On paper, I shouldn’t like this game. You spend the year in a life of a Japanese high school student, managing everything from their academics, controlling their social life, getting a weekend/nighttime job for some extra cash, and of course fighting demons who occupy the shadow-filled metaverse. All of this sounds like it would lead to an uninteresting Sims rip-off mixed with battle mechanics from yesteryear.
For some background, this J-RPG from Atlus Studios was something of a breath of fresh air for me personally. I love RPG’s with a particular fondness of J-RPGs, but they often fall into a trope-heavy, cliche-ridden, fan-service vehicles. Now while this game has the things you would expect, an anthropomorphized cat-person, over-sexualized girls, and of course a transplant high school student due to circumstances out of their control. The difference being Persona 5 has incredible heart. I never played any of the previously released Persona games, and I couldn’t believe how much I LOVED this game. It’s easy to forgive the use of cliches when you spend so much time with these characters and the incredible story.
The characters get us into the strength of the game, it’s writing. There are compelling positions taken in this title. Mixed with great social commentary weaved into the story as you progress dungeon to dungeon. I’ve never played a game and as I’m going through it wishing I could have a conversation with its writer. The direction the game goes and the way they get there is incredibly unique, and maybe this applies to all of the Persona games. But the ideas that they choose to cover a range from abuse of power of a teacher, big fish in a little pond, sexual abuse from an authority figure, and artistic honesty mixed with art and commerce. All of this is just in the first 30 hours of game play.
Speaking of game play, it is easy to miss the classic feel of a turn based RPG which this game executes with so much fun and flash and has just enough depth to keep you interested. The studio has mixed in elements of Pokemon with a capture mechanic of the monsters, with a strong elemental alignment of the character which for me means different party compositions will help in various settings.
Everyone keeps saying this game is 100 hours long, and I can’t wait to see what the next 70 brings.