2017 is already off to a great start. Resident Evil 7, Horizon Zero Dawn, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata. That list continues to get even bigger with the release of Persona 5. You can check out the sizzle/launch trailer here. I’ve spent only a couple of hours with the game, but it’s already got me invested and I want to find out what’s going to happen next. If you haven’t played a Persona game before, this is pretty accessible. It’s still got that crazy Japanese flair, the story is bat shit crazy, but it’s easy to pick up and play. To say that Persona 5 is dripping with style would be an understatement. Even the menus are cool to look at. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so blown away by presentation in a game. Everything has a certain polish you rarely see. The animated cutscenes are well done. It’s a really good looking game all around. The combat is fast paced, and the social aspects are cool from what I’ve seen. It’s painful having to write this and not be playing it.
The story picks up right in the thick of things, with you (the protagonist) running through a casino. You’re decked out in your full thieves gear, security is on to you and you’ve got to make your escape. After a quick battle, you’re apprehended by the police and taken in for questioning. How did you get into this predicament? Why did you have that outfit on? What were you doing there? The story switches between the present and the past, filling in the blanks as you play. Flashback to a year earlier. You were charged with assault for protecting a woman who was being attacked by a well known politician. Placed on probation and expelled from school, you move to Tokyo to stay with family friend Sojiro Sakura (who constantly tells you how much of a pain in the ass you are) and attend Shujin Academy during your year-long probation. It isn’t long before you go to sleep and wake up in The Velvet Room to meet good old Igor. Your phone is equipped with an app that lets you travel to different worlds. In this, they’re referred to as Palaces. On your way to your first day of school, you meet Ryuji; a foul mouthed, hilarious student that goes to Shujin Academy (who has a really bad ass pirate Persona. For those of you who haven’t played before, Personas are the physical manifestation of the characters inner psyche, that help you in battle). On your way there, you’re teleported to the “Pervert Palace”. A different realm. The “Palace” has the layout of the school but is modelled after a castle. It’s here you get a taste of the darker side of things. The gameplay consists of the social school days, and then there are these trips to the palaces, where you don your thieves gear and fight evil. There’s a gym teacher named Komashida who has a mean streak, and it’s up to you two with the help of Morgana, a talking cat you free from a cell (like I said, bat shit crazy) to get to the bottom of it. Komashida believes he runs the school, so in his mind he is the king of the castle. He even wears a crown here with some hilarious pink underwear. The castle is a reflection of his sub-conscious. The school is his to rule, and that’s reflected in this Palace. It’s really well done and I can’t wait to see what other disturbing goodies the next Palace will have in store for me. The combat is traditional turn based, like the other Personas. Battles aren’t random though. You can ambush enemies to get the jump on them, and use your Persona attacks to exploit their weaknesses. The transformation into your thieves gear to summon your Persona is particularly cool (not quite the shock as Persona 3’s gun to the head), but it looks great nonetheless. The English voice acting is well done (if you want to listen to the Japanese track with subtitles, you can download it from the PSN store) and doesn’t grate on me like I thought it would. My only complaint would be the initial trip to the school. Looking for the right subway station proved to be a bit of a hassle. It took me way longer then it should have to figure out where I needed to go. Maybe that’s just me (it most likely is me).
I’ve heard there’s multiple play throughs, which makes me eager to go back through when I’m finished and catch things I missed. I love some good old replay value. I knew Persona 5 was going to be special, I just didn’t know it was going to be THIS special. I’m really enjoying what it has to offer. What are your thoughts so far? Let me know in the comments below. – NVJ