Persona 5 is a spin off of the Shin Megami Tensai series developed by Atlus and is a combination of Social Simulation and JRPG. It is a sequel to the other Persona games but sets up its own story. It contains established Shin Megami Tensai themes but also adds new themes to make it stand apart. Shin Megami Tensai is a very dark, violent and grim series with Xrated themes. Persona 5 is accessible to newcomers and the game helps you familiarize yourself with the Shin Megami series and there are callbacks to previous games for veteran players. The game is heavily inspired by Picaresque fiction and anime franchise Lupin The Third. The game is very long and takes place during a span of a year. It takes about 100 hours to play and explore. There are plenty of side activities as well. In the game, Japanese society is very restrictive and backwards. People are wage slaves with really no free will to think or stand up for themselves.
The game focuses on the illusion of power and the consequences of greed and selfish behavior. In Shin Megami Tensai series, Demons and the Paranormal are the main overarching themes. Morality is subjective based upon the players decisions and the stories also explore the concept of morality as well and even demons morality can be either good, bad or neutral.
At the start of Persona 5, a criminal is caught during a heist and is interrogated by prosecutor Sae Nijjima where she learns how the person became a phantom thief. The story is set in modern day Japan where corruption is deeply rooted in society and people are scared to stand up to the corrupt crooks. The main character is Ren Amamya who is framed for assault after saving a woman from a drunken man who happens to be an extremely powerful politician running to become the Prime Minister.
Ren is placed on one year probation and sent to stay over at a family friend. He attends Shujin academy and for the most part, lives a pretty regular life. Everyone around him at the school considers him to be delinquent and one slip up means he goes to jail. Periodically, Ren keeps deleting a mysterious phone app but is keeps reappearing and it seems to have something to do with his false arrest. Apparently, the phone app unlocks a mysterious other dimension and Ren along with another student Ryuji, decides to explore.
The new dimension is called the Metaverse where appearances can be deceiving. In the metaverse, they are given special powers and abilities that they normally would not have in the real world. Their “personas” awaken once their rebellious desires are unleashed and this allows them to have the advantage when fighting enemies in the metaverse.
The first target they go after is the gym teacher Kamoshida who is extremely egotistical and sexually abusive to female students to the point that one of them tried to commit suicide and had to be hospitalized. This incident triggers the start of the phantom heists. Ren and Ryuji used their new found powers to persuade Kamoshida to confess and change his wicked ways. It is the beginning of a massive “crime wave” committed by the phantom thieves to change society.
In the video game canon, the main character goes by Ren Amayiama but you can change his name and the name of your group. The Shin Megami games follow a tradition where the character rarely speaks and you are given the choice to give your character any personality. Dialogue choices are important as you need to choose what to say wisely as you can end up in serious trouble. To others the main protagonist is a reserved, quiet and shy type who provides insightful answers to problems. But as the leader of the phantom thieves, he is a thrill seeking, charismatic and flamboyant criminal who does everything in the most over the top manner possible.
The phantom thieves are all outsiders with rebellious natures and are loners with little or no friends. They come from different backgrounds and they all have reasons to rebel against society. The group targets very corrupt people from all aspects of society.
During the day, the player lives a normal life but afterschool, that’s when the player can choose to explore the darker side of the paranormal world. Nobody really suspects the phantom thieves to be anything but regular teenagers as they keep a low profile at all times especially considering the unpopular nature of the real life identities of the phantom thieves.
You can visit multiple locations in the game like Akihabara, Shibuya and Shinjinku. It is a lot more boxed in than other JRPGS like Final Fantasy XV or the more recent Yakuza games but its more focused on what you can do instead of a large empty space. The game economy is very large and there are a lot of items available for purchase. Unlike in Yakuza which had product placement, this game goes above and beyond in renaming real world brands and media entertainment.
As you are student, you have to attend school for 6 days a week. Occasionally, you are given chances to answer questions and take exams. Successfully completing them increases your knowledge skill.
You can save anywhere at anytime for most cases. You can fast travel to locations once you discover them. You can take the train go anywhere and back.
You can also invite your confidants to places like Harajuku and this slowly increases the level of trust between you and your friend. They can also invite you out as well or come over to your place to watch tv or play games with you.
The series is notable for its exploration of Jung psychology and mental health related topics. In Japanese culture, people have three faces, one you show to the world, one to your friends and the one you show to yourself. The phantom thieves go after peoples true selves and forces them to reform or else they are going to be severely punished.
Religion symbolism and concepts are extremely prevalent in the series and includes Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and mythology. Enemies and symbolism from the series comes from many different aspects from said religions. In this game, many of your personal demons that you use in combat are named after famous literary outlaws. Topics such as domestic issues, suicide,sexual misconduct, murder and death are explored.
