I just recently completed Persona 5 and needless to say I am extremely satisfied and impressed by the amount of work that has been put into the game by Atlus. When I was completing it though, I had heard some complaints about the game on the lines of “Persona 5 is Too Long” and while it indeed is quite ‘long’, I would like to address some of the reasons why the length is appropriate and what may cause people to have a not so positive outlook on the game for having too much content.
The Story Drip
Persona 5 has a great story, and while some do argue that Persona 4 had a more impactful story, considering this generation which has mostly been mediocre in terms of not only creating a fantasy setting but also in terms of narrative finesse, it is in my opinion the best story this gen tied on the top with Nier: Automata. It reminded me a lot about Death Note in the story department due to the dark nature of the overall plot. That whole cognitive illusion part near the end in Persona 5 (Trying to not spoil it for those who have not played it) reminded me of the Death Note exchange screw up by Teru Mikami in the manga/anime.
Now the problem with Persona 5 is not the story itself, but the story drip. The initial part of the game which includes the first 3 dungeons takes a lot of time for not so significant revelations. Each dungeon takes about 10 hours on an average if a considerable amount of side missions are done and mementos are explored. So effectively Persona 5 uses the first 30 hours to set up the majority of it’s main cast before revealing something that becomes more than just going behind evidently bad guys. I consider this part of P5 to be like One Piece. Anyone who has been following One Piece knows how long the manga has been around and it’s still not even near reaching it’s climax.
From the start of the series, there have been more questions than there have been answers and that doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. The confidants (Not all) are sort of like the non-important characters in One Piece who’s background is given just to flesh out the world. The missions of each of the confidants are diverse enough that you are always in a dilemma over whether you want to hang out with one or the other, be it- Shinya, Kawakami, Hifumi. As far as main story goes, they might not affect the main story at all, but they sure help flesh out the world and in-combat encounters.
The mid part of the game which I would consider to be the next three dungeons increase the player’s knowledge and give a background of the story to some extent. Futaba’s, Okumura’s and Sae’s dungeons reveal a lot of the lore and the player can finally start feeling that the story might be inching close to a conclusion after Okumura’s dungeon. This section takes as much time as the initial one and the dungeons are pretty straightforward, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
I would like to divide the end section of the game into two parts- Shido’s dungeon and then the rest, because Shido’s dungeon needs special mention, the reason for which I’ll be explaining in detail later. For now, let’s just say that Shido’s dungeon ties many loose ends and the story goes into full gear after his dungeon, but it has it’s own shortcomings.
In terms of story distribution, Persona 5 takes a lot of time to set up it’s world which itself may be off-putting to some and when it does pick up the the pace, Shido’s dungeon comes up at exactly the wrong time, both design and story wise.
Story drip is probably the biggest shortcoming of Persona 5 which is brought to the forefront for people who have extremely limited time and don’t know what they are getting into. I have seen a few people (Online to be specific) giving up after 20 hours saying that there is not much mystery or direction to the game having no idea about how the rest of the game pans out.
Among the Persona community, Shido’s dungeon is considered the ‘worst’ among all dungeons in the game by quite some people. My take on this side of things is that it is a well designed dungeon that has been placed at the wrong point of the story. Shido’s dungeon is when the player’s curiosity about the plot is at the peak. But the game throws the player into a dungeon which requires constant backtracking or going around in circles to solve some puzzles due to the whole transformation process. This totally kills the pacing of the game especially when the player’s mentality is to keep pushing forward and finish the story.
Going back and forth in the form of a defenseless mouse that cannot dash, surrounded with enemies is not exactly how someone would want to progress during the (story wise) most intense part of the game.
In my opinion, Shido’s palace design is great, but would have been better if it had been placed in the beginning of the game. For example Madarame’s or Kaneshiro’s palaces were fairly straightforward affairs and would have made great dungeons for the climax point of the story because the player would have been making progress without much hindrance/puzzles.
The age of getting reviews out there the second embargo lifts has not only created a generation of misjudged games who’s reviews are rushed (Remember MGSV) but also one in which game reviewers are pressurized into completing games much faster than they would like to.
In my circle of friends/acquaintances I never heard of people complaining about the length of the game. It is surprising to see that only media outlets have been complaining about it. The reason for this is clear, they are sort of inclined to complete the game within a week or month at max. This goes against the purpose of the game itself where the loading screen says “Take your time”. While I was playing it, I did marathon it for hours on end, playing about 15 hours a day sometimes and yes, if you are going to play Persona 5 like that then it might get tiring at times.
Instantaneous gratification is a huge problem in this generation and games are becoming more and more about rewarding players sometimes for as much as just starting up the game (At least in multiplayer games) and in single player games many aspects have been simplified to appeal to the masses. Persona 5 does not fall into this trap and rewards players for spending time in it’s world. Bosses are not just about grinding to a higher level and getting too OP. Spending time with confidants have various advantages which help in both world building as well as all combat scenarios.
Undoubtedly I think that Persona 5 justifies it’s length perfectly. This doesn’t by any stretch mean that it’s a perfect game. As we had said in the REVIEW of P5, it is almost impossible to consistently be great throughout the runtime of a 100 hour long game. But as it stands, Persona 5 is one of the best organically long 100 hour single player game this gen.