The JRPG benchmark-setting Persona 5 is a very long game. So much so, that only after the investment of ninety three hours was I able to decimate its tough as nails final boss and witness the conclusion to the epic adventure. I previously wrote a piece discussing a number of Persona 5′s positive qualities, and I continue to stand by them firmly. However, said piece was written when I was still a Persona 5 newcomer, holding only a mere approximation of twenty hours of playtime to my name. So, after a further seventy three hours of heart-stealing and metaverse busting action, it’s time to discuss in greater detail the plethora of highs (and the very occasional lows) of Atlus’s latest masterpiece.
Persona 5, for better or worse, is unapologetically dialogue heavy. Approximately half of your playtime will be spent reading and hearing various morsels that the diverse cast of characters have to offer. It is fortunate then, that Persona 5 flaunts a tremendously strong and thoroughly enjoyable story (which is a rare quality, as the narratives of many games struggle to break free of the shackles of mediocrity and cliched themes). Driven by a cast of lovable misfits (from the cheekily arrogant Morgana, to the adorably shy Futaba), their personalities play off each other beautifully, and expertly carry the story through a multitude of moods, from delightfully comedic to depressingly sombre. Focusing on supernatural themes, the corruption of minds upon succumbing to dark desires, and the ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality that society’s general public sadly strives for, Persona 5′s blend of fantasy and reality creates an experience that more than justifies its wealth of dialogue. However, as fantastic as said story may be, Persona 5 still features occasional instances of flat pacing due to some “Okay, I get it, can I play the game now?” moments, following characters discussing your objectives for what feels like the hundredth time.
On the subject of small criticisms, Persona 5’s cover system is also disappointing. While its simplicity is efficient in theory, in practice it leads to many instances of your character hiding behind cover you didn’t intend, and as a result often being ambushed by an enemy. When situated in large open spaces, this is a rare occurrence, but in narrow environments that boast a significant amount of cover, this feature frequently results in frustration. One final criticism is the inability to return registered Personas within your compendium to their default level and skill set. This means that should your compendium be overflowing with Personas, boasting inherited skills that you regret applying, your only option is to fuse another version of it, re-inherit different skills, and then overwrite your old Persona with your new one. This can be time-consuming for individual Personas, and nigh impossible for your entire compendium. Fortunately, Persona 5 handles character skills more intelligently, allowing you to visit a church and relearn forgotten skills whenever you see fit. This option eliminates the element of permanence to your decisions on the subject of character skills, allowing you to easily experiment with differing abilities and tactics in battle.
While suffering from minor issues, Persona 5 still succeeds in raising the bar for other JRPGs. It excels in so many ways, offering stellar gameplay and style, an infectiously catchy soundtrack overflowing with upbeat vocals and Rhodes pianos, an engrossing story that offers no shortage of twists and surprises, and a whopping amount of value for money given its gigantic scope. All we can hope for now is that Persona 6 doesn’t take another grueling nine years to come to fruition.