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Persona 5 impressions

Atlus' latest major RPG release

So it appears Autumn is being bypassed and we are moving swiftly into Winter with the recent weather and cold nights. Typically that can have a knock-on effect with people's mood as the days stay brighter for less and darker for longer. However there is no need to fret as there are a great number of titles available and leading up to the end of the year to keep us in good spirits and combat the chills of the upcoming cold season.

In a stroke of luck (i.e keeping my eyes daily on various online retailers/sellers) earlier this month I managed to pick up a copy of Atlus' latest major RPG release, Persona 5 (herefafter P5).

Persona 5's protagonist and leader of the Phantom Thieves

Contrasting with the countryside town setting of Persona 4, P5 sees our crow feather-haired protagonist transfer from his oringinal school to one in Aoyama, central Tokyo after an incident that is reported to the local police as an assault (though this is open to interpretation). From here the MC is thrown into a new school life whilst on probation, resulting in his guardian (cafe owner Soujiro Sakura) and new teachers treating him with heavy judgement. Perhaps as a result of fate however we are soon introduced to a smartphone app that looks like a giant red eye (or perhaps a portal) that allows our playable MC to travel to a world inside the hearts of heavily corrupt adults. It is from here that we learn more of this new world and how the MC gains his 'mask', something that bestows the power to reform the severely corrupted hearts.

If the above sounds bizarre then don't be surprised as this fits with the general themes and tone of the more recent titles in the Persona series. Playing the game sees you progress through a Japanese school year (April to March of the next year) as you gain friends and increase your social links (now called cooperations) with various individuals around central Tokyo and in the parallel world. As this takes place there are additional mysteries to uncover that develop as you progress through the year and in some cases tie into events earlier in the game. I won't spoil anything here but those with sharp eyes and a liking for detective mystery-like stories will be able to connect the dots more or less in Persona 5's central story.

Some of the cooperations you find earlier in Persona 5. Cooperations are made 
with various characters and link to different classes of tarot card

Presentation-wise developer Atlus continues to show its capability for highly polished flair here. Everything from the main characters to the dungeon settings, user interface and various persona (creatures that you capture in-game and use to fight by your side) are gorgeously presented without a glitch in sight. The music is no slouch either with series composer Shoji Meguro returning for the game's soundtrack duties. Equal parties rock, funk, acid jazz and more, Meguro has assured that for the duration the player will spend with the latest entry in the series that they will enjoy listening to the various tracks the game has to offer. Additionally the track Poem of Everyone's Soul plays once again in this game's version of the Velvet Room, this time a prison with returning character Igor being the MC's probation officer (perhaps).

He may looked crooked but Igor is integral to your journey in Persona 5

Its nice to have the change of setting in central Tokyo with famed areas such as Shibuya station square, crossing and central street, Harajuku, Akihabara and many other areas accessible through the game. The cafe the character's guardian runs is in a fictional district but takes inspiration from the real area Sangenjaya, west of Shibuya. It does a nice job of allowing players with a fondness for Japanese settings to feel both immersed and able to wander the streets of Tokyo whilst growing their character, catching persona and 'reforming' the hearts of various twisted individuals.

Quite possibly one of Tokyo's most famous
and popular locations, Shibuya Central Street

At around 50 hours in my major concerns are the volume of dialogue. Although this may be welcome for series veterans who love to soak up the world and characters presented here, sometimes it impacts the pacing of P5. Although developing the characters, setting and story are both welcome and necessary, sometimes what needs to be said can be in 30 words, not 300. It feels somewhat like the dialogue was written sometimes to give the voice actors (who all commit to their roles) a lengthier recording session rather than serve the game's story progression. That said, the character-specific stories experienced through increasing your cooperation ranks do well in fleshing out their concerns, worries and backgrounds. Its nice that these are mostly optional but tie into various benefits for strengthening the player and your squad inside of battle and around Tokyo.

Additionally, although the game's mascot character Morgana can be entertaining at times, he/she/it (the character identifies as he but the game doesn't confirm this 100%) can also be quite tiring. From a heavy amount of tutorials early in the game to commenting on almost everything, Morgana is more akin to a young child allowed to venture out with a parent for the first time. I understand that perhaps that is what Atlus is going for in P5 but even so, as soon as I had a fifth member join my party I swapped the cat-like treasure lover out for the newest addition to my group to give this love/hate mascot some time on the bench.

Love or hate him/her/it, Morgana's one of
your companions on the journey of Persona 5

Detractions aside, I'm going to continue with Persona 5. Although the issues with pacing were quite noticeable early in the game, thankfully with the tutorials out of the way and the game's flow more seemless now I can see it getting better and hope it continues in that fashion. I also intend to write a non-spoiler review for the title once I've completed it (but predict if it mirrors the length of Persona 3 rather than Persona 4 I might be in for quite a long journey with all its twists, turns and mysteries ahead).

Watch out or your rotten heart might be stolen
one day by the Phantom Thieves

If you've read this far, thank you for taking the time. Also feel free to share, like or share any thoughts you have about my early impressions of Persona 5 in the Comments section below.