Reviews - Updated on April 14, 2022

Last year, the Japanese RPG series Persona celebrated its 20th anniversary. This event coincided with the release of the fifth numbered part. As is often the case, Persona 5 was first published exclusively in its homeland, and six months later, the rest of the world got the opportunity to play it. Despite the fact that all parts of the series are thoroughly saturated with the oriental spirit, they found many fans in the West and firmly established their cult status. Using the example of Persona 5, which logically develops old ideas, we will understand what is so iconic and attractive in this series.

Persona: The Masquerade – Vengeance. The masks on the faces of the main characters are not at all an accidental element of their image, because ‘persona’ is translated from Latin in this way.

Masquerade ball

Persona 5 is so striking with its bright visual design that it is a real crime to keep silent about it. Here, by the way, the proverb about the fact that they are met all the same by clothes is appropriate.

The third and fourth parts of the series already had a catchy style and key colors – blue and yellow, respectively. The new Persona went further and organically fit its appearance into the gameplay. The design of the menu and battles, the animation of transitions between scenes, conversations with characters – all this is done as effectively as possible and at the same time naturally, without unnecessary details.

The three main colors of Persona 5 are red, black and white.

Graphically, the new game from Atlus is much more similar to its own Catherine than the previous parts of the series. The characters correspond to human proportions and now look quite realistic – within the limits of the anime style, of course. But most importantly, they do not just look “as in life”, but also experience the same problems and emotions as real people.

School years

All games in the Persona series are set in modern times, and each of the unrelated parts tells the story of a group of young people united to fight evil. Persona 5 is no exception. The main character, whom the player is free to name at their discretion, moves to Tokyo and enters a new school. Lonely and uncommunicative, he gradually finds friends there, the same white crows as himself.

The start of Persona 5 and learning the basics stretch for a dozen hours. And the gameplay itself moves very slowly: it’s no joke, we literally live every day in the shoes of a high school student. Events begin in April – that’s when the school year starts for Japanese schoolchildren and students. Every day is divided into segments: morning at school, lunch, free time, evening – and so on week after week, month after month.

The protagonist automatically goes to classes, during which teachers will sometimes ask tricky questions. Periodically, he needs to take exams that check the learned material. The lessons are somewhat reminiscent of the program “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”: for each question, several answers are given to choose from, and the help of the hall is replaced by tips from the so-called “Thieves Guild” – other players connected to the Network. The list of the most popular options extends not only to school life, but also to the hero’s free time, and if you wish, you can peep what the others are spending it on.

Most of the questions are related to the plot and its details. Here, for example, Arsene Lupin is mentioned, after whom the protagonist’s person is named. But teachers, of course, do not know anything about this, and all coincidences are completely random.

After the call from the lessons, we are free to dispose of leisure as our heart desires. You can get a part-time job, go to the library, go to the gym, play a console, watch movies … And this is not a complete list. One such action takes a time period – an evening, a day (and it does not matter whether we solved a crossword puzzle at home or went to the planetarium across the city) – and develops the skills of the protagonist, such as courage, charm, knowledge, kindness and professionalism, which, in in turn, open up opportunities for new interactions.

Communication with people also sometimes gives pluses to these parameters, but its main role is still different. Firstly, social connections allow you to get to know your party members and other acquaintances better. They have their own history, and you really empathize with them, because they are all the most ordinary people with their cockroaches and skeletons. Secondly, each interlocutor is assigned to his “lasso” of the Tarot, and by actively communicating with him, the hero increases its rank, opens up new abilities and increases the strength of the people associated with this card.

Friendship and a possible romance with Dr. Takemi improves the “lasso” “Death”, which is very symbolic.

“Our hearts demand change”

Persona 5 could have remained a dating sim, if not for one thing. Its main characters are not just ordinary schoolchildren, but fighters against evil. Each of them at some point awakens his persona and falls into a parallel dimension. There, in the best traditions of superheroes, they transform and give each other new names. So, the protagonist was dubbed the Joker, just like the maniac from Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. United in a group called Phantom Thieves of Hearts, the students set themselves the goal of clearing the hearts of evil, greedy, lustful (and the list goes on) powerful adults or confused people with a difficult fate and save many from suffering.

Phantom Thieves is not an invention of Atlus for their game, but an archetypal image that is often found in literature. The aforementioned Arsene Lupine just belonged to their number. There is no established translation of this expression in Russian, but the essence is clear even without it. Phantom thieves are a kind of noble robbers. These elusive masters of disguise do not steal for personal gain – they are interested in especially valuable treasures and artifacts, and at the crime scene they leave their business card as a signature. And as a result, such anti-heroes are often pursued by some great detective. All these features are reflected in the game.

So, how does a gang of thieves work? To begin with, the Joker and his comrades are looking for a suitable target, and then penetrate into her inner world, which is called the palace. Each of these mind halls is unique and embodies the dark thoughts of the owner. A vain and cruel teacher pretends to be a king in a castle, while a money-hungry mafia in another reality runs a bank. The main task of the “Phantom Thieves” is not even to defeat the owner of the palace (although penetration, of course, will not do without this), but to steal the most valuable treasure from him. Then the villain will repent, tell about his crimes in the real world and receive a well-deserved punishment there.

