So I’m LITERALLY 20 hours into Persona 5, thought I’d give a brief first impressions of the game.
NOTE: While I won’t be giving away any major spoilers, I will be very vague about them. I will try my best to not reveal anything pertinent.
As of this moment I’m as you can see on 5/15. I’m past the first Palace (dungeon) and am now diving a little into the new Confidants (Social Links) and trying to up my character’s abilities. Apparently ranking up Level 2 in Knowledge takes work! Sheesh! For those curious, I’ve named my character Naota Kasuyagi and because well, it’s me…the team’s name isn’t Phantom Thieves related, the name of course, they’re known as Sexy Ecchi. Because fuck normality!
Anyways, so how’s the game so far? It’s a mixed bag depending on what you specifically want to know. So let’s start with the good stuff then. For starters, the game is absolutely gorgeous, not in the sense of 4K HD graphics, but its style and charm are just fantastic. It’s full of colour, full of life and full of emotion. The character designs so far aren’t too over the top, but are unique enough to really push that this isn’t your typical high school drama, not that you’d get the sense of that once you’re in a dungeon fighting monsters with summons of your own. It’s not a boring-looking game by any stretch.
The music as usual is really good. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet compared to the past two games, as this soundtrack feels largely different from Shoji Meguro’s usual style in the Persona series. It’s certainly not a bad change, but rating this soundtrack between the two is going to take a little more time as this new music slowly begins to sit inside my brain. The voice acting is very good so far as well, nice to hear familiar voices as a good chunk of the previous games’ voice actors return in different roles, though most of them were in more minor roles.
The gameplay, minus a few additions, really hasn’t changed too much from the previous two games, which to me is fantastic. I think if there’s any game that has a battle system that shouldn’t be changed, it’s the Persona games. If anything, they just added a new mechanic for gunplay in the battles, which I’m still trying to figure out if I like it or not. Outside of battle, it’s much more different and a welcome change. The idea of sneaking around to catch enemies off-guard in this game feels fantastic and you feel much more free and mobile in the dungeons as you can leap up to higher places, cross chandeliers, things that you couldn’t do in the previous two entries where you just ran through mazes. The dungeons are no longer randomly generated, they carry a certain design, which allows for a little more attention to detail as well. Speaking of detail, the end of the first dungeon, holy hell is it a scary representation of the first target’s “desires”.
Speaking of which, the story so far. Hooooooooly shit it got real and dark very fast. I mean sure, Persona 3 had implied suicide with the Evokers and Persona 4 has murder afoot, but in terms of the story turning real very fast, Persona 5 with a certain female character does that and really sets the tone for the game. This isn’t going to be a walk in the park, we’re going to be talking about serious issues here. Which is something I’ve always liked about the Persona series, they’re willing to cross that line, talk about things people are uncomfortable with. Hell, Persona 4 was talking about LGBT issues long before it became the cultural phenomenon and honestly, the fad that is today in our society.
All right, now the bad stuff. For the most part, I only have one complaint, the difficulty early on is very taxing on players. The lack of money and healing items really prevents the players who want to try and complete the first dungeon in one sitting. I barely (and I mean BARELY) made it to the end of the first Palace. I had zero healing items and only a couple +5 SP items that really were two more Dia spells in item form. The enemies they place early on are not easy, in fact it’s really bullshit that they give one of the first enemies in the game the Drain Life spell, which always does 30 damage no matter what. That’s a huge chunk of your health early on and these enemies are almost always bunched in a foursome, so there’s 120 damage often.
Another thing that bothers me is the lack of help the game gives you with the battle order. You only ever know who the next one up is, so you can’t plan ahead to take down a target that in 3 turns will attack. Instead, you have to pray you’re going after the right monster first. It’s also frustrating when the battle order is so inconsistent, I’ve seen enemies attack twice in a row but they never hit a weak spot on me. There needs to be a little more communication to the player in battle. And it doesn’t help when there’s a lack of ways to heal up aside from spells and items. Without the card system from the last two games, you have no way to heal after battles a little bit. Now later on in the game, I’m sure there will be more access to items and equipment that’ll help, but the lack of help in the first dungeon could possibly stray some players off of the game.
I also don’t like the negotiating system with enemies, whether for money, items or taking on the enemy as a new Persona. I played Shin Megami Tensei IV, the negotiating system has always been a boring guessing game. It’s easy to learn after a few rounds, but I don’t feel it offers anything, especially without voice acting or anything to make it unique and engaging. It’s just a thrown-in mechanic in my opinion.
Lastly and this is a minor thing, I can’t listen to Igor anymore. I actually skip through the Velvet Room sections, half because I know the mechanics of the game and the dialogue is just metaphorical mysterious drivel, but the other half is because the new voice actor for Igor is awful. It’s boring and lifeless, whereas the original voice actor was creepy and interesting to listen to. I know the original Japanese voice actor died so in localization they got a new voice actor to sound more like the new Igor as well, but come on, Dan Woren (and hell Vic Mignogna in P4AU) was an awesome Igor!
At this 20-hour moment, is Persona 5 the best JRPG of all-time, as many are saying? I don’t think so, not even by a longshot. But it’s early, the story is settling in and there’s a lot more to go. The game is certainly off to a great start, a solid foundation to maybe topple Yakuza 0 from its current standing as my Game of the Year.
To give it a rating thus far, I’m giving Persona 5 a 9/10. It’s off to a fantastic start, but a few challenges that I will say are a tad bit bullshit are getting in the way of a perfect score right now. Hopefully as the game progresses, the battles become a little less frustrating and the story truly carries this game to legendary status.