Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Game Review : Persona 5

Persona 5

The king of the modern-era JRPG is finally back with an even more thrilling adventure

What is Persona 5?
The game follows a group of young high-schoolers trying to seek out the truth within several incidents in Japan, in the guise of Phantom Thieves, and reveal it to the public. Aided with a talking cat and their persona power, can they truly succeed at what they set out to do?

And what do I think about it?

Holly molly Guacamole…

The bar on the Persona series was set as high as the sky back in 2008, thanks to the critically-aclaimed release of Persona 4. Not just in the series though, it sets the bar on how a JRPG should fare not only in Japan, but also in the west. It was so addicting that I end up replaying it countless times back in 2010 [Yes, I played Persona 4 around 2010] and I think it was after around 6 months of playing it that I was finally getting bored of it. After unlocking every persona, and completing several personal challenges, as well as maxing out all the available Social links.

But we’re here to talk about Persona 5, not Persona 4.

Persona 5 was able to live up to the expectations of the anticipations. Maybe it was met by a troubled production [It was announced far back in 2013 and was expected to release on Winter 2014, only to finally be relased at around September 2016 in Japan and April 2017 in the west] but it was worth the wait.

The game is complete. It’s as if the production team taken the Persona 3 and Persona 4 and mix it up into a single perfect game, that is Persona 5. I was taken aback by how I was engrossed at my first playthrough though. I was thankful too that it got released in PS3. Even though i have PS4 console, i still think that PS3 is the console closest for me.

Here the group is chatting in a group message.
The core battle system still largely remains the same, as there is no reason for changing it altogether. There is a simple gun-shooting attack that is very good at clearing enemies, though other than that, the battle remains the same. Oh, and the fact that our entire party got experience points too is a plus for me.

The shadows we battle are now personas that we can negotiate to come to our heart. The negotiation, as well as the fact that they are our enemies first, are similiar and perhaps a nod to the older series of Megami Tensei. It was great add-on though, as it is more preferable and logical rather than picking up cards that suddenly appear in our mind. And this way, our friends knew about our innate ability to control multiple persona. They even give their own comment when we capture a persona.

My only complaints about the battle systems are two. First is the Hama-Mudo skill. It was so annoying that my character died numerous time thanks to that pathetic instant-kill ability after a long exploration of the palace [We’ll get to Palaces later]. The fact that Homonculus is now as expensive as buying a car does not help as well. This makes finding persona that can block the said skill all more important. Next is the fact that when our character dies, the game is still over. Honestly, why am I even stacking up them Revival Beads and Balm of Lifes if when I die, the game ends? I think the game should still continue even after I die, so that protecting us is not that necessary. I spent almost every boss-battle having two of my team on the support while I am solely on the offense. 

The battle system is unchanged, and this art from the all-out attack is very cool
Remember the core strength of Persona series? The Social Links? It has been replaced with a Confidant system, though it is still the same as Social links. Difference was, Confidant now grants a specific ability that will certainly help in the playthrough. Some are very helpful, such as allowing you to brew coffee to restore SP, other might be as useless as knowing what is the next confidant ability that you will unlock. However, the change in Social links into Confidant makes it all too necessary and rewarding now to level up the Confidant level, since it grants not only Persona level upon fusion, but also helpful abilities.

Confidant systems also help us knowing the character better. It always tells a good story while rewarding us with important gameplay value later. My personal favourite would be Kawakami Sadayo and Takemi Tae’s confidant story. I was engrossed in their story so much that I rued my decision to be romantically-involved with a party member so early in the game. If you are curious at how their confidant story plays out, find it out yourself. I will not spoil it, as it was too good to be spoiled. Kawakami also offers one of the best confidant ability in the game.

My only complaints about the confidant’s story is the fact that they all follow one similar pattern. First we meet them, then we listen to their trouble, then we learn who is messing with them, then we delete the person who is messing with them, and then it maxes out. That’s it.

And the nightlife feature of Persona 4 Golden was carried over to the game, allowing us to spend the night with things such as studying, eating, or even raising confidant levels. Some confidants are even available only at nights, making both day and night choices all the more important, but making it easier to max out everyone.
Confidant system still remains the core strength of the series

The ability to go out at night is also a good addition to the game.
I don’t want to spoil much of the story as I will only cover several important aspects on the game. Persona always excel at telling good story while delivering us a great gaming-experience. Though that being said, if anything, one of the main antagonist is a bit similar.