Are the phantom thieves good or evil? Later in the game, they are caught in a situation when a target dies and public opinion turns against them. Fame has gone to their heads and they have to reset and understand that justice and not fame is their goal.
The Conspiracy is a group of various corrupt officials from the Yakuza, Legal system, Government, wealthy individuals and corporations. Their goal is to keep Japan in a state of corruption in order to attain more power and wealth by any means necessary. People in Japan are too scared of standing up or are very apathetic and are contributing to Japans societal corruption. Any form of authority be it adults, police, the legal system or the government is seen as corrupt and very and cruel especially in the eyes of teenagers.
The game also uses the Conspiracy as a symbolism for real world corruption especially in Japan. However, the game is not a social commentary that pushes any agenda or decides who is right and who is wrong. The main goal in terms of story is showing that a group of people that can stand up against power and corruption to bring social reform and work for a better society. The game also shows how powerful but ignorant and close minded old men make selfish decisions that create an imbalanced society. The phantom thieves main goal is to change the hearts of those who are corrupt in order to put an end to society’s ills and to clear the main protagonists name. Eventually, the phantom thieves learn that something beyond supernatural is behind the Conspiracy and they must stop this mysterious godlike mastermind.
Time management in the Persona series is very important. You have to balance time as a student and also as a phantom thief. There are days where you have to decide either to spend time at work or to hang out with your friends. Miscellaneous things such as returning borrowed dvds or books will result in a wait fee in most cases unless its late at night the fee is waived. Deadlines are important and if you fail to meet the deadline, then the target will succeed in their corrupt endeavors and the phantom thieves will be in serious trouble.
There are various different ways to increase your skills but it’s a slow process. In the game it is called social stats. Playing video games and reading books increases a certain stat like knowledge. You can take on part time jobs to get extra cash and to also be able to learn more information to go after mementos targets. You can even gain skills boosts depending how well you do.
Despite its dark setting and dark story and themes there is a lot of comedy in this game. The best example of the game’s twisted sense of humor is when the protagonist and Ryuji and Mishima decided to investigate a maid service and when the player orders a maid it turns out to be Kawakimi, his homeroom teacher, and she acts exactly like a maid you would see in an Otaku oriented café in Japan.
One of the best parts of the game is the graphics and art style. The character models were nicely made and everywhere you go, the stylish atmosphere is around you. The color scheme fits perfectly with the dark and dreary times in Japan but stylish and surreal in the Metaverse and this is where a lot of the stylish nature in the game shines. The cut in parts of the animation was really well drawn and each character had their own unique art cut in. The anime cutscenes by Production I.G was great.
The characters look a lot more detailed thanks to the more powerful hardware of the latest Sony consoles. The user interface was also very simple and easy to use and you can simply press any button to choose the desired command. You can fast forward the text cutscenes whenever characters are talking as introduced in Persona 4 golden. You can also set the party members actions to either support and provide back up or to heal you.
Fans of Jazz music will certainly enjoy the musical score. For a game that has a lot of content and places to go, it runs perfectly well on the Playstation consoles and the loading times were quick and there were no noticeable glitches. It even installed rather instantly when I started playing the game.
Dungeon exploring is one of the biggest highlights in the game. Each dungeon has a unique design based upon the target the phantom thieves are after. Dungeons all have their own charm, traps and unique design. They are premade for you to explore whereas mementos side missions are randomized everytime you visit which is convenient.
Puzzle solving is important in order to progress through dungeons or to find hidden items and one such way to help you is the third eye feature which highlights hidden objects in order to solve puzzles in a certain way. When you reach the end of a dungeon and find the treasure, you have to send a calling card to the target. They have to steal the treasure in order to steal the hearts to change the person. You have to wait a few in game days for the change of heart.
After that, the palace will reach 99 percent but you won’t be kicked out for being caught and this is a last chance for you to explore whatever you have missed as this is going to be it. If a dungeon reaches 99 percent before you confront the target then you will have to leave.
Enemies in the game are “Personas”, shadows that are really from the mind of someone and they serve as guards for the palace the targets live in. They are a mix of returning enemies and new enemies introduced in the game. Someplaces are going to be locked so you are going to have to look for ways to get around the area.
Stealth is heavily utilized, you can hide behind corners, crawl though vents and dodge security cameras or wire trips. You can also destroy traps to get around areas more easily. If you are detected, the security level rises and they will ambush you and they will have the upper hand in combat. Ambushing and defeating a certain number of enemies brings it down.
You can have up to 4 party members at a time and you can choose who you would like to bring at the beginning of the Metaverse location. Combat in the series uses turn based and is methodical. The series is notable for its challenging difficulty but in this game, you can choose very easy or easy mode in case you are new to the series.
