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Persona 5: Review

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ScottyMcGee
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Persona 5: Review

Post by ScottyMcGee » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:19 am

Okay, disclaimer: since the site bitches about my giant word count in a single post since I write A LOT - I'm chopped up this review into 3 parts. This first post is general stuff then the second post talks about story and gameplay, and the third post is about music, graphics and the wrap up.

Oh man, I miss the blog spot now in the old forum. Used to post my reviews there. But anyway.

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HI!

I very rarely write a review for a hot, fresh new video game. This became an exception because I finished it relatively quickly compared to most new video games I buy, and because how immersive the experience was. By now many of you have seen or heard one of the biggest crazes in video games – Persona 5. The last main installment of the Persona series was Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, released way back in 2008 for the PlayStation 2. As such, fans of the series have waited a long time (nearly 10 years) for another Persona game. Atlus officially announced Persona 5 way back in 2013 and was set to be released in 2014. Due to the usual setbacks with grandiose projects, it wasn’t released until September 2016 in Japan and April 2017 in the rest of the world. People waited and waited and oh boy – did Atlus deliver or what?This review will go over so many things, but more importantly, I will write it as though you know nothing about the series like I did when I started Persona 5. I first heard about it last year when I went on vacation to California, and my friend Carlos told me allllll about it.


Personal Background:


I grew up in high school reading and watching plenty of gentleman-thief fiction. It started with the anime Lupin the Third and I worked my way through books like The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, then The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCully, and novels starring The Saint, created by Leslie Charteris. Lupin the Third particularly remains a fond teenage memory growing up.

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It was the first anime that I really got into. It was a mix between James Bond and Bugs Bunny. I then learned that Lupin the Third and some of its characters were drawn from earlier characters. Lupin is called “the Third’ because he claims to be the grandson of Arséne Lupin, a character written by French author Maurice Leblanc.
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Maurice meant to write Arséne Lupin as crime’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. Arséne wasn’t villainous though. He stole for the sake of the thrill and never from the innocent. But he didn’t quite give to the poor like a Robin Hood – he stole from the rich who didn’t take good care of their precious collections, believing only he truly knew how to take care of them. Other times he did steal to teach some creep or idiot a lesson.

Persona 5 ties into Leblanc’s long-forgotten creation. The character manages to survive today only through the form of the anime Lupin the Third. The entire cast of Persona 5 is a group of persecuted teenage outcasts fighting back the system and stealing people’s “hearts”. They do so with jazzy, funky riffs in the background and wearing masks like in a masquerade ball. You have no idea how much I enjoyed the aesthetic of this game, and when they make the Leblanc references early on, I practically fangirled.

What is Persona about?


Long story short – Carl Jung.
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That handsome nerd right there.

The series takes Carl Jung’s work (collective unconsciousness, archetypes, shadows, etc.) and puts them into a weird blend of speculative/science fiction. Like Final Fantasy, each Persona game is set in its own world with its own story and rules. Some common elements include the teenage protagonists, balancing high school life, the metaphysical creatures known as “personas”, and amazing music that you keep replaying on YouTube and hope to find a copy of somewhere online to torrent or rip. Persona the series is itself a spin-off of a larger video game series called Shin Megami Tensei. The latter is more focused on the concept of computer programs created to summon demons. That same technology is more or less referenced in Persona but the focus is more on the personas.

I went further down the rabbit hole and found that Shin Megami Tensei is actually based off a novel from way back in 1986 called Digital Devil Story: Goddess Reincarnation by Aya Nish-itani. (I added a dash because VGF censored it thinking I was using the curse word lmao)

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It's about a high school student who was beat up and takes his revenge by....using....his computer program that can summon demons. I know. It's anime ****. You just roll with it. From what I've read and heard about it, it's pretty much what you'd expect from a trashy late '80's horror sci-fi novel.

So with all that background stuff out of the way, let’s get on with the video game review.
Last edited by ScottyMcGee on Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Persona 5: Review

Post by ScottyMcGee » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:08 am

Story:

I'm not going to write any major spoilers, but I will talk about some minor spoilers. They come in the form about discussing some plot points and arcs in the very beginning of the game and lightly touching upon some story arcs you unveil with other characters.


First, the good stuff.