Remember Adachi? The big-bad antagonist of Persona 4? Well, this time we are treated with a similar character as Adachi as one of the antagonist on the game. However, when I found out that Adachi was the one behind almost everything in P4, I was genuinely surprised since I didn’t see this coming, but when this said character in Persona 5 was revealed to be one of the main antagonist’s lackey, I wasn’t as surprised, as I have my suspicion far back in my gameplay. However, the joy of that antagonist being revealed as one was there though, as my theory was proven correct.

I mean… How can that person even know a cat could talk? That was on my mind ever since he said something suspicious.


Let’s speak characters.

This time, we are not treated with an aesthetically-regular silent protagonist. Our protagonist, in anime cutscenes, would speak every so often, though not in 3D animations, except in battle, or when he was relishing in a moment. It was a welcome addition though.

Oh, those anime cutscenes are abundant here, and it was great.

By far, my favourite character of the entire game was Morgana. The feline was truly the embodiment of every fun-factor this game had for me. I mean, ever since he moved in to live with our protagonist, he always comment on every single thing, and that makes my Persona 5 experience all more enganging than usual. His commentary is always funny but spot-on, and is always helpful as well. After all, he kept reminding me to check on a yet-unlocked confidant by giving a smart remarks everytime we returned home, as well as his tendency of reminding me every Sunday that the shopping program is on.
Cassandra Lee is also a perfect fit for Morgana’s voice. Given her knowledge of voicing mascot-like character in the past [I’m talking about Q-Bey], she sounds so affectionate and makes Morgana sounds very cute.

Morgana can also transform into a car for some reason!

Morgana's commentary on our life adds a very unique color to our gaming experience.
And who is my least-favourite character? That would be Ryuji Sakamoto. There are several reasons for this. First of all, he is annoying as heck, as he would annoy every single character, especially Morgana, for no reason at all. Second, he is too busy thinking about the Phantom Thieves’ popularity in the world rather than what they have actually accomplished. That makes me wondering whether he was actually genuine in his work as a Phantom Thief or not, though all that doubt was erased after a certain point in the story. Lastly, he sounds so bland and almost like Yosuke. Problem was, Yosuke was more enganging than Ryuji. To me, he is like an obnoxious Kanji with a knack for teasing and joking of Yosuke, though mixed in with Junpei’s level of annoyance. That’s right, Junpei is my least-liked character in P3.

As for the others, I think everyone is okay. Ann was good in her role as the beauty of the group, and her garbage-level of acting was something else. Yusuke’s lack of tact for any kind of situation is really something that he truly excels at. Haru’s innocent demeanor is also cute, and Futaba was very likable too, thanks to her behavior towards everyone else, save for her voice.

Special mention goes to Makoto. At first, I didn’t really like her, due to her calm personality that emits out a threatening aura [Sheesh, that’s what you get from being named Queen.] as well as her battle outfit that is so reminiscent as that of a Mad-Max. However, all that changed after a certain point in the story for me. When the group infiltrated Sojiro’s home to meet Futaba, Makoto displayed a new outlook in her personality, and when she was surprised by Futaba’s sudden appearance and mistakenly took it for a ghost, her reaction to that was really feminine and cute for me. When she displays that demeanor, it was like my view for her completely changed.

The entire cast of playable character has their own unique charm
This is the school festival, and they are still together...
Oh, my romantic partner here is Ann. A gentleman only has one partner.
What about the confidants? All of them are okay and likable too, if you follow their confidant route. Even that politician that I disliked earlier managed to tell a very good story. However, I was not able to complete his confidant route, as he has a certain time limit to finish his confidant level, before it was locked from ever being completed. If you plan to maximize everyone, maximize this guy first, okay? His name is Toranosuke Yoshida.

Now, with that said and done, I want to talk about voice actings. The level of Japanese and English voice actor was balanced. The Japanese voices was embedded with a star-level of quality, while the English one were good enough. I was not able to play with the Japanese voice acting, but seeing several good names there, I have high hopes that it would certainly be good. As for the English voices, Cassandra Lee [Morgana] and Jamieson Price [Sojiro Sakura] stood out as the best in the game.

