Persona 5 finally came out earlier this year and is —so far— one of the best-received games of the year. While 2016 was kind of a bust for games, 2017 has given us some of the best titles in years. P5 is no exception and makes a case for Game of the Year, though it’s likely a certain Nintendo title will clean house. Still, it’s one of the best JRPG’s released in a long time, and was well worth the wait and multiple delays that plagued it. The Persona games have been getting more and more popular in the West ever since the release of Persona 3 and with the success Persona 5 has had so far, that fan base will only grow.
P5 makes a case for being the best game in the series, incorporating elements of both the older and newer games into one package. It provides a solid story with some relatable characters and an intriguing plot that occasionally suffers from pacing issues. But the real attention grabber here is the game’s self-aware style. Everything from the character designs, environments, and soundtrack just ooze with it. It’s not only one of the best games of this year, but one of the best looking ones. While it has its fair share of faults, they’re dwarfed by everything the game does right. With that said, let’s take a look at the best and worst things about Persona 5.
This article might contain one or two minor SPOILERS so keep that in mind.
15 Best: Stylish UI
Prior to its release, it was pretty clear that Persona 5 would be a slick looking game. It just oozes style, from the soundtrack to the character designs and even the menus. It might seem like a pretty frivolous thing to bring up when discussing what the game does right, but presentation is a big reason as to why P5 is such a visually stimulating game. Every menu has its own little touch of character, coupled with vibrant colors, and chic designs. Whether you’re loitering around in a gun shop, buying some under the counter medication from a clinic or just negotiating with demons, the UI is impeccably done. It’s one of the many subtle details that makes Persona 5 such an engrossing title.
14 Best: Cool DLC Options
DLC is a pretty touchy subject among many gamers. Some enjoy it while others feel it’s often unnecessary. There’s no excusing a developer putting out an incomplete game and then charging players later on for missions, features, and items that should’ve been in the final product. That being said, Persona 5 avoids these issues and instead offers a ton of aesthetic options with its DLC. Most of the DLC offered consists of costume sets from previous Persona and Shin Megami Tensei titles with the accompanying BGM from those games. You can also buy some iconic Persona’s from older games for pretty cheap. If that’s not your thing then, great, no problem. After all, it’s purely optional. It won’t affect how you play the game either way, and that’s how it should be.
13 Worst: You Could’ve Watched The Trailers
From the first teaser Atlus released back in 2014 to the string of promotional videos used to market the game, the hype surrounding Persona 5 was huge. It suffered some delays both in Japan and the West, but was well worth the wait. But after playing the game, it feels as though the trailers might have given away a little too much. They didn’t necessarily spoil anything, but they did give a lot away. You get a pretty decent idea as to what’s going on in the first 3-4 dungeons just by watching all the trailers Atlus put out. That’s a pretty huge chunk of the game you can get a decent grasp of in just 10-15 minutes. Atlus obviously wanted to give their fans enough to get excited about but they could’ve been smarter with what they showed.
12 Best: Great Main Cast
Persona 5 focuses heavily on corruption in society and those affected by it. Each member of your team has their own compelling story and motivations as to why they’ve chosen to fight this corruption alongside you. It’s a somewhat cynical shift from Persona 4’s typically cheery and optimistic tone. What really sets the Persona series apart from other JRPG’s is how it gets you invested in your teammates. It allows you to interact and invest in them in ways other JRPG’s have tried to duplicate over the years, though with varying measures of success. P5’s cast is no different in this regard and provides us with one of the most sympathetic and intriguing cast of characters the series has to offer. You’ll definitely come out of playing the game with a handful of favorites, and see a considerable amount of character development from everyone once you’re done.
11 Best: Velvet Room Executions
Persona fusions have been a key gameplay mechanic in the Persona series since Persona 3. But Persona 5’s take on fusion takes it to another level. The Velvet Room now offers players a multitude of different methods to fuse, train and itemize personas. Each has their own benefits but it’s the newest additions like strengthening, training and itemizing your persona that really expand on the original concept of fusions. The way they’re presented fit in perfectly with the grim themes of the story as each option is represented by a different method of execution. Everything from the electric chair, solitary confinement, hanging and guillotine executions are on the list. It’s not all for show though, as this is hands down the deepest and most exhaustive effort the series has made in perfecting its fusion mechanic.
10 Worst: Bosses Get Less Compelling Going Forward
If you’re a newcomer to the series, one complaint you might have heard is that these games tend to take a while before they really pick-up. That was especially true in Persona 3 and to some extent Persona 4. While Persona 5 does take its time setting up the plot, it much less of a commitment early on. One thing that immediately draws you in is the bosses and the Phantom Thieves’ connections to them. It brings up a wide range of emotions and does wonders for establishing characters right off the bat. But as the game goes on, the group’s motivations for targeting individuals and inciting a change of heart become less compelling when compared to earlier targets and their connections to the main cast – with a couple of exceptions down the line.
9 Best: New Art Style for the Tarot Cards
One of the things that makes Persona so interesting is the connection to the tarot and the multitude of arcana represented in the games. Every persona belongs to one of the major arcana, and as the Fool, the main character has access to all of them. In previous entries, the tarot cards used throughout the games have varied in design – with Persona 3 and 4’s looking the most similar. But Persona 5 introduced an entirely new design and they look great. Much like the rest of the game, the new tarot cards are stylish and visually compelling – yet they have a certain air of sinisterness that really fits the tone of the game. While the design is most likely going to change for the series’ next mainline installment, these were certainly some of the more memorable in the series.
