Review: Persona 5

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Ori­gi­nal­ly sla­ted for release in 2014, Per­so­na 5 has been a long time com­ing. While delays are not­hing new to gamers, it can some­ti­mes feel like the finis­hed pro­duct didn’t bene­fit from the extra deve­lop­ment time. In the case of Per­so­na 5 howe­ver, Atlus have clear­ly used their time wise­ly and brought us one of the best JRPGs of this genera­ti­on.

As with the pre­vious two Per­so­na games, Per­so­na 5 starts with the prot­ago­nist tra­vel­ling to their new resi­dence for the year. Unli­ke Per­so­na 4’s more wel­co­m­ing tone howe­ver, the cir­cum­s­tan­ces sur­roun­ding the main character’s move to Tokyo in P5 are much more unplea­sant. Having been fal­se­ly accu­sed of ass­ault by a power­ful poli­ti­ci­an, he is forced to stay with a rela­ti­ve who is less than hap­py with having to house a con­vic­ted cri­mi­nal. This opp­res­si­ve tone con­ti­nues on into his school life, being bran­ded an out­cast by his peers with litt­le sym­pa­thy from his school’s staff.

It’s safe to say that Per­so­na 5 isn’t one to hold it’s pun­ches, with the leng­thy sto­ry covering many serious sub­jec­ts from abu­se to black­mail. That’s not to say ear­lier ent­ries in the Per­so­na series were par­ti­cu­la­ri­ty cheer­ful, but P5 feels more rela­ta­ble in many ways in regard to the pro­blems your par­ty faces in their dai­ly lives. Even when they even­tual­ly form a group cal­led the Phan­tom Thie­ves to attempt to cor­rect society’s wrong­do­ings, their moti­va­tions for doing so are well writ­ten and tie in well with the the­me of the game.

While the wri­ting is gene­ral­ly fan­tastic, the­re are a few moments (most­ly near the start of the game) whe­re the loca­li­sa­ti­on stumb­les a litt­le. From gram­ma­ti­cal error to voi­ced lines that don’t sound qui­te right. Again, most of the­se pro­blems are non-exis­tent fur­ther on in Per­so­na 5, but it could give more atten­ti­ve play­ers a some­what nega­ti­ve first impres­si­on. Thank­ful­ly, the voice­over choices for the cast are spot on, with only one or two minor cha­rac­ters having less than stel­lar voice acting.

Intro­du­ced ear­ly on in the sto­ry is the Meta­ver­se, an alter­na­te dimen­si­on simi­lar to the TV world in Per­so­na 4. Here you will be spen­ding your time tra­ver­sing dif­fe­rent ‘Pala­ces’, are­as crea­ted from the dis­tor­ted desi­res of their hosts. P5 does away with the ran­dom dun­ge­on lay­outs of Per­so­na 3 and 4, opting ins­tead to have more focus­sed are­as with their own gim­micks and short­cuts. This does a lot to help with the repe­ti­ti­on that could be felt when going though some of the lon­ger, more repe­ti­ti­ve dun­ge­ons in pre­vious tit­les.

Being as you’re con­trol­ling a group of phan­tom thie­ves, the way you explo­re each palace has been built around this pre­mi­se. Joker, the main character’s code­na­me in the Meta­ver­se, is much more agi­le than your typi­cal RPG prot­ago­nist. He can climb around and jump lar­ge gaps, and dodge bet­ween cover to avo­id the gaze of enemies. While the cover sys­tem can be fini­cky at times, dar­ting from hiding spots to then catch an ene­my from sur­pri­se feels exci­ting.

Com­bat in Per­so­na 5 should be very fami­li­ar to fans of the series. Exploi­t­ing ene­my weak­nes­ses to get extra turns is as import as it ever was here, with a few new ele­ments being thrown in for good mea­su­re. Bor­ro­wing from the main Shin Mega­mi Tensei games, each cha­rac­ter can now use a melee wea­pon and a gun. Guns have limi­ted ammo per palace infil­tra­ti­on, but have much more varied pro­per­ties com­pa­red to melee. While guns do seem a litt­le under­powe­red until later in the game, they still add ano­t­her lay­er of stra­te­gy to encoun­ters.