On a special note, it seems that they finally changed Igor’s voice. It's about time, since Isamu's long since deceased and i think he wouldn't mind that Igor's voice changed. Since they've been using Isamu's voice after his death, Igor was lacking in interaction within the story and it's either Margaret or Elizabeth who needs to tell the Velvet Room story. Now, with his new voice, Igor is all ready to be more expressive and tell his own story. That aside, his voice sounds very bad-ass. That is… Ah well… Find that out yourself.

Igor's voice is changed!
The setting was very, very great. Let me tell you, it’s like they combine both the settings of Persona 3 and Persona 4 into one cohesive unit. The school is a reminiscent of Persona 4’s Yasogami High School, while the city is really similar to that of Tatsumi Port Island from Persona 3, though it is set actually in Japan. There’s even Shibuya, Akihabara, and even the Tokyo Skytree to name a few. It was a delight.

The one that stood out from the rest for me was the Inokashira Park and Shinjuku though. Inokashira park gives a vibrant and tranquil atmosphere, while the nightlife of Shinjuku is really on full view here. The rest was good too.

The school is similiar to Yasogami from P4
Now… Let us talk about dungeons.

Again, like above, the dungeons here is like Persona 3 and Persona 4 combined again, but not into one cohesive unit, rather a divided unit but managed to stood alone on their own two feet. In Persona 3, there is Tartarus, while in Persona 4, there is the TV world.

In Persona 5, There is Memento which looks very similar to that of a Tartarus. Memento serves as a place to grind for level, though it would play as one of the important aspect of the game, while Palace here is the most important level. This place always contain the Arc’s current boss, and represent their inner feelings. For example, the first boss, Suguru Kamoshida, view the school as his castle and he is the king. Thus, his distorted palace is a castle and his shadow self is a King. Simple yes? But it tells their distorted heart perfectly. And this is highly reminiscent of the TV world in my opinion. Remember how Yukiko view herself as a princess locked in a cage, that is a castle? That is what her world looks like. See the similiarity?

 The palaces were beautiful, unique, and at times, were breathtaking. While Memento looks totally bland, just like a normal dungeon from just another RPG games. Thankfully, Memento serves only as a place to grind and fulfill several requests, though it will be utilized later. After all, Morgana kept reminding us of that.

This is Memento, highly reminiscent of Tartarus from P3.
While this is palaces, reminiscent of the TV World from P4.
Dungeon-crawling here now implements sneak system, akin to what was perceived in the original Metal Gear Rising aimed to do. We can search out hiding spot one to another and then finally ambush the shadow enemy to give us advantage in battle, or we can just ignore the shadow altogether. It’s simplistic nature, as well as it’s easy to use, encourages player to be more sneaky rather than directly combating them.

In the palaces, there are sets of things to be done. The goal in the palace is to steal the owner’s treasure to trigger a change in reality, and as such, it is only logical that the treasure is well guarded, though a calling card is needed to be sent so that the treasure finally appears. The missions are always linear, find palace, infiltrate it and identify the route to the treasure, send the calling card, battle the boss, and finally steal the treasure. The pattern is similar, but it never gets old for me.
For me, when we are about to take the treasure, it is the heist phase. And the accompanying heist soundtrack is very satisfying [Life will Change] as the title mirrors what would happen should the treasure be successfully stolen.

We can either sneak or go full-front to the enemy, though sneaking is more appreciated in the game.
The accompanying boss-battles are also excellent. It’s challenging, fun, and the boss designs are disgustingly-cool. There are several times that we need to send out a party member to do some strategy that will make the battle flow in our favor, forcing us to rethink our strategy.

Stand-out boss battle for me was Madarame’s. I mean, battling 5 paintings that keep respawning after one all-out attack is frustrating, challenging, and rewarding when it is finished.

What about the music. Musics are the most important thing in the game, as it truly embodies the game. Without the correct music, this game will certainly fail. Thankfully, the music is composed by the series’ stalwart Shoji Meguro and he did deliver a great musical score for the game. Maybe it is not as good as the past games, but it fits the game so well, that I can’t help but hum the Life will Change everytime it plays out.

The music keeps us enganged to the game.

