When it comes to video games, I must admit that I care more for games with a focus on storytelling and aesthetics far more than ones that exist to be an entertaining challenge. Back in my youth I used to talk to my friends about the latest, greatest video games I’ve been playing. I would go on and on about how thrilling a campaign was or how immersive a world felt, and for the most part my friends would at the very least feign intrigue. That is of course, until I answered what would always be their very first question: Does it have multiplayer?
It was a question that somewhat baffled me, as I had always known video games as mostly a single player experiences. That isn’t to say I was completely blind of party and online competitive games, but it certainly never occurred to me that the aspect of sharing experiences and playing with others was the core of what the “mainstream” wanted. While typical, physical “games” have always been about playing with others, video games seemed, at least to me, to be removed from that standard. I was wrong, and that’s fine. But so long as tailored, single player experiences—that remain untainted by the filth that is other human beings—exist, I have nothing to complain about.
Of course, I’m being hyperbolic, and I actually do like online games quite a bit. Plus, it’s not like storytelling can’t exist within a multiplayer format. Ultimately, games are about the gameplay, and lucky for me one of my favorite single player experiences of last decade is just as capable a game as it is a story (wow, that was a long walk to get to the actual topic).
The gameplay in Persona 5 is nothing short of superb, and is a drastic leap ahead of its predecessors. Kamoshida’s Palace (the first one in the game) is far cooler than any and all dungeons in Persona 4 combined, and the reason for that is…no more randomly generated floors! Much like home furniture, hand crafted is ALWAYS worth more. Carefully crafted floor layouts that direct you through unique and interesting areas, enemies with patrol patterns and mini boss locations, palace specific puzzles to fit with visual design of each cognitive world, and so on: All not possible in a randomly generated dungeon crawler. JRPGs are repetitive by nature, but having every wall, hall, and staircase look the exact same can be a little much.
Onto my favorite series improvement, boss battles all have special gimmick tied to them—some that quite literally put a spin on it—and that simple addition alone makes them far more entertaining than the typical test of endurance these final fights have always been. While the main strategy is still “deal a lot of damage and don’t die”, things like a spinning roulette wheel for a stage that you bet on to either gain a boost or a take a hit really make things far more exciting and memorable. As in, I can easily remember every boss fight and palace in Persona 5, but I definitely couldn’t tell you most of them for Persona 4. There was heaven and that bathhouse, Kanji was gay and Yukiko had something about frilly underwear or something.
Point is, I remember my time spent in Persona 5 quite well, and for the first time in the series I can reminisce fondly about my time spent in Palaces just as well as I recall my wonderful time spent with best girl, Makoto.
Oh, and the music for each Palace kicks ass.