The wait for Persona 5 has felt like an eternity. Ever since Persona 4 was released in 2008, fans across the world have been eagerly awaiting the next installment into the beloved franchise. While Atlus has released its fair share of spin-offs, from an Etrian Odyssey dungeon crawler to a rhythm game, they have been mere distractions from the main course. The Japanese release was over six months ago, leaving those in the west sitting idly by as Atlus USA continued their efforts to bring the best English translation possible. After spending over a hundred and fifty hours with the game, there’s a reason why the localization team has been taking their sweet time. This is a game of immense proportions and reminiscent of the golden age of role-playing games. It contains an incredible amount of content while not sacrificing any inch of the quality in the process. After so many years of anticipation and various delays, Persona 5 is finally upon us and it’s well worth the wait.
The story of Persona 5 takes place in a modern interpretation of Tokyo, Japan where our unfortunate protagonist is relocated after a run-in with the law. This is a great setup to the plot as everyone in the school – students and teachers – will have their own concerns about the main character, some looking down on him while others are too afraid to approach. I do wish Atlus would have used this more to their advantage, though, as it never really progresses past rumors. It does factor into the main story, but the protagonist’s history feels like an afterthought once the first dungeon is complete, as he’s just considered the trouble child and it never really changes. There’s a little more to it, but the main character’s involvement in school feels far more toned down than it should have been considering his past. Regardless, this “crime” element actually ties into the main plot regarding The Phantom Thieves fairly well, as it’s about going into someone’s world and stealing something to change their ways. This might be a gangster who’s scamming kids or a fraudulent man who’s benefiting off other’s hard work.
It’s the plot and the character interactions that are the best part of Persona 5. The Shin Megami Tensei series, be it mainline or their spin-offs such as this, have never really shied away from more dreary subjects, and Persona 5 is no different. There’s heavy themes, with encounters of murder, suicide, assault, sexual assault, and blackmail, just to name a few. It really says something that combining two Persona, which is depicted as beheadings via guillotine, is far tamer than what actually happens in the story. There’s a staggering amount of content stuffed into Persona 5, as it took us a little over one hundred and thirty hours to see the credits on our first playthrough. Even then, we weren’t able to properly manage our schedules and missed out on a couple of side stories. The amount of dialogue, both voiced and unvoiced, is overwhelming, with each event better establishing the various characters and their motivations. The writing is generally extraordinarily well done, and this might have to do with vibrant cast of characters who are drastically different from one another, ensuring for a mashup of flair in every scene. The only time things ever slowdown is in-between crucial deadlines, with the story itself moving at a breakneck pace, while still keeping various mysteries hidden in the background. Even then, there are a ton of activities and people to interact with in the world to keep players from feeling bored. When the credits begin to roll, there’s an immense sense of satisfaction, more so than any Persona game in the past, as things wrap up in just the perfect way.
While you’re hearing a lot of praise regarding the story, there’s one critical point needs to be brought up: Persona 5 plays things a little too by the book when it comes to the characters and their involvement in the story. For example, there’s an animal creature who’s trying to find himself, a father figure who has taken the protagonist in, a junior detective who’s investigating The Phantom Thieves, a teammate who works as a model and is even mopey when you first meet her, and your first friend in the new city is a goofball. These are just a few examples of the ideas Atlus has reused from their last game. It would have been great to mix things up a bit and go outside the boundaries of the standard plot, but what we’re left with are a number of characters who lack originality. With that said, this doesn’t mean the majority of the cast isn’t unique in their own right as plenty of party members and Confidants feel more fleshed than anyone has in the past. This might have to do with things breaking away from the school environment. If you look at the social links of past games, quite a large portion are kids attending the protagonist’s high school. Instead, Persona 5 deals with a wider array of personalities all around Tokyo. That’s not to say the school environment isn’t important, as it’s still the setting where most of the Phantom Thieves attends, but Atlus has expanded its horizon by bring players fewer stereotypical characters.
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