Tom Plays…Persona 5 (PS4)

This may shock and surprise you but, at least in my opinion, Persona 5 is not a Game of the Year contender. No sirree. It is in fact a contender for GAME OF THE LIFE. Seriously. Why? Well, read on for my latest Tom Plays as I take on and discuss the things I liked about Atlus’ Persona 5 game. Enjoy. (Please note; lots of spoilers in here.)

Persona 5 gained rave reviews upon its release in these Western parts of the world so it made sense to make that the next ‘Tom Plays’ on this blog. The question is, did Persona 5 live up to the hype? 

THE INTRODUCTION

The Persona series of games has been going for 20 years – I know this because during the games loading, it advertises that fact. However, despite this being the case, this was the first time I had ever played a Persona game and what an introduction to the series it has been.

Now that I’ve enjoyed this latest one in the series so much, it makes a lot of sense to look at playing previous editions of the game – would need to pick up a PS Vita to play the critically acclaimed Persona 4 Golden but seems like it’s worth doing so so that might happen in the near-future. Persona 3 is on the PSP but is very expensive but could be considered…hell, I don’t mind playing them backwards in all honesty.

What is Persona 5 then? Well, it’s a mixture of games; first and foremost, it’s a classic turn-based Japanese RPG at heart but it’s also so much more than just that. There are relationships to build with numerous “confidants” in the games’ universe, dungeons to explore and traverse and many different side-quests to do or not do; I say that because you only have a set amount of “days” between the start and finish of the game.

For the large part of the game, you get to choose what you do on each day – at least after school, in the evening and on a Sunday…they even go to school on a Saturday in Japan? That’s crazy. I’m sure there’s some laws against that kind of thing.

THE STORY.

From a storyline perspective, Persona 5 has a storyline that rarely lets up – once you’ve completed one section of it, barely any time passes before you’re onto the next bit. There are times when the action dies down to allow for school exams and holidays to take place. In fact, it’s one of those games where you have to spend the time you have wisely because it’s near-impossible to get everything the first time through – although I suppose there are guides on the internet which might prove otherwise, but where’s the fun in using one of those?

Not sure how much I want to spoil about the story in this piece – in fact I’ve started writing this up before I have even finished playing the game, so this might get very confusing to read back – so here’s a few bits about the story. Or a lot, who knows how much I plan to write.

So, you start the game off in a casino where you’re trying to escape from – the game thrusts you right into this situation and you (as the player playing the game, not the character) have no idea why you’re there and what you need to do. You’re alone but there are several other characters talking to you but, again, their identity is unknown. There’s a bit of a tutorial teaching you the basics of the game where it concerns movement and such.

Eventually you make your way out of the casino building but then you’re apprehended by the police (lots and lots of police) and then you wake up in a prison cell, being interrogated by officers and eventually getting to name your character – I went for the Japanese translation of my name, just for added authenticity (though I don’t know whether Thomas is Tomasu or Toomasu…it’s one of the two. I think?) and then that’s where the game really gets going.

Turns out his given name in Japan is Akira Kurusu…which sounds bad ass. Wish I’d have known that sooner, would have made that the name of my character.

Eventually you end up with a different character interrogating you. This woman is Sae Niijima and she is a big part of the game’s story throughout and a character you interact with a lot – for instance, with each different ‘bond’ you make with the many different characters, you are brought back to the interrogation room and Sae says a few things about the person you’ve just made a deal with.

She’s also there when major events happen in the story and helps to move it onto the next selection. I really liked that way of telling the games’ story and it certainly kept me interested as we began to piece together what happened prior to the capture of the game’s main protagonist.

I wasn’t expecting it but the game actually comes full circle – in that the opening segment you play is not even the end of the story. I ended up replaying that bit in the main game after around 50/60 hours and then there’s still a fair chunk of the game of to play afterwards.

Very clever way of presenting the story though.

In the time leading up to that part of the story, there’s so much more fit into the game – meeting with the other main characters in the game, uncovering the ‘metaworld’ full of palaces, discovering the powers of these ‘personas’ and many, many more things. Things I could likely spend a long, long time talking about…but I will try not to, otherwise this might go on forever and there’s other things I want to bring up about Persona 5.

