Persona 5 has arrived
After a brief delay coming to North America, Persona 5 is nearly here. Released in Japan in September 2016, the next entry in Atlus’ award-winning Persona series is coming on April 4. This week I had the chance to play this new game on PlayStation 4 for a few hours. While waiting for my complete review, which should appear in the next week, here are my early impressions.
Persona 5 revisits Tokyo
Persona 5, like other games in the series, is once again set in modern day Tokyo. It’s hard to tell exactly when exactly though, since the game cryptically calls the year 20XX. Nevertheless, from the bustling subways to the busy Shibuya crossing, this looks every bit like Tokyo as it is today.
The character you play as is, as is common with the Persona series, a silent protagonist and a high school student. He has just arrived in Tokyo after being involved in an altercation that got him kicked out of his former high school.
During his probation, he resides in the dirty, dingy second floor attic of a small cafe. The owner of the coffee shop essentially acts as your tutor during this period.
In the early hours of the game, you spend most of your time wandering around the Japanese metropolis, meeting locals and enrolling in a new school. Unlike most Western games, you’re rarely told where to go on your mini-map, though your current objective is always displayed in the top-right hand corner. To find your way around town, it’s essential to ask help from residents and passers-by.
Persona 5 is very chatty
The majority of the early hours of the game are spent talking. Apart from a brief introductory session where you flee from the secret agents in a casino (and engage in a bit of combat), you’ll be chatting away as you learn about the protagonist, the city, and a strange realm that exists between dreams and reality.
Persona 5 also includes many gorgeous cutscenes. Some are pure anime style, while others are rendered using the in-game engine. Everything looks superb, perhaps the best anime-style cutscenes in a video game yet.
I was happy to see so many during the first five hours of the game, so I’m interested in finding out if these cutscenes continue at the same pace for the remainder of the game.
Traditional RPG combat
Since the first few hours are so dialogue rich, you hardly get any chance for combat at all. However, the limited fights I’ve be in so far have been very much traditional Persona fare. Combat is turn-based and you have many options including melee strikes, shooting with your pistol, and performing high-damage special attacks. Dynamic camera angles punctuate the combat, and enemies I’ve encountered so far are very detailed, and look demonic.
Legendary composer Shoji Meguro is back to score Persona 5, and his classic style will be very familiar to long-time fans. The soundtrack is upbeat and inspired, and some areas even have tunes with beautifully sung lyrics. I love how the music helps shape and define environments, while reinforcing the current mood.
So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying my time with Persona 5. The graphics, combat, and music are all top-notch, and I’m totally engrossed in the story. Be prepared for somewhat slow start, as there are tutorials to work your way through in the early goings. Once you’re past those though, get ready for a thrilling adventure full of mystery, intrigue, and that unmistakable Persona charm.