I’m about to admit something that’s going to make me very unpopular; I am not a fan of the Persona series. As enormously popular as they are, and as into JRPG’s as I am, their appeal has always been just beyond my comprehension. Persona 3 was my first. It came highly recommended by a friend who shared my spectacularly good taste in games so my disappointment in it was also peppered with disbelief.
I fell asleep playing Persona 3, so didn’t bother with Persona 4, and honestly wasn’t very excited about Persona 5. I tell you this to give you, valued reader, a fair sense of perspective as you go into this preview. I know that Persona fans are chomping at the bit to get their hands on this game, so I implore you to take my uneducated opinion with many generous pinches of salt.
I liked it.
Persona 5 is stylish. Like, seriously stylish. The Persona games have always looked good but 5 seems poised to set new standards that Atlus themselves might find difficult to reach again. The character design is beautiful, unsurprising with Persona veteran Shinegori Soejima returning once more, but the presentation is where P5 really shines. The UI feels like an animated Jackson Pollock work, with vibrant reds splashing across the screen, offset by text in deep blacks and crisp whites. After a battle, the spoils are detailed in animated bursts as the camera sweeps around the characters celebrations. It’s all a lot more interesting to look at than any JRPG in recent memory.
The battles haven’t changed much, not from what I played anyway, save for one intriguing moment when an enemy stopped the battle to negotiate. I was given the option to be merciful and let the creature go, be less merciful and let it go for a price, or be a dick and launch an all-out assault. This happened quite often in my 20 minutes with the game, and will apparently be pretty important in the full version.
A staff member informed me that you can get new Personas by negotiating with enemies to join you. These negotiations can go in the other direction too though, and should one of your party members be knocked out, and your negotiating skills let you down, that member will not rejoin you until the next time you go hunting. It’s an interesting, if somewhat strange, addition to the formula. As are the execution style options for leveling up. Players can get items and abilities by ‘hanging’ or ‘electric chair’-ing their Personas, or send them to ‘Solitary Confinement’ to make them stronger.
During my demo I was forbidden from leaving ‘The Palace’; P5‘s battle area, in the tradition of Persona keeping its social-simulation elements as far from its JRPG elements as they can possibly get. As such, I didn’t get any information on the story that isn’t already public knowledge. The characters will go to school by day and chase down negative thought demons by night, preventing adults from acting on them and causing havoc in the world. It’s probably going to be fine. It’s definitely going to be weird.
Persona 5 was visually striking enough to make me, a non-fan, intrigued. If you’re a fan waiting eagerly to get your hands on it, I doubt very much P5 will disappoint you. If you’re not, take it from me, P5 might be a good opportunity to change that.