Persona 5 has recently been making a bit of a comeback with Joker having been announced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This and the upcoming news from Atlus regarding Persona 5 R means that fans have been speculating and I thought this would be a great time to take a look at the original game. Released for both Playstation 3 and 4 in 2016, Persona 5 is a celebration of 20 years of the franchise. Persona itself is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei games, created as a what-if scenario that grew in popularity so much that it became its own series.
In Persona 5, you are Joker. The opening commences with a police chase and an interrogation from both the police and criminal prosecutor: Sae Niijima. When Joker is caught the player discovers the numerous crimes that Joker’s been charged with. From theft to manslaughter, your interrogation with Sae allows you to live through the events that lead to the opening of the game and the formation of the Phantom Thieves. Joker was sent to live in Yongen-Jaya as a result of defending a woman who is forced upon by a drunk man. This leads to his expulsion from his previous school and is sent to live with a stranger: Sojiro Sakura, who enrolls him at Shujin Academy.
On his first day at his new school, Joker and fellow student: Ryuji Sakamoto, are sent into the Metaverse through a mysterious app on Joker’s phone that keeps appearing no matter how often he deletes it. Upon complaining about Shujin’s corrupt PE teacher Suguru Kamoshida, they find themselves in a castle where Shujin should be which is ruled by the aforementioned teacher. This castle is a palace, a manifestation of Kamoshida’s distorted desires and his abuse towards the students which sets him as your first major enemy.
As well as the palaces that are overrun by Shadows, Joker is under certain conditions of rehabilitation by a man named Igor and his jailers: Justine and Caroline. These are the same people who installed the Metaverse Navigation App on Joker’s phone, and encourage him to capture more personas in order to become more powerful. Joker needs to gain popularity for his group of Phantom Thieves to discover the mysteries of the metaverse and change the society that they live in. After changing the hearts of their enemies, the public become more aware of the Phantom Thieves existence – this ends up leading to Joker’s team facing off against crime lords and even corrupt politicians.
Persona 5 is a linear RPG with a turn-based battle system. In order to defeat Shadows you have several ways to do so. Your Persona allows you to do battle through stronger physical attacks and magical abilities. Each Persona has a different type of magic they can use, with each of your party having one element for them. Joker is your only playable character who can use multiple Personas and therefore multiple elements. Along with these, you can use model guns as real ones in the Metaverse and with it Joker has the ability to perform hold-ups. These allow you to recruit a Persona to your party as long as you say the right things and are a strong enough level for them, it’s also a good way to gain items and money.
Palaces aren’t the only area you can fight Shadows. It’s possible to go to an area called Mementos where you are taken earlier in the story. It’s strongly encouraged to go through Mementos as you go through the Palaces in order to complete requests through the Phantom Thieves website. As you go through the game, more levels of Mementos are unlocked which is a goal of your cat-like ally: Morgana.
Living a Normal Student Life
Throughout your playthrough you’ll still have to endure classes at Shujin Academy, where you have to take tests and answer questions in class to increase your Knowledge stats. You can’t skip school or anything, as Joker is on probation in his normal life and so he tries to live life normally outside of the Metaverse. There are books you can read to increase your knowledge and occasionally other factors like locations. This means you’ll be able to explore these areas with your confidants in order to upgrade your friendship with your fellow Phantom Thieves and other allies.
You can also earn money by getting a part-time job where you can attend whenever it suits you. You need to increase your other stats to get better jobs, like increasing your charm to work in the flower shop. However, Joker can only do certain hobbies at a time, as one of the features of Persona 5 is time management. If you don’t meet the deadlines for palaces it’s a game over, so it’s encouraged that you get through them sooner rather than later. This is encouraged by how you can’t increase your relationships with your confidants when you need to defeat a Palace’s boss and for a short while afterwards as well.
New Game +
It’s difficult to complete everything in your first playthrough. You need to get to the true ending if you wish to have the benefits of your max level confidants so you won’t waste too much time on them in New Game +.
New Game + doesn’t really add or detract from your first playthrough in any way. You can still keep your money and certain items, but it will simply allow for an easier opportunity to go through the pieces that you missed. In a way, it’s a bit disappointing if you want to play the game immediately after. Even though the graphics and animation sequences are incredible, it’s hard to enjoy them so soon after completing it for the first time. The battles are made even more heart-pumping through the use of Lyn’s music in the soundtrack which perfectly suits your role as a Phantom Thief.
In my opinion, Persona 5 is an excellent tribute to the 20th anniversary of the franchise. It works brilliantly as a stand-alone game but also includes minor references to previous games which are fun little easter eggs for experienced players. The aesthetically pleasing sounds and visuals mean that it’s not a chore at all to find yourself engrossed in hundreds of hours worth of gameplay. Overall, Persona 5 is a brilliant RPG that you can expect more of with whatever plans Atlus has for their March announcements.