Personas on the game were rewarding should the confidant level of the arcane is maxed, as usual. However, one thing to note is that we need to fill out the strength confidant to unlock more fusion potential in the game.

And then, there was this feature of High-level fee fusioning, where we can fusion summon a persona that has level higher than our level, but it will require a certain amount of fee. For example, I want to summon Kohryu [Level 76] but my level is still 63. I can fusion summon Kohryu, at the cost of a hefty sum of money.

This is a welcome addition in the series, though doing this will let you steamroll through boss. For example, the second to last boss was very though, but I was able to steamroll him thanks to Kohryu’s overpowered damage [Concentrate + Psycho Force boosted with Psy Amp is potent]. My team was practically on the support while I was solely on the offense at that time.
Lastly, I want to talk about the lackluster last boss the game provided me with. This might spoil the game a bit, so it’s best to skip this part altogether if you don’t want to. I’ll try not to spoil as much.
Remember how we beat Nyx from Persona 3 and Izanami from Persona 4 solely with our potential, guided by Igor? Well, this time, we are treated with a Goku’s Universal Spirit Bomb-esque ending, as everyone in Japan just gives us enough power to finally awakens our hidden persona and bang, it’s over. When that finishes play out, I was like “Talk about Cliché…”

Though the ending was good, a fit for a series so good. I will not spoil that part though.
I finished the game at 100 Hour mark in almost two weeks. Everyday, I would play for like 8 hours or so, from afternoon to night. This is a step up for modern games though. My brother confessed that Final Fantasy XV’s playthrough was roughly 30 hours or so, and he was already driving around the world by that time. Hopefully, modern games that will come out could follow Persona 5’s pattern of over 80 hours of gameplay.

All in all, Persona 5 is a very complete game. It is essentially, the same as older persona entry, but with a few oomph added into it, while perfecting several core mechanics from the past. There are several issues and complaints that still lingers, but it’s shallow, compared to how deep the game has delved into. Great settings, great gameplay, good story, good music, great characters… What more could you ask?

This is essentially for anyone’s to play, but not to anyone underage, as several Personas are very revealing in nature. Ann’s outfit is also very tempting in my opinion. There are several bullying and abuse mentioned here, as well as several mature storylines.

The beach scene were also fulfilling.
As my first playthrough of Persona 5 is over, i look forward for my next playthrough.

The good : Morgana, tweak in Confidant [Social Links system], offers an exhilirating japanese high-school student experience, battle system is unchaged and remains great, each of the palaces has their own charms, boss battles sometimes make your heart skip a beat, unpredictable but logical final antagonist.

The bad : Ryuji Sakamoto, lingering issues in combat systems, some items are overpriced, long loading time.

Highlight moment : Trip to Hawai, Madarame boss battle, all Confidants route.

Final Score : 4.5 out of 5. Lingering issues and my personal complaints prevented the game from being given a perfect 5 from me.

Hassou Tobi remains one of the deadlies ability in the game it seems...

Note : I screenshooted the game at the start of july in the game, so there might be no earlier screenshoot.

I want to talk about my stats I the game.
Level : 79
My party consist of : Morgana, Takamaki Ann, and Makoto Niijima. I never swapped them in any battle.
My persona, at the time of completion were : Yoshitsune, Beelzebub, Kohryu, Sandalphon, Yamata no Orochi, Black Frost, Throne.
My favourite persona : Kohryu
Persona compendium : 80% [I was unable to fuse the high-level ones due to the hefty costs]
Confidants I didn’t manage to max out : Yusuke [Emperor], Haru [Empress], Yoshida [Sun], Iwai [Hanged Man], Chihaya [Fortune].
Favourite active ability : Concentration + Psycho Force
Favourite passive ability : Enduring Soul [Almost all of my persona above has this]
Social stats upon completion : All maxed out.
Romantically involved with : Takamaki Ann [God, I wish I can turn back time as I want to be with Futaba.]
Favourite palace : Madarame’s palace
Favourite boss battle : Ichiryusai “Azazel” Madarame
Personal accomplishment : Guessed one of the antagonist’s lackey early in the story. Defeating second to last boss with ease.
Personal disappointment : Yoshida confidant level is not maxed.

I forgot to screenshot those data.

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