there are numerous side characters - most of these side characters have specific arcana attached to them. This arcana is a way to identify monsters and persona that you catch. And you increase in these specific arcana, you get benefits and buffs inside the Palaces.
If you want to get all of these social links, you have to work really hard to get Personas that have all of their corresponding arcana. Plus, there is a whole other Palace called Mementos that you explore and fight mini-bosses to boost your status with the people of Tokyo. There's so much that it's overwhelming, and often times it's hard to keep track of what you need to do.
To make a truly great game, I feel like there needs to be a level balance in the content you've produced. And Persona 5 has a lot of astounding content, but it feels like it's just packed way to full in this game. It pains me to say it, but sometimes there is such a thing as too much to do.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Now, my only real criticism with this game is the fact that it has too much content. That's not the worst thing that a game could have going for it, and other people may not feel the same as I do. Some people like to have a game where they can get lost in it - and I do enjoy those games most of the time. But by the time you're 60 hours into Persona 5, you definitely start to feel a little fatigue. I dare say you could even grow tired of it, because no matter how dynamic the game is - it can still get boring.
Everyone should play it, because it's a beautiful, beautiful game. It's story is intricate and fun, as are the characters. It just has A LOT going on.
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you'd like him to unpack, hit him up!
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