By Jimmy H.
Rating: 4.5/5 Hands
If you’ve ever been on the “video game” side of the internet, you know that Nintendo fans can, will, and even have gotten excited over so little as literal cardboard, as long as it has the Nintendo logo on it anyways. So, being an avid nintendo fan myself, I was beyond excited to see Joker from Persona 5 being added as DLC to my favorite video game perhaps ever: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. I was over-the-moon excited to see the first character to be added post-release, even though I had never so much as gave a passing thought to any of the Persona titles, and had never heard of Joker before. This big news however did inspire me to pick up Persona 5 for the Playstation 3 so I can get to know the new character before he comes out in Smash.
If you don’t know anything about Persona, you’re on the same page I was. So basically, it’s a crossbreed between a slice-of-life visual-novel, and a turn-by-turn dungeon-crawler RPG. You spend half of the game managing your life as a high schooler. Making friends, studying, balancing part time jobs, having hobbies, and making friends. I say making friends twice, because everything else is just a means to make more friends. Some friends require you have high knowledge, so you spend time studying. Some need high guts, so you should watch scary movies and slug some home-runs at the batting cages, so on so forth. The game is on a strict calander that gives you only 2 activities per day, and some can only be done at certain times, or days of the week. Time is limited, so you have to choose wisely, because you won’t be able to make friends with everyone on your first run. These friends you get give you invaluable abilities to use in the “metaverse,” the dungeon part of the game.
In the metaverse, you travel through maze-like dungeons filled with puzzles and enemies. The combat is pretty basic turn-by-turn, but with a gimmick called “1 More!” where if you hit an enemy with their elemental weakness, you get to make another turn, or pass the baton to a party member to give them an extra turn and a nice damage bonus. This system is incredibly gratifying, but beware, the enemies can make use of this system against you too! Lastly, there is a pokemon-like aspect, that every enemy can be captured and turned into a tool for you to use, allowing you to switch between them on the fly, and combine them to reach new heights of strength.
The plot is pretty in depth, spanning over 100 hours of gameplay to beat the game. It feels like you’re playing an anime series, complete with filler too. You take the role of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, and can enter the distorted psyche of evil criminals, abusers, and other “bad people” to “steal their hearts” and make them feel guilt and regret for their actions, turning themselves in. However, a lot of people see this means of changing people’s hearts to be morally gray, and very dangerous, putting the Phantom Thieves in hot water. Not to mention rumors of another with your power going around using it for evil. Between all this balancing with your team’s normal high-school lives, it creates a nice narrative. The characters are all unique and lovable too.
As a player, you feel like a mastermind, doing what may seem monotonous to others, but to you is a whole spiderweb of options to run across. Choosing where to go on what day, who to hang out with, making sure to leave enough calendar days to go in and out of the dungeons, so on. When you’re in the dungeons, you grow familiar with the enemies and their weaknesses, being able to utilize “1 More!” to wipe entire fights in nearly one turn. It’s very rewarding. Though, this is a good transition into the downsides of this game.
Much like the game’s story takes place inside the heads of the characters, the gameplay often exists just in your own head. Choosing when to study and when to sleep, and wiping enemy fights in nearly 1 turn every time can be incredibly boring to anyone watching, making this game one of the worst games to play with friends nearby. They don’t see the lightspeed mental processes going on in your head, and just see “Oh wow … he/she’s studying today. Oh, there’s fight number 13 that he/she beat in one turn.” So if you’re someone who enjoys watching Let’s Plays of games, this won’t be for you. Another issue is the time sink, it’s average 100 hours to complete, and sometimes you can go 4 whole hours without much of anything important happening. Also, some of the characters go through amazing arcs and change dynamically with the story, but others clearly we’re not given as much love with their writing. Some of the game’s comedy can fall a bit flat too, and there are some localization issues that really show this game was meant for a japanese audience first, and remind us we’re just getting a translation.
Aside from that however, I think Persona 5 was a blast, and definitely worth playing. I can look over a few issues for 100 hours of fun. I would recommend this game to anyone with some patience, and maybe some experience with JRPGs.
I went into this game just expecting to get some background to Joker, so when I’m playing him in Smash Bros. I can say “Oh! I know that attack!” Though I came out of Persona 5 with much more. It was a very memorable experience, and I have every intention of going back and playing it’s New Game+, and reliving the whole thing.