Video Game Recommendation: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5
"The world is not as it should be. It's filled with distortion, and 'ruin' can no longer be avoided. Those who oppose fate and desire change... From time to time, they were referred to as Tricksters. You are the Trickster. Now is the time to rise against the abyss of distortion."
There are video games where the opening animation plays, and you instantly know that it is going to be a terrible or a great time. Persona 5 has the distinction of having an opening animation so good that I am certain that it was a big reason why the game sold as many copies as it did in its first month of release early last year – it’s all anime flash and rebellious, funky dancing. Luckily for the people who may buy the game based on its energy, they are fortunate to be entering in a series that is growing steadily in its cult audience, so that it is now very near to entering that so coveted Western gaming mainstream, right alongside Final Fantasy.
Persona 5 is a game that comes from a series with a reputation for breaking the boundaries of what is expected of games (see: my previous recommendation for Persona 4: Golden). They contain a great deal of depth, both in their gameplay mechanics as well as in their stories. This is especially true on the sub textual level, one which a lot of other makers of video games neglect to fully explore. That is quite literal, with the Jungian elements of the story becoming interactive.
In most cases, the series features teenage characters that are treated in a mature manner, which doesn't just mean that the characters are in stories that tend to go on the dark side of the human experience; more importantly, they are given full and sometimes quite painfully honest character arcs.
The fact that it is likely going to be my favorite Role Playing Game of last year means that pushing just how great it is is beside the point. Anything that got me to stop playing Darkest Dungeon at least deserves some attention, to be honest. If you still haven’t played this game in spite of it being the sort of thing that hits your sweet spot of character driven gameplay with a major focus on dungeon crawling and student life simulation, then I insist that you at least try it. Where else are you going to find that scratch for a niche itch, anyway?
This game has so many mechanics and contains the trappings of oh so many genres – including some that don’t actually exist, but this series, much like the Yakuza series, creates and makes work – that not only is it worthy of multiple play throughs, it is absolutely necessary to play through this already long game more than once to experience almost everything that it has to offer.
So the short answer is that if you haven’t played a Persona or a Shin Megami Tensei game before, it is not crucial to play any of the previous games before this one (because there is no connecting story between the games), but this is a great introduction to the series, re-introducing elements that haven’t been in the series since number three, at least. This includes the use of very helpful guns and the interesting mechanic of being able to talk to monsters to recruit them to your protagonist, Joker’s, side. Which leads to bizarre moments in the middle of battle where you have to figure out what you want to take from a captured shadow as well as what the best way to speak to this particular personality would yield the best results. Cue trying to figure out how best to get a child-minded monster to trust you or how to make an ultra-masculine monster get chummy with you - during a hold-up.
The question is, is this game worth spending a ridiculously long amount of time with? The answer that I would give for either longtime fans or people who've enjoyed previous Persona titles is that while this game performs above and beyond for the woefully underutilized genre Atlus have made for themselves, Persona 4 just performs better. It is especially the Playstation Vita remake, Persona 4: Golden, that shines as the reigning best of the series in my opinion. But, wow, does Persona 5 only just fail to rise to the high standard that its predecessor set for it.
So I recommend playing it immediately. And preparing yourself for at least a hundred hour journey.
Kayla loves all things weird, wonderful, and macabre. Her soul’s in writing, and her hobbies include gaming, watching movies and television shows, reading anything and everything. Her black cat’s TOTALLY, 100%, not evil.