There are very few games which I have absolute faith in. I was incredibly sceptical about both Final Fantasy XV and also The Last Guardian, which was my personal Game of the Year 2016; in fact, I was almost convinced at least one of them would be a massive train wreck. Even games like Nioh and Nier: Automata, both of which seem like they will be great, may not live up to expectations. However, I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Persona 5 will be absolutely phenomenal.
Persona 5 is a turn-based role-playing game developed by Atlus and set in modern day Tokyo. The main character is transferred to a new school after being accused for assaulting a stalker. However, he soon awakens a power: his titular Persona, a supernatural being brought to life as a manifestation of his personality and psyche. He and his friends all find themselves with Personas, and they form a vigilante group called the “Phantom Thieves” which they use to bring justice to those who deserve it.
The Persona series has an interesting history, as they are in fact spin-off games of a larger franchise. This franchise, Shin Megami Tensei, is extremely popular in Japan; the first instalment in the series was released in 1987 on the NES, and the series has only grown since then. The mainline games consist of Megami Tensei titles, and they spawned numerous spin-offs, including Devil Summoner, Digital Devil Saga, Devil Survivor and of course Persona, the largest and most successful spin-off of the franchise, which itself has spawned spin-off titles. There is little, if any, continuity between the games, though they do share certain elements such as gameplay mechanics, themes and settings.
Interestingly, Persona 5 is actually the sixth mainline entry in the Persona franchise. The first few games have not aged gracefully as Persona 3 was where the series really hit its stride and changed up its formula for the better, which continued over to Persona 4 and Persona 5. The games are an incredibly strange mix; during the day, you play as a schoolboy going about his daily life, going to school, interacting with his classmates, joining clubs and so on; but at night it becomes a dungeon crawler where you hunt down demonic creatures and battle them using your Personas. This dichotomy seems strange, but the crux is that these two parts of the game depend on each other. As the Persona is based on the main character’s psyche, then by forging bonds and relations with other people you increase the potential of your Persona and can unlock new Personas. Every activity you do, be it interacting with friends, playing sports or even doing well in an exam, increases your stats and aids in the battles you will face later on.
Despite Persona 3, 4 and 5 sharing so many qualities, Atlus manages to make all three games feel incredibly different. All three games have their own distinctive colour; blue in Persona 3, yellow in 4 and red in 5. These colours set the mood and main theme of the entire game; Persona 3 is extremely dark and moody, as its main theme is death and rebirth; Persona 4 on the other hand is joyful and its main theme is acceptance. Persona 5 seems to be full of anger; its main theme is being freed from the shackles of society, and this is the driving force behind its main character.
Persona 5 is also oozing with style; every animation, menu and speech bubble has flair and a single unique aesthetic that looks absolutely gorgeous. The are no walls of text; everything pops and even the most mundane things, like the battle results screen, suddenly becomes very exciting. The gameplay remains solid with a traditional turn-based combat system; enemies can be knocked down by exploiting their weaknesses, and if all enemies are knocked down, characters become able to perform ‘All-Out Attacks’, though now you can also convince other enemies to join you as a Persona.
Persona 5 is a huge leap forward for the series, especially given that the previous instalment was on the PS2. Despite the long wait and subsequent delay, it is finally launching in the west on the 4th of April 2017. The Japanese reviews are extremely positive, and I cannot wait for its release worldwide.