So, you begin with meeting a mysterious man in what’s known as the ‘Velvet Room’; reading up about these, they appear in every Persona game but take on different identities in each one – for example, in Persona 5, the setting is a prison but the past have been in nightclubs, limousines and inside television sets.

The Velvet Room is a place you revisit many times along the way – either to progress the story or to create new Personas by combining 2 or more different ones into a new one. Yes, there’s a trophy for completing the whole list…and no (as of writing) I am yet to achieve this goal – though I am about two-thirds of the way through the list, which is a pretty good accomplishment.

Anyway, something happened to your character and he has had to move to Shibuya, Tokyo. There he lives in the attic of a coffee shop under the guardianship of the business owner – Sojiro Sakura. He’s a bit cold and abrasive when you first encounter him but, as the story progresses, he becomes a very useful ally and is one of the “confidants” mentioned earlier.

New city means a new school and you’re soon introduced to Shujin Academy – like previous editions of Persona, the story revolves around a group of high schoolers. None of them know they have these mysterious powers until situations arise and then they awake from within…or something like that. I’ll speak a bit more in-depth about the characters you encounter under the next heading – that could be in a hundred words, it could be after a thousand more…who knows?

Nothing goes right on anyone’s first day of school and that’s definitely the case for your character here as he and another pupil you meet along the way unknowingly end up in the metaverse version of the school – a Palace ruled by the ‘Shadow’ of the school’s PE Teacher, Suguru Kamoshida.

Things are looking bleak for our hero but then his persona awakens and takes out the bad guys. Eventually Ryuji’s also awakens and they also come across a cat called Morgana who helps them out and becomes an integral part of the team from this moment on – the interactions he has with Ryuji throughout the game were hilarious.

A couple of game days later, another character is introduced in the form of Ann Takamaki – though she’s someone you have already seen a couple of times prior to this in the game, but it’s not until then that she becomes a part of the team and you get to learn more and more about her. Or as much as you wish to do so.

So you get to the Palace of Kamoshida and these palaces are things you encounter several times in the game – all of differing size and difficulty, all with their own puzzles to solve and bosses to beat at the end before their heart is “taken” and then all is right with them in the real world and then they move onto the next target.

Over the course of the next few in-game months, different targets are acquired for differing reasons along with new compadres for the main character in the form of both those who aid your party directly and those whose assistance is in more of a supportive role. I’ll add more on the game characters in a little while.

There’s also the mysterious ‘Mementos’ that exist in the Shibuya underground rail network. As the game progresses, you learn more about the area and are able to go deeper in the further you get – in short, it’s an underground palace that is home to the distorted desires of the entire population. Those manifest into the toughest test you’re likely to face in the game…but that’s all I’ll say on that matter.

It’s not all plain sailing throughout – again, I won’t spoil things like that in here – but the main objective in each palace is to take the treasure before the deadline hits. Failure to do so ends up in the game ending (in a way, I believe from reading/seeing videos on YouTube) and having to see one of the many “Bad Endings” which the game has.

I never experienced any of these because they weren’t exactly challenging to complete in the more-than ample time you have – usually about a fortnight/3 week time span at most – is easily enough to complete them, even if you choose to do them over a few days.

I would say that’s probably the best way of tackling them because they can become a drag if you try to do them one day, especially on the first run through. In NG+, it becomes much easier with you having the same weapons you finished the game with…in fact, perhaps it’s too easy with them, but oh well.

The story is excellent, full of twists and turns throughout, and will take up a lot of your time to progress through it. My first play through of the game came in at just under 82 hours long and that was without rushing that much – have seen numerous suggestions it can take 100+ hours to complete the story once?

Going after the games ‘true ending’ definitely adds to the amount of time spent playing – rather than selecting the options to give you the rather abrupt “good ending” to the game. I’d definitely recommend that course of action, it definitely feels a much more satisfying ending to the game.

