Winter 2014. What was going on back then? The winter Olympics were happening in Sochi, Russia. That’s more like early 2014, but who cares it was still winter time. President Obama was still president, I was at a job I still kind of liked, and it was cold as fuck. But you know what else was supposed to happen? The release of Persona 5!
Long story short, Persona 5 is one of, if not the most stylish games I’ve played. Not only that, it’s my favorite game of this generation, surpassing Witcher 3 which previously held that honor for me. The Phantom Thieves connected with me in a way I didn’t think a game about kids in high school would. This is a tale about more than just high school life. It’s about flipping the bird to THE MAN, being the change you want to see in the world and even some politics.
I was a big fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series. The thought of playing these dark ass games as a young teen appealed to me for some reason. It started with Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, which came out in 2004 in North America for the PlayStation 2. Dungeon crawling, post-apocalyptic Tokyo and demon negotiations? Yes, I’m here for it. However, being that I had no job, and was about I think 13 years old, I couldn’t get anyone to buy it for me. Bummer? Yes. This was in the age before streaming, before Let’s Plays and all that shit. I was out of luck. The only thing I could do was read about it and love it from afar.
Fast forward to about 2012. I’m out of college, working at a big box gaming store and I had the perfect opportunity to get a PlayStation Vita so I could play Persona 4 Golden. I was hooked. I love JRPGs (What are JRPGs you ask? Japanese Role Playing Games). and Persona 4 was everything I wanted in a JRPG. I played the shit out of it until 2013 when Persona 5 was announced and scheduled to be released in the winter of 2014. And then I waited. And waited. Until Valentines Day 2017. Was it worth it? Short answer: Fuck Yes.
High school is a place that can grow and mold you. For some, it’s a place of pleasant memories, first loves, and good friends. (2 out of 3 ain’t so bad). In the Persona series, you play as a high school student who has to juggle a social life, school life with saving the country of Japan. Each day you’re given the choice of what to do. Should you go straight to the palace? Should you try to build your social link in an effort to get a bae? Or should you be a good high school student and study your ass off for exams? Through your choices, you build your confidant’s level, previously known as social links, which is the way the game measures the strength of your relationships. Your social links are a vital part of the game, as they give you access to stronger persona fusions, cool team perks and more.
I mentioned it earlier, but it needs to be said again: this is one stylish game. From the menus to the UI, to the Phantom Thieves’ outfits, to the music, there’s so much style exuding from this game. There’s rarely any loading screens, and even when there are loading moments there’s a spinning avatar of Akira (the protagonist) with the phrase “Take Your Time” below it. And if it’s a scene that has you and your bae, then there are floating hearts around it. Small touches like that make this game the stylish devil it is.
I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without talking about the amazing soundtrack. Shoji Meguro is the main composer, and he’s done the soundtrack for the Persona series. By far, this is his best work. There were moments where I would just stand in one spot so I could just jam out for a brief moment to the songs. I’m a big vinyl record collector, and I loved the soundtrack so much that I bought iam8bit’s deluxe edition of the soundtrack, but who knows when I’ll get it. My personal favorite song from the 100+ song soundtrack would have to be Alleycat, but Whims of Fate would be a very close second.
If you’ve played any of the Shin Megami games then you’ll be familiar with the battle system. Or any JRPG. If not, I’ll tell you what you’re getting into. It’s a turn based RPG, in which your team takes turns attacking your foe. There are all sorts of nuances going on in battle, such as knowing your opponent’s weakness and making sure that you’re not weak to its strengths. Once Akira dies, the game is over, and late in the game a couple of hits from someone that has that advantage on you and it’s all over. Happened to me sooo many times. When you attack an enemy’s weakness and they’re the last one remaining, you then get to hold them up at gunpoint. Here, you can get them to join your cause, give you more money or an item, or you can just All-Out attack them. This is a cool concept because it brings the demon negotiations from Persona’s parent series.
The dungeon crawling in the game is some of the best in series. You’re a team of thieves, so rather than having “traditional” dungeons, you’re performing heists. Cause what’s a phantom thief without a heist or two under their belt? You’ll make your way through banks, casinos, school and more. Alongside these dungeons, you have the giant super dungeon called Mementos. Here you’ll fight smaller bosses and collect items and basically grind for new Personas.
If you’re a fan of a good story, good gameplay, good music, and a good time, then definitely pick up Persona 5. I will say that it has a very slow beginning as it is introducing you to all mechanics of the game, and there are a lot of mechanics. So much so that it could be overwhelming for some. If you’re one who tends to avoid games like this because of its vastness, I still recommend this game. Once you get into it, after the first 2 or so hours, everything will start clicking with you and you’ll think you’ve been playing Persona for 20 years. This has catapulted its way into my top 5 favorite games of all time I love it so much. You will too. So go play it. Take hearts.