The last JRPG I played and ‘COMPLETED’ was Breath Of Fire. For me, JRPGs start off interestingly enough, and then they become this long stretched out grinding, which is just you placing your healer on the back, and your tank in the front. And as I have reminded the readers of this site repeatedly, I am really short on time these days.
So the decision to play Persona 5, a game that boasts around 100 hours of game-time originated because of my last backlog game Heavy Rain. I was bored out of my mind during my time with it, and I needed one of my favorite genres (RPG) to revive my hope in video games again. I initially went on to the store to buy Original Sin 2, but then realized that it was due in August. So to tide over the time till then, I picked up Persona 5, a game that had been languishing in my collection for over 6 months. What better time to become a Phantom Thief.
A Study In Contradictions
As a video game journalist I am supposed to nitpick in otherwise entertaining games. On another note did you know that you cannot record gameplay or take Screenshots while playing Persona 5. Crazy right?
Anyways Persona 5 is all over the place.
Everything it does is near perfect. The story is great. The characters are cool. The gameplay mechanics are robust and well balanced. The Loading Times are insanely good for an RPG (I mean impressive level good). It has that sweet spot between too less and too many places to explore and it offers romantic relationships with multiple characters.
Great right? But then why is it so schizophrenic?
One day you will get 3 opportunities to work on your relationships or to hone your skills. But it could be followed by a week of pre-decided cutscenes that will have you doing nothing but going to sleep at the end of the day. Why?
Sometimes the cut-scenes are Anime and fully voiced. Other times they are in-engine but voiced. But mostly they are in-engine and not voiced. Why?
Sometimes you can rank up your relationship with other NPCs by 4-5 points in 1 week, sometimes it doesn’t rank up even after 3-4 meetings with them. Why?
The thing is Persona 5 is impossible to plan. You don’t know what the next day is going to bring. If you would be able to sit on the subway, or if you would be getting another request from the NPC to visit you if you say no right now.
You know like real life.
What makes it even more stressful, is the fact there are deadlines at play, and if you have not achieved your objectives before that time, you will legit loose the game. So given the limited opportunities before every mission, you are always 2nd guessing yourself whether you are making the right choice.
And using a guide does not help. In fact, it increases the stress level. Most guides have a very strict schedule that you need to follow to get the best out of the game. And now you know that some paths are time-bound, you are stressing about them even more. Its crazy, Right?
Thank god for the near perfect combat.
And the amazingly balanced mechanic. And then Persona 5 has the best kind of collect-a-thon going on, where you are always trying to catch the persona you are fighting. Kind of like Pokemon, but cooler.
You land into a Palace or Momentos, and you spend the next 3-4 hours loitering about defeating shadows, negotiating with personas, solving puzzles, fusing personas and discovering more powerful ones, and raising hell like its nobody’s business. Its what makes you want to power up Persona 5 as soon as you are back from office. Its what keeps you up at night. And Its what keeps you thinking about the game, even when you are cooking (True Story).
But, in a day you can either do dungeons or social, and YOU HAVE TO DO DUNGEONS AT THE START OF THE DAY.
Which means to make the best of your gameplay. You need to go as far in a dungeon as possible, and then retreat. So instead of going on daily excursions into Shadow Land, you are left with one very long adventure on a single day, in an otherwise social activity filled month, which amounts to nothing more than pressing the X button with a splattering of the arrow keys.
I am currently on my last leg of Persona 5. The best advice I can give you is that start the game with a guide, follow it to the T, and you would have the best experience. It might not be the most fun experience, but it would be the best in the way, that you will never find yourself locked out of an opportunity because of the schedule or how the game works in the background.
Having said that, Persona 5 is hands down one of the must-try experiences on the PS4. I am not sure if there is another JRPG which does a better job at representing the genre, than the Phantom Thieves’ latest caper.