Persona 5' is chronologically the sixth instalment in the 'Persona' series, which is a spin-off series based upon the much larger Megami Tensei franchise.
Plot: Without spoiling too much of the amazing story, the game follows the story of our unnamed protagonist (codename: Joker) in modern Tokyo. After he has been falsely accused of an assault he did not commit, he is transferred from his hometown to Shujin Academy. Him and other students are awakened to special powers and become the secret vigilante team known as the "Phantom Thieves". They travel and explore the Metaverse, a supernatural realm born from the subconscious mind and desires of humanity, and steal from the hearts of adults with malevolent intentions for the greater good.
The gameplay of 'Persona 5' is well mix of dungeon crawling with turn based battle system when travelling around the Metaverse and a unique slice of life style gameplay when you are travelling through the real world where you interact with NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) and build your relationships with them which can affect your stats and efficiency when battling enemies or 'Shadows' when traversing the Metaverse. In the Metaverse, there are two types of dungeons: the Story generated 'Palaces' and randomly generated "mementos" which is the culmination of all the subconscious desires of humanity.
Battle system – The Persona series uses a 'turn-based' combat system and battles can be initiated by surprising enemies from behind, which may give you a slight advantage, or engaging enemies head on for an even playing field for both AI and your own party members. There are three methods by which you can battle with. Physical attacks, Gun attacks and elemental attacks by summoning your Persona. The game has usual RPG tropes such as Hit points (HP) which is your health bar and different characters have different levels of health available to them. Skill points (SP) are basically magic points which can be used by Personas to cast elemental spells, use curative spells to restore HP and stat boosting spells. SP management is crucial and important as SP restoring items are scarce and SP and HP fully reset and refill only when you exit the Metaverse.
At the end of each story generated dungeons or 'Palaces', there will be an awaiting boss battle which will test both your skills and tactical prowess. Personally, I had a difficult time with some of them and had to go back and level up before facing them again so it would not be wise to avoid the enemies when exploring the dungeons. Palaces are also available for a set amount of in-game time and not finishing those in time would be game over for you.
Weapons – Basic physical attacks are used with weapons and each of the playable characters have a unique weapon and gun. The protagonist (Joker) uses daggers and knives, and a handgun, both of which are balanced in terms of both accuracy and power. Ryuji, the protagonist's first and best friend, uses heavy weapons such as axes and clubs and shotguns, all of which are high in damage but low in accuracy. So each character has their own class of physical weapons and guns which they can use in battle.
Persona summons - Physical weapons and guns are comparatively weaker and this is where the real fun begins. Personas are the manifestation of the characters' inner psyche and they are summoned to cast special or elemental attacks and occasionally physical attacks to enemies. There are 10 elements in total: Physical, Gun, Fire, Ice, Wind, Electric, Psychic, Nuclear, Curse and Bless. While Physical and Gun can be used by the party members, all the elemental damage is cast by Personas and most Personas have strengths and weaknesses to different elements and some have no weaknesses at all. Casting elemental powers cost SP and the stronger the attack, the greater the SP cost. The Personas are based off of mythological gods and creatures from different folklore such as Anubis from Egyptian mythology, Odin from Norse and Sui-Ki from Japanese myth. The party members, other than the protagonist, can only carry one unique Persona. The protagonist can carry many different types of Personas and can either negotiate a foe to join them, or fuse existing Personas together to create stronger and more powerful Personas with stronger attacks.
Exploiting enemy weaknesses or causing a critical hit can cause a 'hold up' mechanic where you can negotiate with Personas to join your cause, ask for money or items or launch an 'All out attack' where you deal tremendous amounts of damage upon the enemies.
When you are not traversing out in the Metaverse, you'll be spending your time in the real world and doing everyday normal things of an average highschool student such as studying and hanging out with friends. However, time management is key as you only get to do two tasks in a day so you have to prioritise on what you could do or not do. Furthermore, visiting the Metaverse would tire you out and you will not be able to do any tasks on the same day.
Social stats and confidants – There are five social stats in the game: Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness and Charm. Building these, are required for accessing additional gameplay mechanics, availability of stronger items and new characters. Doing tasks such as answering questions in school, repairing items, making coffee or taking a bath can help in building your social stats.
Confidants are the relationship you build with certain characters in the game, each representing a different personality and the different characters have their own set of charms. There are 21 confidants in the game and improving your relationships with them can unlock additional perks and abilities when battling in the Metaverse such as party members switching mid-battle or extra experience. Some characters are available on certain days and some lend more useful perks than others so use your time wisely since spending time with a confidant also counts as a task for the day.
The game boasts an amazing soundtrack with composer Shoji Meguro and vocals from Lyn Inaizumi knocking it out of the park. Songs such as "Last Surprise", "Life will Change" and "Rivers in the Desert" are absolute headbangers and these are all sung in English!
Honestly, words alone cannot express the sheer joy and excitement coursing through me when playing this massive 80-100 hour game. With so many activities available to do in the game, an intricate battle system, stylish and picturesque graphics and an engaging yet thought provoking story of attaining free will from the limitations of modern society, to rebel against unfair social norms and stand up against those with a corrupt heart, this is a game you must play to experience it all.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10