Persona 5 Review
I'm pretty late to the Persona series. This is my first and only title from the series, and I only played it last year. Usually, I play singleplayer games at one go, but I had to split this up over a couple of months. More on that later. This is a review for the original release, and not the new Royal edition.
The overall presentation of Persona 5 is elite. It's a spectacular game through out, with an arresting anime-esque art style. The music - well, this has to be the most catchy, addictive soundtrack I've ever experienced. It experiments with different genres, but at every step delivers earworms that'll stay with you months after you've finished the game. This extends to the UX design, the fonts used, every bit of Persona 5 exudes style and finesse. As with some Japanese games, there are various different presentation styles, and this can lead to some inconsistency in an otherwise marvelous presentation.
Persona 5 has two sides to it - a narrative-driven RPG, and a social simulator. You live out the most part of a year, and have to go through a couple of hundred individual days where you have social things to do. Go to school, go to a sushi bar with your friends, etc. If that sounds exhausting, it can be. Fortunately, the narrative of Persona 5 is excellent, with tons of delightful NPCs. It's an epic, sprawling urban tale that blends a picaresque tale of rebels and vigilantes with futuristic fantasy elements akin to Inception. There's surprising moments and twists throughout, with bold and unexpected narrative choices. It's filled to the brim with content.
The gameplay for the narrative RPG side also has two elements - where you're in the real world and mostly interacting with NPCs, and the Metaverse stuff where the game turns into a turn-based combat RPG. It's a solid system, though one that doesn't have enough depth for the hundreds of battles you'll likely go through.
Back in the real world, Persona 5's depiction of Tokyo is sublime. It's by no means an open world game, with several small but richly detailed hubs tied together by an elaborate metro system. The world is obviously heavily stylized, but combined with the soundscapes, music it really gives you feeling of being in modern Tokyo.
Persona 5 is an incredible package altogether, with a staggering amount of content. And this is the game's greatest strength and weakness, as I've hinted at before. Fans of the series would lap up the 100 hours or so it takes to finish the game, so this can definitely be a boon for some. For me, though, the game is filled with an insane amount of bloat. The dungeons, though really creative, can get repetitive, as can the turn-based combat. Some of the social simulator stuff can be a chore, especially having to go through it over 200 days one-at-a-time. This is why I couldn't finish this game at one go - I simply got tired of it. I imagine there's a masterful 50 hour game sitting somewhere within the 100 hours.
Still, those 50 hours are so brilliant - some of the very best gaming of this generation - that it makes it well worth the grind. In a generation I feel is full of bloated games, I hope to see ruthless editing return to gaming. Or, perhaps, there never was - maybe the previous generation simply didn't have the resources to bloat games. Either way, there's something to be said of precision and editing.