Enemies have their own unique weaknesses and strengths. Each party member has their own persona, equipment and abilities they can use. The player can hold up to multiple different personas that were captured and can switch them any time in combat. You can also purchase a variety of equipment and find them during the Metaverse, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Whenever you successfully weaken an enemy, and depending on your confidant rank, you can do a baton pass where you can quickly change to another ally to deliver a critical attack. Occasionally, an ally will come to offer you support and you have a choice to accept or decline their offer and if you choose to accept, they will deliver a crippling attack to all enemies. You can use either a gun or melee weapon but the gun can’t be reloaded until you leave the Metaverse. Defeating enemies sometimes will have items dropped and winning a fight gives you extra money. After a while, you and your party members level up. You can rush through by pressing the options button so your party automatically attacks the enemies with the commands you have set in place. When an enemy is disabled or comes to beg you for mercy, you can either decide to go all out attack which delivers crippling damage to enemies, or ask for money and items or have them be your own personal demon. All out attacks are powerful attacks where all of your party members deliver multiple hits crippling or killing an enemy when they are knocked down.
You can summon personas to use special magic or physical abilities against enemies but this cost either sp or health points. Sometimes when your party members are down, there is a chance a demon could hold them hostage and you have to negotiate wisely to save them or else they could be killed. You can even gain an extra turn when you exploit an enemy weakness. You can scan for enemies’ weaknesses. In most cases, you can escape from combat.
The velvet room is hosted by a mysterious secretary named Igor and his job is to help you on your quest based on your goal. This game in particular you, are being “rehabilitated” in order to find your true self and to be free from the hypocritical rules of society. It is also where you can fuse demons through execution. There are multiple types of execution and you can unlock more as you progress. You can also register your personas in case you want to use the same demon you want to fuse again. The power of the demon depends on how high your ranking is with the confidants. Confidants side missions are one of the most notable aspects of the series.
Occasionally, you get invites from your friends to hang out with you during the day. You can choose to hang out with them depending on the amount of time you have. You can befriend other persecuted people, besides phantom thieves, to help you in your quest of completely reforming Japan. Eventually at certain points, you have to help your friends with personal issues and whenever a person gives them serious trouble, this gives you a chance to find out who that person is and change their hearts while visiting the mementos. The higher you rank the confidant, the more bonuses you can get to help you on your journey in exploring palaces or mementos like discounts or being able to craft new items.
You can purchase gifts to help speed the process along of getting closer to your friends. You can romance the female confidants depending on your choice of dialogue. Completing party member confidants upgrades the demons they are using to even more powerful variants. Mementos are side missions where you have to explore another part of the Metaverse in a subway like dimension. The Mementos represent Japans darkest desires and interests of everyone who lives there and to an extent they represent the 7 deadly sins. Here, the targets aren’t palace owners as their desires are not grand and ambitious but a bit more grounded. Weather has an effect on mementos missions; if it’s a heatwave, enemies will be burning. There is also a chance to find rare shadows in the dungeons. You can pick up items while on the road in mementos.
The controls still stay the same and you can also mow down enemies just like in the palaces. The controls were straightforward and easy to learn. There is no detection meter unlike in palaces and you can escape at any time. You can hold meetings at hideouts or safe zones in palaces or mementos to discuss the current situation and how to approach it.
The map is self-completing unlike in the palaces, if you have Futaba in your party, then one of her confidant’s abilities is completing the map in mementos. Once you reach the target in mementos, you have to defeat their shadow and you can then redeem a treasure. You are given an option on whether to continue to explore or to leave the mementos after you complete them.
As your popularity rises, the more targets you can go after and the more dangerous and deadlier the mementos are. If you stay there for too long, a grim reaper will be after you and once the chains start rattling its best to run away.
The game has a cloud save feature where you can save your progress online and share it with the rest of the world. You do not need playstation plus either. You can also access the online thieves guild to assist you with combat or answering test questions. You can craft various tools, like lockpicks to open chests with rare equipment, to help you during missions. Doing so also raises your proficiency skills to create more powerful tools. You can even visit an online blackmarket later in the game where you can purchase illegal equipment to help you on the journey. The more you purchase, the higher your rank will be and you can unlock more illegal equipment to use. New game plus is available and the amount of things to do in the game has a large amount of replay value. There are multiple endings in the game based on most of your actions.
The game has its share of odd design choices for both story and gameplay, especially the lazy English localization. The characters were pretty cliched despite their interesting thoughts and perspectives on life and the story follows a repeated formula in the Persona games. Player goes to school during the course of a year gets involved in strange paranormal events and has to save Japan.