However long it takes to get to the finish, Persona 5 truly is a remarkable piece of video gaming and one which I thoroughly enjoyed playing through on (what is now) multiple occasions.

Perhaps the game is made even more so excellent by the wide array of characters you interact with along the way – that brings me on nicely to the next heading of things I want to talk about with regards to Persona 5.

THE CHARACTERS.

In Persona 5 there are A LOT of characters to interact with and have them join your group of playable, controllable characters along with a number of NPCs who you interact with, build relationships with and earn different perks.

Wondered how best to set this out so I’m going to go for a list of the characters and a few words about each one…

These are all “player characters” – as in ones you can control in battle. Each have their own unique persona (or 2, given the “second awakening” you get when reaching the MAX level of confidantness) and a side-story to follow as you spend more time with them.

Ryuji Sakamoto – Ryuji is the first guy who you meet that eventually becomes a ‘phantom thief’ alongside the main character. His confidant story basically revolves around his time at Shujin prior to our arrival where he was a star in the school’s track team and how it comes back following the whole Kamoshida incident.

Morgana – Morgana is the mysterious cat you and Ryuji meet in the games first palace. He aids your quest throughout the story, becoming a key member of the team…even though he’s a cat that only people who have been in the Metaverse can understand. His often-hostile interactions with Ryuji are a personal highlight in this game – especially with the Japanese audio on!

Ann Takamaki – Also in the first palace, your team adds its first female in the shape of Ann. Which is pronounced as ‘On’ – weird. Many of the games’ anime scenes focus on the male characters leering over her and, to be honest, they’re not alone in that. I mean, it’s not like I’ve got her as my phone wallpaper…

Yusuke Kitagawa – A former pupil of the second palace owner, Yusuke is a talented artist and the main focus of his side-story is him trying to get noticed with his artwork – the scene on the boats is hilarious. Also to add that Yusuke’s blunt humour is brilliant at times.

Makoto Niijima – Makoto’s entry into the story is perhaps the best of them all, if only for the simple fact that she has a nuclear motorbike thing for her Persona. Very cool. She’s the Student Council President at Shujin Academy and the sister of Sae Niijima (another character you get to meet in the game and get to know better) – she was tasked with identifying “the phantom thieves” but ends up becoming one herself. As you do.

Haru Okumura – Haru is the daughter of one of the Palace owners that you take down in the game. She has a rather different entrance into the game than any of the others you had met so far – not spoiling that. Her side-story was probably the least exciting one in my opinion.

Goro Akechi – Akechi is only with the Phantom Thieves for a short amount of time but is a character that pops up throughout the game on many different occasions. The “ace detective” is probably the most divisive character you come across in the game – you either love him or hate him. Me, I’m kind of on the fence…especially when you find out more about his back story and such. Again, I won’t spoil that.

The other group of characters would be best off classed as “support” characters – they don’t help you battle as such, but often provide skills that aid you in battle. Or give you nothing in return…but, hey, if you want the trophy for MAX’ing out all confidants, you’re going to have to do it one way or another.

Sae Niijima – Sae Niijima is a character who you see very early on in the game and on many occasions throughout the story – acting as a “narrator” if you will when the story is being told in the interrogation room, moving it on when necessary. Sadly there’s no option to romance her, disappointing.

Sojiro Sakura – Sojiro is the (unfortunate) café owner who houses the main character following his move to the city. At the start of the game, he’s cold towards you but that lessens through the game and eventually becomes a pretty useful ally to have.

Futaba Sakura – Futaba is a big part of the game story around mid-way through it. Her story is perhaps one of the best in the game as she goes from a “shut-in” to one of the most helpful characters in the team. She doesn’t fight but uses her hacking skills and takes over the role of ‘navigator’ from Morgana when the team visits Mementos.

Tae Takemi – Tae is the “punk” doctor that has a clinic just a few doors down from where the protagonist lives. She’s the source for “medicines” and suchlike – and, to increase her confidant level, a place where you’re her guinea pig as she tests out various medicines for a patient of hers. An interesting character.