In order for a treasure to materialize in another dimension, in ordinary reality, the heroes leave the very calling card that will provoke its owner to aggression.

Palaces are difficult to pass in one go – you need to return to them again and again and at the same time calculate your time and effort in such a way as to meet the deadline and leave something else for your personal life and leisure. In general, this is quite simple to do – even if you alternate outings and dates every other day, there will still be time left. If desired, it can be spent on optional missions that take place in the subway. From time to time, kidnappers receive letters of help on their fansite. The aggressors from these requests do not have their own inner halls, and in order to re-educate them, the heroes need to find and defeat them in the tunnels of the otherworldly subway.

If randomly generated mission maps are unpretentious and monotonous, then the palaces are worked out much better. They are in a good way confusing and complicated by puzzles that adapt to the general style. Shadow enemies can be seen in them in advance, and at each new location they take on a new guise: for example, in a bank they are guards with clubs, and in a castle they are armored knights.

It is always beneficial to start the battle first, without waiting for the enemy patrolling the area to notice the thieves, and gain a tactical advantage. To do this, the developers have introduced stealth into the game, but often such hide and seek is only annoying, since the control in them is not always adequate.

A fight with a shadow

The game did not experiment with the now fashionable real-time combat system and left the turn-based battles traditional for the genre. And if we are talking about battles, then it’s time to talk about personas – the very creatures that gave the name to the entire series. It is they who play a key role in battles and use various spells, while the Phantom Thieves themselves do not use magic directly. At the same time, the Joker can have fourteen different people, but his party members in this regard are severely limited – each has one. But if you develop the relationship between them and the main character to the maximum tenth rank, then their personas will automatically transform.

Often in Japanese RPGs, combat is a boring and monotonous necessity, but Persona 5 is not the case at all. Here you constantly need to take into account the characteristics of the enemy, and due to this, the battles are tense and interesting. The main thing is to find his weak spot and knock him down. The found vulnerability allows you to inflict another blow and ideally not leave the enemy a single chance. But in practice, the Achilles’ heel still needs to be found, and this scheme also works in the opposite direction – the enemy can deliver several blows in a row in the same way. And if the Joker becomes his victim, then the game will have to be loaded from the save room. This looks strange and ridiculous, since there is an opportunity to resurrect party members in the game.

Conveniently, the enemy’s weakness to one or another type of attack will be signed, it’s worth it to be discovered at least once.

Long before Undertale, Persona, as an offshoot of the Shin Megami Tensei series, allowed you to communicate with monsters. After the second part, this feature was forgotten, and now it has been returned. A downed enemy can not only be hit with a powerful joint technique, but also brought to a full-fledged dialogue, lure money or things from him or recruit him and later use him in battle.

Collecting personas is useful, because then you can cross them and get stronger samples. If a hand is raised, then summoned creatures can be hung and this “pump” the strength of others or put on an electric chair for valuable items. This process looks creepy, however, like the owner of the Velvet Room himself, where all these manipulations take place.

Stories in detail

There are so many nuances in Persona 5 that it is simply impossible to list them all, no matter how much we would like to. For example, such a seemingly ordinary thing as the weather affects the strength of monsters (they are more dangerous in a downpour) and the improvement of parameters: when it rains outside, it’s time to study or visit public baths to “pump” charm.

Caring for a houseplant makes you kinder, and participating in medical experiments makes you more courageous, which is quite logical. If there is a crossword puzzle on a table in a cafe, then you need to take an active part in solving it and develop not only the skills of the protagonist, but also your own. And how many details are hidden in communication with the opposite sex! .. But it’s better to find out about them yourself.

Each of the nine potential girls has their own preferences for gifts, and in order to impress them, you will need to take a good run around Tokyo in search of suitable souvenirs.

***

Recently, the market for Japanese role-playing games has been actively replenished with new projects. Some of them (for example, I am Setsuna) relied on the classics, some hit genre experiments. But every time these games something was missing. Unlike many of them, Persona 5 is the result of a successful cross between tradition and innovation. Atlus has taken the best from the previous entries in the series and wrapped it into a story that is fun to follow, like an action-packed TV series.

Persona 5, in fact, tells not about some fictional situations, but about the problems of modern society, albeit not without the participation of otherworldly forces. But this portion of fantasy is just a means by which heroes can fight dishonorable people and help those who find themselves in a difficult situation. It would be too pathetic to say that Persona 5 teaches something – rather, it tells a story that makes you think and at the same time does not slide into drama, but leaves room for a lot of comical moments.

Pros: bright visual style; a pleasant soundtrack that you want to listen to outside the game; memorable characters; a huge amount of content; The passage of the story will take more than a hundred hours.

Cons: slow development of events and restriction of freedom at the beginning of the game; not always adequate stealth mode; The passage of the story will take more than a hundred hours.

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