The Protagonist (you can name him whatever) starts off by getting sent to a legal guardian because he’s on probation for assault. He stopped a guy from sexually assaulting a woman in the middle of the night but the guy can pull strings and got off scot-free, placing blame on The Protagonist.

The Protagonist transfers to a new school in Shibuya, and already news of his probation and physical assault record gets spread around, so people are wary of him. The first character he meets is Ryuji, a fellow troublemaker who hates stuck up adults. The two of them bond from their experiences with **** adults and from then on a mysterious app automatically downloads to The Protagonist’s cellphone, leading them to discover the Metaverse – a realm which holds the metaphysical manifestations of the collective unconsciousness. They find a castle where their school should be and ultimately discover that Kamoshida views the school as his castle, sexually harassing students and physically abusing the volleyball and track teams. There, The Protagonist learns that in the Metaverse, you can unlock your persona - your true self. They use this power to fight back the “shadow” versions of the bad guys, like Kamoshida, in the Metaverse. They end up devoting their power to reforming society and calling themselves The Phantom Thieves.

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Right away we’re met with a sensitive, relevant issue – harassment. It’s really eerie how this game became released the same year as all the Hollywood scandals concerning harassment. It’s a strong opening – you’ve got a clear sense of unfairness going on in the world deep down you really want to see these bastards get what’s coming to them. Gets you pumped and riled up! Yeah! Screw those guys! Unlike other video game RPGs, the Persona 5 heroes don’t change the world by ramming a sword through the villain and calling it a day. The Protagonist and Ryuji discover a mysterious cat in the Metaverse called Morgana. He knows all about how the Metaverse works (mostly).

Morgana is the cutest thing around. Look at this cute f***.

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Morgana explains that distorted desires manifest in the Metaverse. Palaces exist when a person’s distortions grow too big. Here’s where it becomes a bit like the movie Inception: The heroes have to steal the “treasure” of the bad guy's Palace within the Metaverse. The “treasure” is a representation of how their distorted desires began. Once you steal that, the bad guy becomes wrought with guilt in the real world and confesses to their crimes. Every Palace works the same way – infiltrate it to find the treasure room, then send out a calling card (a true staple of the gentleman thief by the way) so that the bad guy is aware and their metaphysical treasure becomes visible inside their Palace. The heroes can't kill the Shadow version of the bad guy, or else they suffer a mental breakdown in real life and die.

So here we get into a classic debate of “What does rehabilitation mean?” and “Do the ends justify the means?”. The public becomes aware of the heroes and people argue over the ethical nature of The Phantom Thieves. I thought that they could have gone deeper into some of the conversations, more philosophical or psychological rather than always “You are bad. Suck it, loser!” But what do you expect playing a game about teenagers?

There’s an immediate failure in the story’s part though, and to me it’s the most disappointing aspect of the game.

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The opening of the game starts out with the theme of sexual harassment, right? Kamoshida is a teacher at school sexually harassing students. It’s even heavily implied he assaulted one of them. It’s a very mature theme to start out with and I love that they tackle it right away. One of the playable characters you meet in the Kamoshida storyline is Ann Takamaki. Ann is one of the students who was sexually harassed by Kamoshida. He constantly tries to force himself on her and threatens to kick out her best friend Shiho from the volleyball team if she tells anyone about his actions.

Oof. Heavy stuff. How many times have we heard that story or variations thereof?

Okay, with that in mind, let’s talk about their next target: Madarame – an old art teacher plagiarizing the works of his students. When the heroes ponder over how to meet Madarame, they find out that his student Yusuke is interested in having Ann pose nude. Ryuji immediately gets lecherous about this. No matter how you respond really, the plot has to move forward and Ann approaches Yusuke about posing nude. The nude scene never actually happens though, as Ann stalls time while the heroes sneak further into Madarame’s house. That entire situation is a serious blowback to the maturity of the first act. Here we had Ann, a student who was constantly sexually harassed, and now we joke about her posing nude when she clearly doesn’t want to. At the very least, they should have made The Protagonist say, “Yo, Ryuji, not funny. Dontcha remember what Ann just went through?”. There was no lesson learned here. All your responses lead to Ann having to pose nude for Yusuke against her will, with Ryuji getting all excited. And other gamers say no - Anne was not treated badly because she ended up owning her sexuality and getting to tell Kamoshida off. Which is true. But the point is that we’re falling into hokey perverted humor with a character who had just suffered a traumatizing experience. The writers could have easily made them approach Yusuke and by extension Madarame another way.

