Unless you’re a person utterly disinterested in the video game industry and go to great lengths to be unaware of anything that happens in it, you’ve heard of the hip new game that everyone’s meme-ing about. You know, the one with a group of rebellious teens and their talking cat, they call themselves the “Phantom Thieves” and all that jazz. Anyway, I’ve played 27 hours of it so far, and if I wasn’t the semi-responsible adult that I am, I would never stop. Sadly, I have anime to watch, blog posts to write, and that whole college thing going on, so I’m currently forced to do what the game’s loading icon tells me to (“Take your time”). That all being said, I thought I’d take the time and write about the game that’s been on my mind every waking moment since its release.
Starting with thoughts focused more on game design than art, Persona 5 is so much better than its predecessors when it comes to giving you things to do. This isn’t just a commentary on quantity mind, mind you, because I think the quality of what you’re doing that matters most. There’s more variety in your choices of everyday tasks, and a handful of those tasks require more than just devoting your time. You can test your wits with crossword puzzles, challenge your precision and timing at the batting cages, choices to make at jobs like the flower shop, and so on. For some, the joys of daily schedule management are enough to satiate, but I personally am far more thrilled by the extra things to engage with.
And that applies to the act of dungeon crawling as well. “Palaces” aren’t randomly generated anymore, meaning there’s actual thought put into their design. Floors are much more immersive thanks to the addition of several wonderful things. There’s verticality in the dungeons now, ledges to jump onto, and cover to dive behind so you can more stylishly get the jump on your opponents! Stealth plays an important role in phantom thievery, and trying to get the upper hand not only in battle, but in traversal in general makes for a much more engaging experience than simply circling an opponent and pressing X. Not only that, Palaces have special puzzles that revolve around a little more than just beating shadows to find a key for the closed door. When that does happen though (it’s not completely gone), the shadow holding the key is typically unique, so it’s not quite an empty grind until you get what you want.
The combat is what real drives home this amazing dungeon aspect of the game, as it adds negotiating as a way to end a battle. You can either try to recruit weakened shadows with dialogue choices unique to each persona, or extort money/items from them. This is a nice implantation, as a variety of outcomes can help make the typical turn-based JRPG grinding feel a little more fresh every time. Oh, and aside from all that, non-current party members can use healing on you out of battle so you don’t have to waste SP/items.
Onto the thematic elements of the game, I can’t recall any game haven’t as much consistent style as Persona 5. The game’s practically overflowing with it, and it’s near impossible to find an aspect of which its motif isn’t present. For those not familiar, Persona 5 is centers around rebellious, teenage spirit, going against a complacent world full of rampant abuse of authority. You and your friends are fanning the flames of righteousness, hoping to make an example of scum and bring courage to the weak.
This theme shapes everything in the game, from the characters and their plots, to the menu design. Most every character has a problem with someone above them screwing them over, giving them reason to become part of the Phantom Thieves when time comes for them to inevitably cross paths (and I won’t go into more details than that because spoilers). The design of the menus/HUD are very sharp, and the font is somewhat graffiti like. Persona 5’s color scheme of red, white, and black reflect several things about the theme of the game as well. Red is VERY commonly used as a signifier for danger, and in this case, I think it exudes of a hint of rebelliousness as well. The black and white can also be considered in a manner as simple as red=danger, because our protagonists also tread the line between good (white) and evil (black).
As for one more note on how well the game portrays its motif and message, I’m going to treat it like a movie for second. Persona 5 has some great shot composition, especially for a visual novel. Areas like their 2nd hideout are picked and framed to, as you might’ve guessed, add to the theme of the story. They stand up against the railing with a window to their backs, the light from outside shining in with a high contrast, clearly separating the shadows from the shine. It just so happens that the gang (I named ‘Kawaii Klub’:3) is standing between. The shadow from the rails also cast bars, giving off a noir vibe.
I’m very fond of the way Persona 5 feels, from design to aesthetic. At a later date, I’ll probably go deeper into what I think about the characters (still need to max those social links!), but until then, I hope this post at least proved interesting. I’m going to go back to playing it now, so…bye-bye!