REVIEWS

Persona 5

Persona 5
Red on black

The fifth Persona is stylish. Perhaps this is the first thing that comes to mind, one has only to talk about the latest part of the Atlus series of games. The visual style is the hallmark of Persona 5, by which it will be remembered in the first place. Moreover, it is the foundation around which the entire game is built. The developers have put a lot of effort into creating the effect of non-stop gameplay through the visual style. All menu elements, all animations of transitions between locations, time of day, calendar days, all status screens – all this is so successfully woven into the overall picture that it is simply impossible to separate the gameplay from its graphic frame. Persona works as a single visual whole, in which there are almost no unnecessary elements and you can easily get stuck in the medicine store menu for a couple of hours, looking at what how sexy the silhouette of Dr. Tae Takemi moves between separate screens. And this “Red on Black” style, combined with a great jazz soundtrack from Choji Meguru, sets the emotional tone for the whole game.

Just as the blue palette in the third Persona evoked detachment and melancholy, just as the yellow-orange palette in the fourth part made us hope for a bright and energetic story, so the combination of red and black creates a sense of danger and predestination. And indeed, although the humor inherent in the series has not gone away, in general, the fifth part of the series is many times darker than its predecessor. And this is despite the fact that Persona 4 talks about rescuing the victims of a murderous maniac, and Persona 5 is just about the forced rehabilitation of all sorts of villains with exorbitant egos. But the killer in the provincial town of Inaba was largely a buffoon, and the villains in the new part are mostly ordinary people. Among them there are both good ones who simply lost themselves, and notorious bastards who use their position in society purely for personal gain. But these are ordinary people which can be found in real life, which is why their images provide a much greater return. In addition, with each of the antagonists, the characters have a personal connection that raises the stakes. And the consequences of the player’s idleness can be much more deplorable than off-screen death as a result of the machinations of a maniac. Persona 5 does not hesitate to put characters in frankly vile situations, and the issue of competent management of the time available to the protagonist becomes even more acute from the realization of possible negative consequences.

That’s just more important: go to a cafe to do some homework and drink aromatic tea, or go on a trip to an alternative dimension in an attempt to direct the villain’s subconscious on the path of correction? What is it worth spending time on: chatting with another girl you know or gathering members of a thieves’ troupe in order to decide when to announce to the next victim that the treasure hidden in her soul will be stolen? And as you might guess, the answers to these questions are far from obvious.

On the one hand, the faster the player goes through the local “Palaces” (the embodiment of the subconscious of a particularly egocentric individual in an alternative world), the more free time there will be until the next major story event. On the other hand, the more time invested in side activities, the easier it is to go through story dungeons.

The fact is that the fifth Persona inherited the “social connections” system that appeared in the third game in the series; back then, the whole benefit of this system was only in opening up the possibility of creating a particularly cool person. In the fourth part of the game, partners became more useful in battle as the relationship developed. Here, each “connection” brings specific benefits at each individual stage of development. If you want to have more free time for side effects – download relations with the “Moderation” arcana; if you want even inactive partners to gain experience, the lasso of the “Moon” will help you; if you want to change party members right in battle, get acquainted with the Stars arcana at the first opportunity.

Although the process of pumping relationships has not changed: we still go on several dates with an accomplice, let him pour out his soul to the protagonist and periodically choose the appropriate answers. Unless now we are periodically sent to travel in the local collective unconscious – Mementos, to help the conspirators solve their life problems.

That’s just to start a relationship with most of the accomplices will not work without the development of the personal qualities of the hero. And this is done with the help of those very seats in cafes, part-time jobs and the manufacture of their own master keys and gadgets. But even using all the available time, it will almost certainly not work to pump over all the personal qualities of the hero, and all the relationships in one playthrough, and not all “Palaces” can be completed in one game day.

The developers have developed a bad habit of interrupting the exploration of “Palaces” against the will of the player. Either they will put a door in the way that needs to be opened in the real world, or they will simply say: “Enough for today.” And frankly, such artificial plot brakes are annoying. If only because running around the “Palaces” is pure pleasure. Firstly, due to the excellent level design: this time, instead of a set of randomly generated floors, each of the individual “Palaces” is designed by hand. Secondly, thanks to the battles with shadows honed almost to perfection.

Atlus, in its great wisdom, noticed that modern gamepads have more than five buttons, and therefore decided to finally abandon the already traditional menu for choosing combat actions and assign each type of attack to a separate button. It would seem that the improvement is the simplest, and the gameplay makes it much easier, more fun and smoother. And along with the optimization of control came new game mechanics. So, if you manage to knock out at least one opponent, then you can pass the move to any of the active partners, allowing you to violently exploit the weaknesses of enemy shadows and at the same time save characters’ SP points. At the same time, the ability to change partners on the fly, including right during the battle, was added. Of course, these improvements require the development of relationships with both direct partners and conspirators,

The main change was the return of the system of negotiations with enemy shadows, which was successfully scored during the third Persona. Now, after knocking out all opponents, the player is given a choice: to carry out the already classic All-out Attack or to enter into forced negotiations at gunpoint. Here, in turn, you can try to recruit an enemy shadow into your person, knock out money or some valuable item from it. At the same time, negotiations can be initiated by the enemy. And in especially rare cases, the shadow can take one of the partners hostage – here it remains either to try to pay off, or to wait for help from other Thieves of Hearts located on the PSN network. This mechanic, which allows you to personally recruit the shadows you need, is much better than getting a random person under certain conditions, as it was in the third and fourth parts. Enemies that actively insult and taunt characters during battle now feel like they have their own personality. And we kill them. Often for their own benefit.

