After more than eight years of waiting, Persona 5 better be good, right? Well, don’t worry. It is.
Persona 5 comes out on April 4 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. It’s one of the most anticipated Japanese RPGs (which usually feature things like random battles and turn-based combat, as opposed to western RPGs) in a long time. Persona 3 and Persona 4 for the PlayStation 2 attracted fans for the way it mixed dungeon-crawling and turn-based battles with day-to-day planning of being a teenager living in Japan. They are now some of the most cherished Japanese RPGs in history.
Persona 4 came out back in 2008. With that much anticipation, you may worry that Persona 5 can’t live up to the hype. After playing it for several hours, it does. To give you an idea why, here are four things that stood out to me during my time with Persona 5 so far. They are things that make it different from Persona 3 and Person 4, but they might just also make it better.
Stealth in a role-playing game
You might have seen RPGs where you can get the jump on enemies by touching them from behind. This will then take you to a battle, but your team gets to attack first. This was the case in Persona 3 and Persona 4.
You still can get the jump on your enemy, but stealth is much more important for surprising them. Persona 5 has this whole “thief” theme going on. You’re not travelling through a dungeon, you’re “infiltrating it.” Just like in a stealth-based game like Metal Gear Solid or Hitman, you can hide behind cover. You can also move from cover to cover, giving you a quiet way to sneak past enemies.
If a bad guy gets close, you can then jump them, giving you the initiative in battle. If an enemy spots you, they’ll chase you down and get the advantage. But getting caught has another consequence. Dungeons have an alert status that fills up each time you’re spotted. If it fills up, you’re kicked out of the dungeon for the day. The bar depletes when you win fights, so you need to make sure that you sneak on your opponents more often than they find you.
Persona 3 and Persona 4 featured randomly generated dungeons. This had its benefits, notably that you could never memorize any floor’s layout, since it would change each day. It kept the game interesting and challenging. However, these dungeons also felt a but cookie-cutter. Hallways and rooms would all look the same, just arranged differently.
The dungeons in Persona 5 have specific layouts filled with distinct rooms. This may sound like Persona sacrilege, but it makes this game’s worlds feel more interesting. Instead of just going through endless floors of repeated assets, each room can have its own flavor, such as a prison cell or a library. It also provides for interesting layouts. You may have to jump across a chandelier to navigate a room, for example.
This structured levels also lets the game have specific puzzles and hidden items, giving you some fun activities that break up the monotony of dungeon crawling.
Negotiating with your enemies
Persona is a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei series. In those games (and even in the earlier Persona games), you would recruit demons by negotiating with them. Instead of fighting an enemy, you could talk to them. You would then answer their questions or bribe them with money or items. Depending on the monster’s attitude, they would then join your side.
Persona 3 and Persona 4 ditched negotiating, instead giving you random demons at the end of fights. But the feature is back in Persona 5. Unlike in other Shin Megami Tensei games, you can’t just talk to an enemy whenever you wish. You can only do it during a “hold up” phase. This happens in the moment before an All Out Attack, which works just like it did in Persona 3 and Persona 4. You can knock down all of the enemies by exploiting their weaknesses. This then lets you do an extra attack that deals a lot of damage to all of them.
But, instead of that, you can know choose to negotiate with an enemy. Succeed, and that shadow (the name Persona uses for most of its bad guys) becomes one of your personas. It makes recruiting monsters more interesting, and the whole “hold up” mechanic reinforces the cat-burglar theme.
The presentation is killer
Graphically, Persona 5 doesn’t do that much special. It’s character models have a cartoon-like appearance, so they don’t show a lot of detail. But the presentation is incredible. It’s one of the flashiest games I’ve ever played. Even going the start menu is a master class in graphic and sound effect design.
Something as mundane as a the battle report scene (you know, that thing you look at after finishing an RPG fight that shows you how much experience points and money you earned) becomes exciting and dynamic, and battles look great with the way they transition from menus to attacks.
I can’t say just how good Persona 5 will be until I spent more time with it, but it leaves a fantastic first impression. This is one slick game that has eyes for the past and the future. It will please old-school Shin Megami Tensei fans while giving players who only jumped into the series with Persona 3 a more visually-interesting experience.