Persona 5 Impressions: An Extraordinary JRPG

One of 2017’s most anticipated JRPG games will finally surface across the world in just under two weeks and that game is called Persona 5. Many gamers are wondering how it holds up in comparison to previous titles within the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, which have remained at a high standard during the past decade. Taking a quick peak throughout various social media channels indicate that hype levels are at an all-time high among both the casual and hardcore gaming crowd.

After surviving multiple delays, we’ve finally gotten around to trying out the English version of Persona 5 and have been blown away thus far. Our review is still in the works, but here are some quick impressions of our journey thus far.

The introduction is powerful. Upon booting up Persona 5, you’re immediately greeted by the catchy opening tune, set to a series of flashy moments between the characters. Next up is the beautifully stylish start menu, which scrolls through an assortment of animations showing off the Phantom Thieves inside a train station. Starting a new game will instantly throw you into the action without any delay, kicking off a great tempo that most JRPGs don't manage to deliver.

The story will win your heart. Mysterious events start occurring the moment you set foot in Tokyo and begin your first day of school. These events lead to you meeting other party members and getting emotionally attached to their lives once you develop a bond. As a Phantom Thief, your goal is to change the hearts of those who commit wicked deeds. There is never a dull moment during an exchange of dialog, which makes narrative pieces a reward in and of themselves.

Combat is better than ever. Persona 5 adds more depth to the combat system by allowing you to barter with shadows whom beg for mercy. There is also the ability to use fictional handguns and other military-grade weapons to weaken enemies. The animations during an encounter seem to flow really well and watching the Phantom Thieves perform an all-out-attack never gets old. Even the results screen after a battle is stylish enough to catch your attention.

Well-designed dungeons. Dungeon gameplay includes the ability to jump between objects, take cover behind a box, and use your senses to detect hidden objects. There is more variety to the overall design within each dungeon you explore, ranging from castles to museums and beyond. Certain scenarios require the use of puzzle-solving skills in order to proceed the area, which is something I really enjoyed due to the jump mechanic being used in this setting.

Tons of side-content. Using the transit system, you’re able to visit a handful of colorful districts inside Persona 5’s reimagined Tokyo. This includes a cinema, arcade, restaurants and even a convenience store where you can apply for a part-time job to earn money. At this point I'm convinced that the map is larger than any other SMT or Persona title in history, and that's without consideration for the many places I haven’t even discovered yet.

The Velvet Room returns. We find ourselves landing inside this familiar haven once again. The velvet room is led by Igor and his twin assistants, who allow you to fuse multiple Personas together. You’re asked to collect Personas in order to experiment and create a variety of combination Personas, which serves well for both the collection side of the game and progression. I haven’t really started fusing since I’m still early into the game, but there are some noteworthy Personas I have in mind such as Belphagor—an unamused demon that sits on top of a floating toilet. There needs to be a balance between the style and elemental range of a Persona before I decide to commit to it.

Superb voice acting. About 90% of the conversations have voice dialog, which bring each character to life, including the Personas. You can hear their voices shift in tone when discussing a personal struggle, expressing emotion in the process. I have been pleased with how the English translations turned out, and find myself getting increasingly more attached to the confidants I meet from school. Despite this, I am not a fan of Igor’s new voice and find it unfitting when comparing the voice to Igor from Persona 4.

A unique soundtrack. Music plays a big role in Persona 5 as you’re progressing through the year calendar. Most songs contain a mixture of acid jazz and rock n’ roll instrumentals, while others are composed over Lyn Inaizumi’s charming vocals. I found myself taking in moments where I’m slowly walking home on a rainy day as a soothing piano melody hums in the background.

Our review is slated to arrive next week ahead of release. Stay tuned.