There’s more, although this stuff just makes my eyes roll:

So in the game, you can develop friendships in the real world with both the playable characters and secondary non-playable characters. These are called "Confidants." They start out by you making a deal with someone - you scratch my back, I scratch yours.

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Confidants with virtually any woman or girl can lead to romance. But I quickly found that every female confidant is taken as a sexual innuendo. Seriously. Each one.

Takemi is a doctor who’s got a clear kinky vibe going on. You start her confidant by agreeing to volunteer for her clinical trials while she gives you prescription drugs as items to use in battle. Takemi then starts calling you her “little guinea pig” and asks if you need an “examination.”

Makoto’s arc is about you pretending to be her boyfriend in order to go on a double-date with her friend. Makoto thinks her friend is involved with a scumbag, but her friend won’t listen to her unless she has a boyfriend.

Hifumi is a shogi player whom you can only talk to if you have a high enough level of charisma. Once you do, she clearly is stricken by your looks and whenever she wants to play shogi with you she phrases it as “I want to test a new move on you.” Really? REALLY? Is that how she words it in bed? Like, hey honey, come to bed, I want to test a new move. You know?

Futaba is a recluse who finds you to be the one person she’s able to be comfortable around, calling you a “key item” like in a video game. You help her get over her social anxiety and she runs to you all the time for help.

Then there’s your teacher – who you find out is moonlighting as a “cleaning maid” (massive air quotes) so she can pay the bills. She dresses as a maid and even calls you “master”. Like really? REALLY? I can’t–I–come on.

Maybe they were trying to be a bit like When Harry Met Sally, trying to say that every friendship with the opposite sex is secretly sexual. Or maybe it’s just Atlus doing their usual **** playing on sexual tropes. They did create the very sexually mature game Catherine – which is about a man in a long-term relationship suddenly wanting to cheat after meeting a buxom young woman.

Without spoiling anything – the ending dragged on. The home stretch of the game started out okay. I was like “Oh. Okay. This is cool.” Then it just kept going and going and one part I even got confused and made the wrong choice and got a bad ending – but my brain was fried at that point and I just was like “END. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. THIS GAME DOESN’T WANT TO ROLL THE CREDITS YET. WHY. END.” The story takes place in the course of a school year and the last part gets choppy.

My final criticism is a small bit that happens when The Protagonist goes on vacation. Two gay men approach you because they think you’re cute. They’re the only gay characters you ever see in the game and they are depicted as lecherous creeps. Because gay people, right?

Road bumps aside, the rest of the story is something we need nowadays and is relevant to our times – the hypocrisy and corruption of adults in power. Despite my annoyance with the sexual innuendos in the female storylines, they’re all fleshed out with relevant stories. A mother who lives vicariously through her daughter’s fame. A teacher who’s constantly tired trying to make do. Pharmaceutical cover-ups. Flimsy self-help teachers. Bullies at school. It’s all there and the theme still holds as you try to justify your actions in reforming society. Because what does it mean to reform society?

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Gameplay:

Persona 5 uses your typical turn-based battle system and manages to spice it up. The enemies consist of “shadows” you encounter in the Metaverse – and you can collect them if you hold them up with your guns. You have to talk to them and negotiate with them first in order to gain their trust. Then they turn into personas that you can call upon in battle. The battle system also heavily relies on exploiting an enemy’s weakness – similar to Pokémon.

Fire and water, lightning and wind - all that good ****. Once a weakness is exploited, they’re dazed, and if you daze every enemy in a battle that’s when you can hold them up with your guns and negotiate. But you have those affinities and weaknesses too – and let me tell you, it’s been a bitch at times when you get your ass handed to you. Also after exploiting a weakness, you get another turn in battle – so the enemies too can take extra turns if they **** you up. There are boss battles and mini-boss battles where you have multiple enemies with multiple affinities and weaknesses and you’re going to find yourself cursing “GODDAMMIT” – but it’s nothing horrible. You just gotta keep track. As the player, you can even “pass the baton” to another character after dazing an enemy and have them take the shot. Some abilities are strengthened after passing the baton.