Also making a return from the ear­liest Per­so­na games and main­li­ne Shin Mega­mi Tensei is the nego­tia­ti­on mecha­nic. If you exploit the weak­nes­ses of enemies, or deal enough dama­ge to them, you have the chan­ge to nego­tia­te ins­tead of finis­hing them off. This can lead to gai­ning money or items, to even unlo­cking a new per­so­na to choo­se from. The sys­tem is a litt­le bare bones, with enemies only being sor­ted into four dif­fe­rent cate­go­ries to make dia­lo­gue choices easy, but it adds a litt­le more per­so­na­li­ty to batt­les.

Over­all, the Meta­ver­se is a more inte­res­ting place to explo­re than Per­so­na 3’s Tar­tarus or the TV World in Per­so­na 4, thanks most­ly to the struc­tu­red palace lay­outs with their own set-pie­ces and visual­ly varied the­mes. The only pro­blem is that the dif­fi­cul­ty drops off a litt­le after the first dun­ge­on as you find bet­ter equip­ment and access­ories. This will likely cau­se you to clear through later pala­ces at a much quicker rate. This can be miti­ga­ted some­what by increa­sing the dif­fi­cul­ty level as you pro­gress through the game, but fans of the series should blow through the game with litt­le effort on nor­mal dif­fi­cul­ty.

Out­si­de of the Meta­ver­se you have qui­te a bit of varie­ty when it comes to activi­ties that you can do. From stu­dy­ing in the libra­ry to han­ging out with your fri­ends, you’ll rare­ly be left with not­hing to do on any given day. As more ways to spend time beco­me avail­ab­le as you pro­gress through the game, you can some­ti­mes get over­whel­med by the num­ber of opti­ons. Thank­ful­ly it rare­ly feels that you’ve was­ted time, no mat­ter what activi­ty you do, and over­all P5 feels more generous with the time you’re given com­pa­red to P4.

The soci­al link sys­tem has been rewor­ked and ren­a­med for Per­so­na 5. Now your fri­ends and acquain­tan­ces are refer­red to as con­fi­dants. As you spend time with peop­le you meet, the rank that rep­res­ents your bond with them increa­ses. This can lead to unlo­cking new abi­li­ties in the real world and the meta­ver­se. The con­fi­dants them­sel­ves are a varied bunch, from a sha­dy doc­tor to the owner of a model gun store. Each one has their own inte­res­ting sto­ries and bene­fits to game­play, ensu­ring that it doesn’t feel like a cho­re try­ing to max out all your con­fi­dants.

As is likely easi­ly noti­ce­ab­le from the screen­shots in this review, Per­so­na 5 is a sty­lish loo­king game. Fol­lo­wing on from Catherine’s ama­zing art style, the 3D models look ama­zing in moti­on. The gra­phi­cal polish is espe­ci­al­ly noti­ce­ab­le com­ing from Per­so­na 4 Gol­den, which looks incredi­b­ly dated in com­pa­ri­son. The visu­al polish extends to the menus, which are far more visual­ly inte­res­ting than anything usual­ly seen in a JRPG, or video­ga­me menus in gene­ral. The sound­track is also stel­lar, with some of the best vocal tracks of the series.


Per­so­na 5 refi­nes what made pre­vious ent­ries in the series so gre­at, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly rewor­king the wea­ker parts. This is the per­fect ent­ry point for tho­se that are new to the Per­so­na series or JRPGs in gene­ral, and ano­t­her gre­at game for fans of Atlus. Unli­ke the disap­poin­ting release of Final Fan­ta­sy XV, I can defi­ni­te­ly say that Per­so­na 5 was more than worth the wait.

Game Tit­le: Per­so­na 5

Gen­re: RPG

Release Date: 04.04.2017




This game was pro­vi­ded by the publisher for review pur­po­ses, check our review poli­cy for details.

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