It's kind of an interesting challenge to review a game that everyone and their mother have already taken a crack at before you ever downloaded it. I mean, honestly, if you're a gamer who reads the news of any number of outlets, you've already read someone's review of this game, even if it was the Japanese version that came out eight months ago. But for the few of you who have been avoiding spoilers and not buying into the hype, we're going to do our best to jump in and take a fresh look at Atlus' latest title, Persona 5.
The game starts off in the best way possible, and that's telling you the events and people in the story are fiction and that it's only a coincidence if they resemble real people. Then it gives you the option to agree or not. If you disagree you can't play the game, so best to accept this is fiction. The game waste little time putting you into the role of a trickster who just robbed a casino, which teaches you the basic skills you need to fight. After you're caught and it's discovered that you were sold out by a teammate, you go through the story of how you ended up with the group in the first place.
You go back to talk about how after protecting a woman from being molested by a politician, he uses his connections to have you arrested, which leads you to live in Tokyo with a family friend for a year until your probation is done. You soon come in contact with people at your new school who lead you to Morgana, who teaches you how to steal the wickedness from people's hearts and help reform the city from evil. You join the founding members on heists and become Joker, one of the most flamboyant members of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, and go through the events which eventually leads to your arrest. You're then sent off on a part of redemption as you try to reform the group and stop the higher powers that be from taking office and corrupting more.
Persona 5 gives you a plethora of choices, even down to how you respond to people, which will activate certain responses in people. Even keeping quiet will get people to respond to you a certain way. It's not going to change the story by much, in fact, in has a sort of Telltale Games quality to it where it looks like it may have an effect on what happens, but the effect is usually minimal and shortened to responses without any changes in the story. This transitions over to combat as well as you have different ways to take enemies down and exploiting their weaknesses. Each persona gives you new abilities that work well with some and fails horribly with others, which leave you in a position to manage people and abilities to find the best use of them to make quick work of your foe. And you will need to be quick as they will beat you down quickly if you take too much time.
The soundtrack can be comical at times, but in other moments, is truly amazing as it can get you pumped for a fight. It isn't your standard array of generic instrumental tunes that sit on repeat (even though those are here in the game), it's a fully formed soundtrack with lyrics and rotating tempos. You'll be singing along with it in no time, even if you don't know the lyrics. The animations are fantastic, for brief moments I thought I was just watching a movie unfold until I was thrown back into the game. Persona 5 does what a few of its predecessors couldn't do very well, and that is to tell a cohesive story that makes you want to see what happens. The last two games, as good as they were, trailed off at times and made the primary story seem secondary. This one keeps you on track as you know what your goals are from chapter to chapter, and it's all executed perfectly with cut scenes that keep you invested.
Speaking of the art style, everything from the menus to the map to the text on your screen—it feels like you're in a living manga. Everything about the story structure feels that way as well. You may be watching an anime at times, but the way the story is parsed out reminds me of a classic comic structure givng you the info you need while adding character to what you have. The changeover in sequences is well done, with a good example being near the start of the game when you have your first psychotic breakdown and get your first headache, switching from your past into the present is executed in a way that would make a lot of directors jealous.
Persona 5 does, in fact, live up to the hype, but not all of it. There are some things left to be desired in the execution of enemies, sometimes the story seems just a little unnecessary to delve into topics, the side missions are fun but don't add too much to what you're doing, and there are points where the game drags when it shouldn't need to. Do I absolutely need a fifth conversation lasting ten minutes with someone about how I'm a transfer student? But even with those issues, it's still one of the best JRPGs I've played in a couple years and has the hallmarks of being a classic. It's got tons of gameplay with a nice replay value if you love the story, and the art is something to behold at certain points. Persona 5 is definitely worth playing, even if this genre isn't your thing.