8 Best: Confidants
First established in Persona 3, social links are one of the most distinctive mechanics in the Persona series and are a big reason as to why the games have become so popular in the West over the years. The ability to interact with characters, connecting and learning more about them through various installments, allowed players to connect with characters in ways that they weren’t accustomed to. The mechanic returned in Persona 5 but instead of social links was deemed “confidants.” While it’s more or less similar to previous installments, improving your relationship with your confidants grants you various perks and bonuses that can greatly improve your experience throughout the game. Instead of just working towards the end goal of maxing out the confidant, this makes every interaction seem important – rather than just a stepping stone to a larger goal.
7 Worst: Story Kind Of Loses Momentum
As previously stated, Persona games have a reputation for being slow burners – especially starting off. On the one hand, this isn’t some 8-10 hour shooter that can afford to throw you into the action right away. These games take hours upon hours to complete and tell a story that takes place throughout the course of a year. But on the other hand, it’s natural to want to get down to business after a while – especially if the story is taking forever to set-up. Some people mind it, others don’t. While Persona 5 had a relatively short introductory period in its plot, the story quickly goes off the rails a little towards the middle of the game. The pacing just kind of spikes without warning and you’re left with a noticeable shift in quality. Ultimately Persona 5 tells a good story, but could’ve benefited from a well balanced second half.
6 Best: Shigenori Soejima’s Beautiful Character Designs
Ever since taking over the position of main character designer, Shigenori Soejima has left his mark on the Persona series. Succeeding his mentor Kazuma Kaneko, Soejima took over from Persona 3 onwards. Not only is that when the games really started to gain traction with Western audiences, but they’re also some of the most popular titles in the series, dwarfing their predecessors completely. As a result, Soejima’s designs have become a staple to many fans of the series. His work with Persona 5 is nothing short of amazing. Soejima manages to create the most visually appealing characters and perfectly captures a wide range of emotions and expressions in his work – which really benefits some of the more dramatic scenes in the game.
5 Best: Mementos
One thing you’re going to need to do a fair bit of in Persona 5 is grinding. Not too surprising seeing as this is an RPG we’re talking about. While exploring a dungeon (“palace” in the game), you can do a decent amount of leveling up by fighting your way to the boss. But here’s the catch: you can’t access a palace after you’ve defeated the residing boss. So what do you do if you want to gain a few levels in between bosses? You go to mementos. Much like Tartarus in Persona 3, Mementos consists of areas and floors which the player progresses through, descending downwards. Mementos are great for grinding but also has its fair share of treasure chests making it possible for you to get some pretty decent items in there. You can also take on requests that pit you against mini-bosses found throughout the dungeon. Defeating these bosses usually grants you a useful item or skill card and sometimes even gives you access to a new persona.
4 Worst: Dungeon Puzzles Get Kind Of Tedious
While it’s mainly a dungeon crawler, Persona 5 incorporates dating sim and puzzle elements in its gameplay as well. They’ve got the dating sim elements down pat (see “Confidants”), and the dungeon crawling was rejuvenated with the addition of stealth gameplay elements, but the puzzles kind of fall short. They’re pretty fun at first, a nice way to take a slight break from the cycles of sneaking, ambushing, and battling your enemies. But they really start to get tedious around Futaba’s dungeon. At one point in the game it just feels like they’re forcing these things down your throat to impede your progress and make the dungeon last just that much longer as a result. Having to stop and solve a puzzle every time you want to access a new area gets annoying quick, especially if you’re just looking to progress through the dungeon.
3 Best: Choice Between Japanese And English Voice Acting
Persona 5 was initially supposed to come out February 14th in North America. The fact that it was going to be coming out on Valentine’s Day and focused heavily on “stealing hearts” was no coincidence and made for a nice marketing push from Atlus USA. But alas, the game got delayed –again– and fans had to wait two more months for the game to drop. The only saving grace was that Atlus USA announced that the game’s Japanese dub would be available via download the same day it released in North America. It was something Persona fans had been asking for for a while and in the end, was a welcome addition. The Japanese dub is superb and features a number of high-profile Japanese voice actors. The English dub is great in its own right, and so players have the choice between two fantastic dubs. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
2 Best: Incredible Soundtrack
If you have to list just one good thing about Persona 5, its soundtrack should be the first thing that comes to your mind. When it comes to games, music is a crucial element in keeping the player interested as well as aiding in storytelling. Japan has given us some of the best video game soundtracks of all time, and Shoji Meguro’s work with the Persona series is among some of the best you’ll find. Persona 5 contains one of – if not the best – soundtracks in the series, focusing on a lighter, acid jazz-inspired style that mirrors the slick, cool aesthetic, and character designs in the game. If you haven’t heard it already then you’re really doing yourself a disservice. The opening is incredibly catchy, while the boss music and accompanying songs that play throughout various everyday interactions in the game are among some of the highlights to be found on this 110 track OST.
1 Worst: Forced Sleep
As you know, Persona 5 allows players to experience its story throughout the course of a year, going through everyday life and allowing them the freedom to take part in a multitude of activities. Dungeon exploring, building up confidant relationships and performing various tasks in order to increase your social stats are just some things you can do in your free time. It’s what makes Persona, Persona. There are restrictions though. Whenever visiting a dungeon, you lose the ability to go out at night and instead have to call it a day. That’s fine, it’s something you account for and plan for accordingly. But there are parts in Persona 5 where it feels like the game is just forcing you to waste time. At points in the game, Morgana forces you to go to bed, even if you didn’t go to a dungeon that day – wasting what could’ve been a productive evening. It can get annoying pretty quick, and you have to wonder if Atlus is going to fix this when they release the game’s inevitable remake a few years from now.