Better Late Than Never, Yeah?
It took a while to get this review together. I’ll be the first to admit that the main reason why I held off on it was because I wanted to get two playthroughs and some critical distance in. It would do to make the blog entry equivalent of blowing my fangirl brains out all over you guys.
I’m about 25% short of two complete playthroughs, but I got the critical distance I needed.
Everyone and their oneesan has probably told you to play this game already. It doesn’t matter if you’re a long-time fan or new to the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona train. Since the third entry (maybe even before that), Persona is ATLUS’ answer to beasts like Square Enix’s Final Fantasy or Namco’s Tales series, therefore making it a game that everyone has to try. I’m here, saying it to you again: play this game.
I am ALSO here to tell you that we’re quite possibly seeing the end of an era. And that’s a good thing.
2017 is A Year For the Gaming History Books and Persona 5 Certainly Didn’t Disappoint.
Persona 5 is the franchise’s 20th Anniversary celebration in a game. It is, in many ways, a return to the roots of Persona. Out-edgelording Persona 4, the yellow flower child of the series, is easy. Persona 5, however, manages to go darker than Persona 3 did. If dark is your jam or if you were just looking for a change of scene, you’ll enjoy your run with the Phantom Thieves immensely.
One of this game’s strongest points is how it managed to improve Persona’s signature mechanics. The day-to-day gameplay features far more expansive opportunities for improving your Social stats. The development of your Social Links is more organic. It’s not as counter-intuitive, and still manages to provide players with a healthy challenge.
On that note, the cast of Persona 5 is fantastic. This is not to say that you’re going to love every single one of them. In fact, some of them seem like they were built to be hated. You won’t be able to deny, though, that all of them feel real. From your best bro Ryuji whose mouth is a plot device to your spineless not!friend Mishima, everyone you meet in the game is human. They are also just as used, abused, and pressured by The Man as you are.
Oh, and the music is amazing, and likely the best that Shoji Meguro has offered us yet. I mean, just listen to this thing!
Still, It Isn’t Perfect.
Ironically, in exploring the full potential of its design, Persona 5 might have written itself into a corner. The insistence on including days that will be eaten up by plot instead of turning them into venues for Social Linking or whatnot seems contrived. Furthermore, there are many parts where there’s little else for players to do beyond flip through the novel that is the game. You may say that this is a design issue in many J-RPGs. That doesn’t make it any less annoying.
They’ve streamlined combat, thrown in some new-old features, and even given Social Links tangible abilities that help things along for your party. This is great until you start to wonder where they could possibly go from here. The long and short of it is, probably nowhere. If it’s successors do not do as P5 has done, it will be seen as a step backward at worst, or an exact clone of P5 at best. I am, of course, happy to be proven wrong when Persona 6 comes out.
A Quick Note on the Localization for the Curious.
I’d like to point out that the gripes from the translation scene over Persona 5’s localization isn’t just noise. My Japanese proficiency is W33b Level, developed through two semesters’ worth of formal lessons and decades of watching anime with subs. Even I picked up on just how much was lost in translation.
This is not to say that the English VAs weren’t great. Given this game’s long development period and just how much of a milestone it is for the franchise, though, one would think that the team was ready to try harder.
The verdict: unless you understand Japanese enough to pick up on linguistic nuances, choosing which voice over to listen to is more a matter of preference than anything else. It’s just a shame to consider how much better the game could have been in English with a more elegant localization.