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In the real world, you are The Protagonist going to school and having a normal social life. The real world activities can directly influence your abilities when going into Mementos and Palaces. Mementos and Palaces are located in the Metaverse. Whenever you want to go there, you call up your buddies and head out.

Get in loser, we’re going to Mementos.


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As a high school student, you can upgrade your social stats, which include Knowledge, Guts, Kindness, Proficiency, and Charm. Leveling up these social stats can unlock interactions with new people or access to weapons and abilities in battle. Real world activities are also about strengthening confidants. Strengthening them can unlock more abilities for both the real world and the Metaverse.

As the game progresses, you really feel the pressure of figuring out what to cram in during a single day. You have tests to take, people who want to hang out with you, money to make in order to buy items for battle. Bro night or date night? Should you try raising your kindness by watching a nice movie, or go fishing? Crap, do you hang out with Makoto or Yusuke?

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Oh.

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Oh baby…

You must take into consideration what to do and when because you always have deadlines for the next target – because something always gets complicated that calls for a deadline to change the victim’s heart.

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So – sidenote – I’m not a real city person. I love going to the city for like a day-trip or two. A weekend maybe. Vacation. But never to live there permanently. After playing this game I realized, “Man, it’s actually fun living in the city.” How influential is that? It also makes me REALLY miss school so bad – not just college – just school in general. Oh man, remember when you could just see your friends every day? This game pulls you in with lovable characters and a high school simulation that makes you actually miss going to freaking school.

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The open world feels a bit choppy though. It’s not exactly free-flowing. You look at your phone and choose a place to go and the subway transition plays. You can actually walk to the subway for some places but you fall into just using using the map on your phone to transition from here to there since it’s faster. There are many interesting nooks and crannies that are just for show. If you wander too far off, Morgana says, “Hey wait, go back. There’s nothing there.” I hate stuff like that. I’d rather it just automatically loop – like the character keeps walking and then ends up back at the entrance or something. Or maybe something funny like a brief animation where The Protagonist tries crossing a busy street and almost gets run over and he’s like “Whoops, not THAT way!” Something quick and easy like that rather than having some cat keep telling me, “No. Don’t go there.”

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Re: Persona 5: Review

Post by ScottyMcGee » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:24 am

Graphics:
Short and simple – they’re awesome. Everything about this game is aesthetically pleasing. The menu screens, the battle screen, the little animations, the art style.
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There are tiny things you end up loving about a video game. In here, there are so many that I love. I love it when you’re running through the Metaverse and The Protagonist adjusts his gloves once and a while. I love it when you land a critical hit and the character’s face cuts through the screen like in a comic book.

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I love the subtleties like when you see minor characters in public doing weird **** or you just notice them often and then you later realize what they were doing as the story or sidequest opens up. It’s easy to miss things because just like in real life there are crowds and people walking everywhere, and in that way it gets really immersive, like “Oh, what does this person have to say?”.

Music:

Probably the only video game where I seriously enjoy listening to every track. Sometimes I like a video game soundtrack but maybe I skip the menu screen music or some other bit. Everything you listen to is sublime. Everything’s got a beat. Jazz and funk and synth. Then you got the really awesome metal riffs. The funny thing is that the songs are so catchy but at the same time – and I hope it’s not just me – the Japanese singer Lyn Inaizumi kind of pronounces the English differently? As such, I’m often times trying to sing along only to realize that I have no idea what the **** she’s saying but oh! – there’s the refrain, I know that part! So I’m constantly looking up the lyrics to remember and actually hear.

Rivers in the Desert
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaIo82uT0qs

Life Will Change
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk2eUGISZpk

Conclusion:

I’ve discovered that Persona 5 seems to attract people who were never into traditional RPGs. You are never bored for any second of the game. I clocked at about 80 something hours by the end of the game, which is a bit on the longer side for RPGs but it went by fast. There’s still so much to do on your second playthrough. It’s impossible to explore everything in one playthrough.

If you’re already an RPG fan – WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

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Last but not least, my preference of the female confidants:


Everybody bickers about them. “Makoto is best girl.” Kawakami forever. No, Takemi! Here’s my list of relationship preferences from best to worst.

1. Makoto (MAKOTO IS BEST GIRL. YOU SHUT YOUR FACE.)
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2. Hifumi

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3. Takemi
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4. Kawakami

5. Chihaya

6. Futaba

7. Haru

8. Ann

9. Ohya

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