The longest-running game mechanic, living since the first part, is the “crossing” of personas. It would seem that the matter is simple: we come to the Velvet Room, take two (or more) person cards and make a new, more powerful one out of them. In the fifth part, the mechanics were preserved, but became more spectacular. Now we are sacrificing persons. If you want to create a new one, cut off the heads of the available ones. If you want to quickly upgrade your favorite person, hang an unnecessary one. And somehow I want to engage in “crossing” less and less. Well, at least until you find a button to fast-forward events. And then fly heads, the player needs a cute Succubus with invulnerability to cold and a set of all elementary magic attacks.

However, we usually get the most stylish person at the very beginning, and she reaches the peak of her development quite quickly. In a lifetime, our person can learn three or four new skills, which soon become too weak in combat. In addition, the usual for the series limit of eight slots for abilities has not gone away. Yes, the player is given the opportunity to artificially learn new skills using skill cards, but this is not a panacea. Personas still level slowly, and already by the next major “Palace” you can find a gap of 5-10 levels behind enemy shadows. And here we would talk about the grind, but there is no need for it. A sufficient level to meet the bosses is easily achieved in the course of the story thanks to the first ability of the Moon arcana, which we get automatically at the start. Thus,

And yes, this time we are given two types of “dungeons”: manually created “Palaces” that display the subconscious of a particular person with a particularly strong spirit, and Mementos – the embodiment of the collective unconscious population of the local version of Tokyo, the levels of which are generated automatically. In many ways, Mementos duplicates the Tartarus tower from Persona 3 – it’s a ton of monotonous floors divided into slightly different design blocks. Exploring such a “Palace of the People” is not a very exciting prospect, even though we travel through the levels in our own cute (in many ways) van. But the players are not particularly forced. Yes, Thieves of Hearts periodically receive tasks to catch mini-bosses hidden in Mementos, but these missions are not limited in time and can be completed en masse with personal tasks to develop relationships.

So in general, the combat side of the game is licked almost to perfection. Actually, only twice Persona 5 stumbles about its own style. The fact is that in the case of killing opponents with the help of All-out Attack, we are shown a stylish picture with the hero who initiated the attack. And they are really cool. First ten times. Seriously, it was impossible to draw at least two finishers per hero and alternate them for the sake of decency? The second problem is from the same area: after each battle, we are shown a summary with the profit received, consisting of several information screens, each of which needs to be clicked on separately, which quickly becomes annoying. That’s like the little things, but pretty enrage.

Well, okay, otherwise everything is great with the combat component. Here you have more convenient controls, and a ton of new mechanics that greatly diversify the battles, and dozens of new combat spells. And most importantly, the battles with most bosses have finally ceased to be monotonous spitting magic. It would seem that they just added vulnerabilities tied to level design, and the process became much more fun, opponents gained individuality and are now remembered not only by their appearance. And that’s not even half the game.

In “Palaces” and Mementos, the protagonist spends at most a month and a half of playing time. For the rest of the year, he actively interacts with the ordinary world. And virtual Tokyo is literally overflowing with content. There are five large play areas based on real areas of the city (even though in the local version of Shibuya you can get stupidly lost if you do not use the fast transition), teeming with cafes, shops, gyms, cinemas and other time killers. And that’s just the big ones! The local metro map is dotted with a good dozen smaller locations where you can go on dates with accomplices. Part-time jobs have not gone away, in which they added some kind of interactivity. In general, there have been many times more activities, and now we can make our own items, brew coffee and cook curry, play a TV set-top box, watch movies on CDs, read on the subway. True, for the abundance of new content, I had to pay with the rejection of school circles. Although this is also rather a plus: there is not enough time for everything without them, and many activities willy-nilly are postponed to New Game +, which this time turned out to be frankly cheating.

Already classically, the protagonist’s personal qualities are transferred to the new game, key items from the most developed cooperation ties, the equipment of all members of the thieves’ troupe, a compendium of open persons, money and skill cards. It’s just that money in Persona 5 is aggregated at a breakneck pace, and starting the game with a fortune in the region of 800,000 yen is somehow even embarrassing. Items from cooperation not only allow you to breed especially cool people, but also provide such wonderful bonuses as an extra evening for third-party activities after exploring “dungeons”, pumping all skills to own a firearm, the initial availability of all items in a local clinic, and so on. At the same time, manual elaboration of levels can become a minus when re-passing, since the puzzles remain the same. In general, all this significantly reduces the value of the New Game + mode and literally forces you to play on a higher difficulty mode (fortunately, modes are finally allowed to change during the game). True, reruns in past games were justified only by the desire to see all the stories for social connections, so in general, almost nothing has changed here.

But even if limited to just one playthrough, Persona 5 is still a huge game in which you have every chance to get bogged down for long hours, enjoying great gameplay, a fascinating story and colorful characters. This is a new evolutionary stage for the series, and you will not regret if you start with it, since all Persona are independent and are not connected by plot. Persona 5 promises to steal your heart, and that’s exactly what it does.

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