Persona is definitely the little series that could! For an otherworldly game that dealt with hellish creatures and mind manipulation, it was a surprisingly heartfelt and relatable story for gamers worldwide. Each Persona game can be considered a standalone title, meaning you can jump in at any time. The cast and setting may be different with every release, but these titles are tied together by the overarching coming-of-age theme as adolescents struggle with their emotional issues and demonic invasion. Shin Megami Tensei’s spin-off grew into such popularity that it eventually overshadowed the core game. (We’ll have to wait for SMT’s Nintendo Switch debut to see if it will reclaim its throne.)
The latest game, Persona 5, follows a group of delinquent students that reform corrupt individuals by stealing their hearts (as cheesy as it sounds, it’s actually more like taking their core of evil) and brainwashing, er, reforming them so they’ll confess their crimes. It’s a mix of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, The World Ends With You, and maybe a little bit of a heist film and a dash of A Clockwork Orange.
Persona 5 follows almost a decade after P4, which was released back in 2008. Let’s find out if P5 is worth the wait.
Persona 5: looks like a graphic designer’s wet dream. The characters are drawn with thick outlines and cel-shaded, the menus have a western pop art feel to them, and dialogue is presented in manga style. Everything is deliberate and visually stimulating, from the iridescent footprints when running in the dungeon to the three-second animation on the loading screen noting change in scenery.
The game deals with heavy themes of bullying, sexual harassment, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, depression, and...it’s a long list. It may be triggering for some players, but characters in the game discuss these sensitive topics with the tact and seriousness it deserves.
The Mind Palace
The Palace is a cognitive construct, where its owner has hidden his/her darkest desires. The level design for such a structure is more detailed and complex than any dungeon featured in past games, offering a lot more puzzles and activities. This marriage of story and design allows players to uncover details about the opponent through visual cues found while exploring the area. No need for overbearing exposition that we’ll just skip through anyway.
Every major mission involving a Palace requires the player to meet the objectives by a certain deadline. So if you’re a notorious level-grinder, easily distracted, or have the shittiest time management skills, you’re gonna have a bad time. The in-game days advance pretty quickly (especially if you sleep a lot) so you’re going to have to juggle school, friendships, dates, and dungeon crawling. You know, just like in real life.
High Key Reppin’ The Culture
Yes, it’s mostly a fantasy game, but it’s deeply rooted in Japanese culture (it's set in Tokyo, after all) so there may be some nuances that may get lost in translation if you’re not familiar with the customs or a non-anime fan. The English translation surprisingly preserves honorifics like “-kun” and “-san” when addressing characters. You can ever hear an NPC character say “senpai.”
Once More With Feels
Feel like you’ve missed a few side hustles or unlockables? New Game Plus gives you access to more summons and tougher boss battles while retaining all your swag (Skill Cards, Confidant Gifts, equipment, armor, and so on) from the first run. You also get to keep your hard-earned cash from the previous play so you can satisfy your completionist urges while still rolling in the yen. And a recent DLC unlocks swimsuits for the P5 peeps for FREE—just in time for the summer.
Staying Woke In HD
Persona 5’s themes of avoiding apathy and standing up to the man are relevant now more than ever. The game doesn’t glorify rebellion (although the Persona outfits are hella cool) as the game shows the difficulty that the main characters go through when dealing with corrupt authority and indifferent adults. They experience the all-too-familiar real-life struggle of friction between the older and younger generations. This may not be the most original lesson we’ve come across, but it’s more depth than expected from a game about vanquishing demons and wearing crazy costumes. Persona 5 will resonate with gamers long after the game’s done.
In less than a month, the Person 5 battle menu screen became an online meme with the image being inserted in other fandoms. If you want to make your own version, Know Your Meme has a template.