One of the most interesting things about critiquing art (whether it bet books, paintings, movies, or video games) is how much a person’s own personal experiences plays into their views on the piece. For instance, when I was in high school I had all the time in the world and could immerse myself in World of Warcraft. At the time, I felt it was one of the best games on the market. Nowadays, I have a job and responsibilities, so, while I still think WoW is a great game, I’m never going to view it the same because I don’t have the time to grind out the gear needed to play the game at the same level I used to.
It’s important to bring this up because its been quite a while since I could feel my own life coloring my experience with a game like I did in my Persona 5 playthrough.
See, the thing to know upfront is that Persona 5 is an incredibly long game. In fact, even before all the padding they add through text boxes (more on this later), it’s probably a 60 hour game that took me twice as long to beat for various reasons. Unfortunately for me, the game came out at the exact wrong time. I was in the middle of Horizon: Zero Dawn and was about to leave for two months of work in about three weeks. Work where I would be unable to play any games.
Now, I loved Persona 3 and 4. I played P4 through three separate times (which isn’t really a brag, as it seems quite common in the community) and enjoyed every second of it. Needless to say, I was hyped for P5 and knew that I would have to push as hard as possible to finish the game before I left so I didn’t split up my playthrough.
In doing so, I made a pretty large mistake. I put the game on the easiest setting, “Safe”. My thought process was that save points are relatively slim in Persona games (though P5 is better than past games) and dying would lose me potentially hours of time. However, if you put the game in “Safe” mode, you can’t really die. When you do, you just respawn with full health and mana, while the enemy keeps it’s current health points. Effectively, the game plays itself for you.
What I didn’t predict was how boring this would make the game. I mean, at that point it was basically just a 100-hour text adventure. I’m all for a good text adventure, but, with little to no player choice in the game, P5 was not built to be a text adventure game.
So, for me, P5 quickly became a game that I didn’t really like, but would recommend to anyone looking to get into JRPGs or just fans of video game story in general. Sure, the supporting characters are weaker than past games and dialogue does drag at times (I don’t know how many SMS exchanges I had to endure, but it was far too many)
That said, almost every aspect of the game is improved from Persona 4. It’s incredible how far along the bland level design has come. In P4, dungeons were incredibly basic, with little to no interaction. P5 takes it up a notch and includes different types of puzzles to solve that break up the sometimes long dungeon crawls. Plus, the actual dungeon layouts are much more interesting than past entries.
On top of that, this game is absolutely dripping with style. The overlays and environments are top notch. The music is out of this world great. Heck, even the menus are among the best I’ve ever seen in video games. Even the biggest JRPG haters out there would have to agree that Persona 5 looks rad.
And for JRPG fans, I thought the combat was pretty fun. Sure, it’s a pretty conventional “this element beats that one, but loses to another one” style, but I found it fun nonetheless. My biggest gripe with the battle system is Persona’s continued use of the instant-kill spells that are guaranteed to set you back an hour or more at least once a play-through. However, that’s pretty small in the grand scheme of a 100-hour campaign.
So, at the end of the day, Persona 5 was a weird game for me. On one hand, I mostly disliked my own experience with P5. On the other, this is an incredible entry point for someone looking to get into JRPGs and seems like everything longtime Persona fans were looking for. Play this game. Just don’t play it the same way I did. Give yourself plenty of time and play on Normal. You’ll thank me later.