There was also missing gaps in the story like what happened during the third semester and did Goro Akechi really die or not. Also, Makoto’s father died through mysterious circumstances and Sae’s treasure in her palace is never revealed and that was a wasted chance to shed more light into the inner workings of the conspiracy.
The dialogue was poorly translated and the script could use some improvement. Because of the script, conversations sound very awkward and unnatural. I noticed one mistranslated line “You’re such a perv Ryuji” when it was actually directed towards Yusuke. In fact, the game is riddled with many mistranslated and poorly structured lines that heavily contributes to the awkwardness of the conversation.
Characters also have a habit of pointing out the obvious and because of the wordy dialogue, it comes off as talking in circles and cluttered. The most notorious offenders are Ann and Ryuji as they vain and not too bright. This is really strange coming from SEGA as they have provided excellent translations with the Yakuza games and they were all Japanese voice acted, they were not westernized as this was meant to purely display the world and life of Japan through the Yakuza.
Most of the confidants outside the phantom thieves knew what the phantom thieves were yet waited to tell them at the last moment which removes any element of suspense. The characters make really dumb decisions and have annoying personality flaws that get in the way of making progress. Morgana was extremely annoying, whiny and greedy. He always tells you what to do and what not to do breaking the immersion. His character voice actor had a very high pitched that can easily get on your nerves.
Two characters Mika and Haru’s abusive fiancé Sugimura were both wasted chances to have their own mementos side missions. Mika was definitely a perfect choice as she was a stuck up, gold digging and very nasty to Ann and to others and she was very manipulative. She faced little consequence for scamming many other fashion models and prevented any phot shoots from happening in order to be the only available is highly illegal and yet she gets a slap in the wrist punishment.
Even with Haru’s ex fiancé leaving her alone, he is still a clear threat and is corrupt along with his powerful politically connected family. Him quietly going away from Haru’s life was not a good idea and he like all the other palace targets belong in prison.
Ryuji’s impulsive and argumentative nature often leads you and the team into unnecessary and dangerous scenarios. In Futaba’s palace, he was very aggressive instead of diplomatic with the rest of the team trying to help Futaba to open up and this led into an unnecessary boss fight that actually could have been avoided because of his childish nature pushing Futaba into defending herself.
Haru, one of the phantom thieves, was very naïve and can be easily manipulated by others. She had no real personality and was a pushover despite her being a phantom thief.
Ihchiko Ohya, another confidant had a bland personality and was just a cliched journalist type character. She also does not overcome her alcoholism and in fact seems to be heavily reliant on it to support the phantom thieves. Her over the top articles do more harm than good in the long term. Her character can be seen in other types of media and her perks system as well in the game was not really that effective. Plus, her special confidant ability really serves no purpose during your playthrough either.
Sae Nijimma Makoto’s sister is nothing but an unpleasant and self serving prosecutor. Her helping out the phantom thieves was to advance her own career rather than actual redemption and she is very smug about it. She was involved in making many false prosecutions and also involved in torture or using false evidence to put innocent people in jail. Even after the phantom thieves visited her palace, she remained egotistical and corrupt and power drunk. Plus her going away gift with her business card is not really going to be useful and her hypocritical advice not to be influenced by terrible adults as well is really ironic as both she and the protagonist have made morally bad decisions.
Dungeon exploring in the Spaceport palace was really bad as there were so many tedious puzzles and obstacles. In fact, a lot of puzzle solving in the game gets really boring and tedious. Backtracking is heavily used and there is also a really terrible status affliction hunger which reduces your attack damage. Plus, it is a lot more tedious fighting enemies because of the cheap trick skillsets they have.
Sp management in the early parts of the game is tedious as there is really not many sp recovery items early on. You can’t revisit palaces after you completed them so if you miss anything, you are going to have do everything in one shot before the deadline passes.
The games dlc microtransactions is very easily spoiler breaking and just purely cosmetic items you really don’t need in the first place and the Japanese option to select to have Japanese audio is something that should have been in the base game in the first place. Even other Japanese developed games like Fist Of The North Star Lost Paradise had that feature and it wasn’t dlc.
A free roam mode in the game, after you have beaten it, would have been really great as once you reach new game plus, everything is going to be very restrictive.
It is the most stylish, dark and edgy JRPG game I have played and I really enjoyed it.
It gets 5 stars out of 5.
I have to say this game was really incredible for my first Persona game. I am still playing a couple of other Shin Megami games like Apocalypse IV and Strange Journey Redux.
The Phantom Thieves legacy will forever remain in the world of Persona and where this series goes next besides the other persona 5 related games Scramble and Royal will be interesting to see.
I really wouldn’t recommend this game if you are one of those adults the Phantom Thieves go after or if you are a deeply religious person who can’t figure out that this is just purely entertainment, or if you can’t handle edgy games with edgy stories.