Yuuki Mishima – Mishima, like Ann Takamaki, is a victim of the game’s first boss. Bullied by Kamoshida, he becomes obsessed with the Phantom Thieves and even starts up a ‘Phan Site’ which is where many of the Mementos missions come from – it allowed people to report those who needed their hearts changing.

Sadayo Kawakami – Kawakami is one of the many teachers at Shujin Academy. But that’s not all she does in the game…as you discover when playing it. Some of her perks for levelling up the rank are very useful, so it’s a road worth travelling down…even if the idea of dating the teacher is a tad creepy.

Toranosuke Yoshida – ‘No Good Tora’ is a politician that you encounter outside of Shibuya Station at night. He’s a politician that teaches you a lot of ‘speech’ perks to allow for easier negotiations with the shadows you come across in the game. Quite a fun little side-quest to pursue though…sadly never amounts to anything in the game’s main story though.

Ichiko Ohya – Ohya is a journalist that you first meet outside the house of the game’s second boss, Madarame. Another relatively boring character in my opinion, but one I had to progress with just to ensure that I could get the trophy. The things we do for digital accomplishments.

Chihaya Mifune – A fortune-teller in the game’s ‘Red Light District’, she cons you out of 100,000 yen for some silly stone – you need to buy it to be able to start the side-story though (spoiler; eventually you get it back.). I rarely bothered taking advantage of any of the readings she offers though.

Munehisa Iwai – One of the more ridiculous side-stories is that of Iwai, if only for the ridiculous amount of “Guts” you need to even begin it. Oh yeah, then you find out he’s a former Yakuza member…because why not? He offers discount/better upgrades for guns in the game – kind of pointless in New Game+ though as you already have pretty good weaponry to start with…but the guts aren’t as hard to obtain second time round, so at least that isn’t as time-consuming.

Hifumi Togo – Hifumi Togi is a relatively-famous shogi player that you learn about around half-way through the game. She has some very useful perks, so definitely worth progressing with – makes things later in the game much easier to escape from and whatnot. Pretty interesting story to follow as well.

Shinya Oda – I really, really disliked this squeaky-voiced kid. His skills are kind-of useful though so perhaps it’s worth persevering with. Guess the mute button exists for reasons like this.

Caroline/Justine – Sorry, that should be ‘caroleen and jew-steen’ (pronunciations, ugh). Regardless, these two are the “Prison Guards” in the mysterious Velvet Room. They are hilarious, especially with Japanese audio on. There’s also more to them than meets the eye…however it’s not until very late on in the games’ story that you find these things out.

Igor – Igor is, I believe, a mainstay of the Persona franchise. The long-nosed ‘master’ of the Velvet Room grants you different powers the further you progress in the story.

Being a male character in the game, once you get to Level 9 with any of the female characters you have the option to “romance” them – this unlocks special scenes around the holidays and Valentines Day. You can date none, one or even several of the women; the choice is simply yours.

In my original play through of the game, I was definitely thinking that Ann would be ‘the one’ for my guy but ended up going with Makoto and her alone. In the New Game+ play though I am currently on, I’ve got each and every single female up to the maximum level and am romancing all of them…at the same time. Playa!

That was only because I wanted to get the trophy for maxing out all confidants and I’m not sure you can take them past Level 9 if you don’t choose to romance them? Probably wrong and, if that’s the case, then I’ve broken Ann’s heart…and Futaba’s…and Takami’s.

All of them just in the hope for getting game trophies.

I’m a horrible person.

The characters really make Persona 5 a special game but they are not the only thing. The way the game looks is another way it hooks people in…and it didn’t take long for Persona 5 to use them to get me hooked on the game.

THE SIGHTS.

One of the first things you notice about Persona 5 is how beautiful it looks – heck, even the opening before you even get to the game’s main menu looks amazing and not like anything I’ve ever seen before in a video game. The menus are gorgeous in their design as well, everything just looks amazing.

The anime design of the characters is eye-catching and certainly adds to the game’s charm and appeal. Now they clearly weren’t going for the ultra-realistic, life-like characters like other games tend to but that’s hardly surprising because it’d look really out-of-place in the comic book-like world they’ve got Persona 5 set in.

