Well now...this should be no surprise Persona 5 is great.
As I mentioned in my first impressions, I have never played a Persona game and starting from the 5th installment wasn't something I really wanted to do. But I have heard almost nothing but good things about the series and was really curious to try the game. As it turns out Persona as a series is a lot like Final Fantasy in that while it is a series and every game has similar themes and elements, none of the stories are stictly connected. So playing number five as my first entry in the series didn't hurt my experience in playing it at all.
So for those who don't know, Persona 5 is about a band of high school 17-19ish year olds, who become a band of mystically thieves. You're like the scooby gang in another demention, but your normal punk-asses in the real world. The main story revolves are you and your friends, finding shitty people and entering the "metaverse" to steal their corrupted desires and force the people to repent for their actions.
Sounds very cartoony in premise. But Persona is a very adult game. Like very adult. But it isn't the same kind of adult that many other games try to be. While there is swearing in the game, every other fucking word isn't fuck. There is no nudity that I encountered but there are very sexual themes in the game. What Persona does, is handle adult situations in a very mature manner which I found myself very impressed by. From implied sex slavery, to child abuse, to murder, all of these things are here and handled in such a way that isn't in your face. You often have to come to the realization of what is occurring on your own. I thought it was very well done and made the drama of the story hit that much harder.
So the story is fantastic, and it better be for how long it is. I believe I finished the game somewhere in the high 80's in terms of hours.
Gameplay wise it is a very solid turn-based JRPG. It doesn't do anything to reinvent that wheel though. All the mechanics here are things we've seen before in one form or another. From the creature collecting aspect akin to something like Pokemon or Digital Devil Saga. To the elemental rock-paper-scissor-like play on combat weaknesses. It plays like a very well done mash-up of all your favorite turn-based rpgs rolled into one combat system.
Like any JRPG there are far more layers to the onion that is combat that really necessary but mastery of all of them will be required if you want to play the game on higher difficulties. For example if you hit an enemy with an attack they are weak to, they fall over. And if you can knock over all the enemies in battle in a single round, you can trigger a "hold up" scene. These hold-ups give you the option to threaten the enemies into giving you items, money, or in the pokemon-aspect joining your side. Or if you don't need any of those things, you can unleash a super attack, which is basically kicking the shit out of everyone while they're down. It's a great system because it lets you end fights very quickly once you've basically mastered in area.
Every character on your team uses a Persona for their magic attacks, but the main character can collect every enemy persona in the game. Each one has different elemental types that you can swap between on the fly during combat, which makes the main character extremely versatile, while still forcing you to choose your party wisely as the other members will have set weaknesses and strengths that you wont be able to change. (outside of gear and accessories that wont remove weaknesses but can help reduce their impact).
All together it is a great combat system, and one that I never got bored with. However I do wish there was some kind of turn order bar or something like Final Fantasy X. I often got confused when several enemies got turns, then only one of my team got a turn, before more enemies went. When you are fighting 6 identical fairies it can be hard to keep track of which one is doing what thing.
The other big aspect of the game, is doing normal shit. Yeah I'm serious. During moments of the day, or sometimes several days at a time, you will be given free time to do whatever you want. The idea behind this is to balance your time between raising your social stats, and actually training to make yourself strong for the next dungeon ahead.
So social stats come in two forms. The first being just the core stats of who your character is. You can got to a bathhouse to make yourself Charming. You can take eating challanges to make you Brave/Gutsy. You can study to give yourself Knowledge. You can care for plants to increase Caring. Or you can craft to increase your...craftability. None of these stats help you in battle, so you are probably going, "why do I want them then?"
Well that brings up the second social stat called Social Links. See you can form Social bonds with a ton of people, including your other party members. Each one of these Social Links grants you benefits. Extra abilities in battle, bonuses to things like money and experience, powering up your Persona's during fusion. Plus there is a whole chunk of backstory to each of these characters that you can only get while spending time with them. And every one of them will require you to have a certain level of one of the other stats that I mentioned above. Some need you to be caring, others need you to be crafty, etc etc.
The kicker here is...I don't think it is possible to max out your Social Link with everyone in the game one a single playthrough. You see every activity eats up a chunk of a day, or sometimes more than that. And there are only so many days in the game total. You also don't get free time everyday, as you are required to do main missions and dungeons during some of these days. Which means you need to plan out how you want to proceed, and what stats you want to push, what social links you want to make.
The game becomes a interesting mix of JRPG and character/time management, and it's beautiful. It works.
Not to mention the cell shaded graphics add a crazy cool style to everything in the game. If you asked me to describe Persona 5 in one word it'd be "Style". Everything from the colors, to the loading screens, to the menus, to combat, all of it just oozes style. It is fantastic.
But it isn't perfect. You see the game stresses very early the importance of mastering skills, and working on social links, while at the same time it limits you in doing that. The day before a big quest, the game will limit you from doing anything and say, "You've got a big day tomorrow, you should go to bed." Or sometimes it will just flat out tell you, "Hey you are tired now. Go to bed." For example crafting....I had enough materials to make like a billion lock picks, but the game only lets you make a handful at a time before going, "Hey you are tired of making this shit, go do something else like bed." Why can't I just use my materials. I always ended up stand in front of a locked chest in a dungeon, unable to open it because the game wouldn't let me make enough fucking lock-picks. Fuck you game, I can make all the lock-picks I want. Don't tell me I'm tired you son of a bitch.
Too many other situations in the game came up that felt like it was limiting me in what I could do. Special circumstances felt like they just restricted my progress and I didn't like that at all. There were a lot of times during the game where I was yelling at the screen, "If you were gonna force me to go to bed, why didn't you just send me to bed automatically you fucking game?"
The splash screen tells you to take your time, like it's taunting you. Yes, you can take your time to an extent....you also can't really take your time. Everything you do is a sacrifice. Upping your HP by training comes at the cost of every other stat you could be leveling. It almost requires you to take notes on what the best days to go certain places to maximize the use of things. Like go to the bath house on Tuesdays for the extra bonus charm. Go to the burger place on Friday for the challenge. And so on.
Luckily there is a new game + option, which allows you to play the game again, with all your time required stats, allowing you to start with more points in things which will let you talk to people sooner, and focus on leveling the things you missed the first time around. That is of course, if you care enough to want to play an 80+ hour story again.
Persona 5 was great, but I don't know if it is 160+ hours great. It seems like an artificial limiter on your experience, which I never like.
Overall though, Persona 5 is a fantastic experience. So much so, that I went and bought Persona 4 Golden for the Vita so I could experience another Persona game.
The sound track is great, the voice acting is good, the gameplay is fun, the story is fantastic. Guys Persona 5 is a 9/10 and will EASILY be in my top 10 games of 2017 list. If you like JRPG's, go get this game.