There is a fair few animated anime sequences scattered through the game – usually involving the male characters perving over Ann Takamaki (and, really, they weren’t alone.). They did do a Persona 4 Animated Series, so I can only hope that they see fit to make a Persona 5 animated series as well – I’d definitely be tuning into that, were it to ever happen.

One thing I was completely unaware of – given that I have never been to Tokyo – was that Persona 5’s setting is actually a near-perfect replica of some of the suburbs of Tokyo. Some areas are named slightly differently but, judging by various articles on the internet comparing the real-life areas to those in the game, Atlus did a superb job in creating the places in-game. Having their offices just around the corner obviously helped matters.

So, not only does Persona 5 look fantastic but it also sounds fantastic.

THE SOUNDS

When it comes to original video game soundtracks, Final Fantasy 7 is quite possibly my most favourite of all time – just so many good songs throughout that, no matter how many times I’ve played through that game, I wouldn’t get sick and tired of hearing back and would perhaps look forward to listening to in the game. Sad, I know.

If that’s the yardmarker to all other original soundtracks, then Persona 5 perhaps comes the closest any game ever has of surpassing that mark – in fact, it might have even surpassed in some instances. A feat never accomplished before.

That might sound a bit of an over-reaction but the Persona 5 soundtrack is so, so good – from the title track that you first hear in the introduction to the game, to the insanely catchy battle theme(s) used through the game and then the background music in certain areas.

Back to the Final Fantasy 7 comparisons and I loved the battle theme in that game and all the variants of it. But, then comes Persona 5, and ‘Last Surprise’ is amazing in comparison to that. Slowly but surely I think I’m talking myself round to the fact that Persona 5 might be the best game I have ever played…YOU NEVER SAW THAT COMING.

There are many, many good tracks in the Persona 5 jukebox. The official game soundtrack stands at 110 songs – some are the same but instrumental/slightly differing versions and also 8-bit chiptune tracks from the in-game video games you can play.

Standout tracks for me are – in no particular order; Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There, Tokyo DaylightWill PowerLast Surprise, Beneath The Mask (Rain version)Life Will ChangeAria Of The Soul. I don’t have a favourite, but that last one is beautiful in every way…could listen to that for hours and not get sick of it.

I could stay here and list a good portion of the tracks from the game but then that’d add even more to this lengthy piece. TL;DR, the Persona 5 soundtrack is bloody immense. Might even be the greatest ever.

I’m definitely (because, for some strange reason, it’s not available in any of the digital stores over here?) considering creating an US iTunes account, picking up $30 of iTunes credit and then download the whole thing onto my computer. Physical versions are probably a bit much considering all I’d do is rip the tracks off of them and then leave the CD to gather dust somewhere…might be a waste of money, but I digress.

Perhaps it’s about time I wrapped this piece up, it’s gone on for a lot longer than I thought it might. It’s just passed the 4000 word mark, so that’s definitely the case.

THE CONCLUSION

This has definitely gone on a lot longer than I had anticipated. But, hell, like I did with Life is Strange, when I get so engrossed in a game and have so many good things to say about the game then these things get to be very long.

I’ll try to keep this conclusion short though.

In conclusion then, Persona 5 is a masterpiece. A superb story, an incredible cast of loveable and hateable characters, a soundtrack that is above anything ever created for a game and a game that simply looks as good as it is.

If you looked up perfection in the dictionary, Persona 5 should be amongst the definitions.

In short, if you own a Playstation 4 and have not played Persona 5 – you need to rectify this. If you already have played this game, you know exactly what I mean.

If I rated things out of 5, Persona 5 would score a 5.
If I rated things out of 10, Persona 5 would score a 10.
If I rated things out of 100, Persona 5 would score at least 98/99. Maybe even 100.

I don’t rate games like that though, so no score for Persona 5 here.

In fact, perhaps it’s too good for such things.

As far as video games go, I now have a brand new all time favourite game.

Sorry FF7, Persona 5 is my new #1 game ever.

 

 

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