Friday, August 4, 2017

Persona 5 Review (PS3)

This Game Stole My Heart
Persona 5 (P5) is the fifth title (technically 6th) in Atlus' Persona series of JRPGs where you play as highschool kid in the morning and a Phantom Thief stealing hearts after class. It took a long time to develop this game, it got delayed several times too. So is the wait worth it?

P5's story is set on a real location this time, Tokyo (but with name alterations and differences on some locations). You're a kid that's been falsely accused of assault that gets you expelled from your school and transferred to Shujin Academy while on probation. At Shibuya Crossing, you notice that a mysterious app has been installed on your smartphone. This app transports you to the Metaverse, where the world becomes twisted depending on the hearts and desires of the people. Some of the places becomes Palaces, a place of someone powerful in the real world who have a very strong distorted desire, making him/her a Palace ruler. It's up to you and your friends to stop these corrupted people, steal their treasure - their hearts, and reform society in the shadows while having a normal life as a high school student.

The game doesn't hold back when tackling some real world issues and crimes like sexual harassment, bullying, fraud and political corruption. That's why this is a Mature-rated game. The game really emphasizes the dark desires of people, like going into a criminal's mind and learn why they do what they're doing.

Because of the game's great story, you will get sucked in to P5's world because you can get emotionally invested or relate to some of the characters dealing with the world's issues that is forced upon them.

The gameplay is similar to Persona 3 and 4 but with lots of improvements and added mechanics. Half of the gameplay is a high school life simulator where you regularly go to school, make friends/allies, take exams, improve your social stats and take part-time jobs to earn money. The other half is a standard dungeon crawling JRPG that have a turn-based battle mechanic.

So what's new to P5? Well the Social Links became Confidants (it has a better ring to it). Spend time with a Confidant to raise their confidant level to make your Personas stronger and gain very useful abilities that gives you lots of advantage while in the Metaverse.

In battle, the Gun damage mechanic is back and the Light and Dark element became Bless and Curse respectively. There are new elements as well: Psy and Nuclear, giving more elemental variety and skills. In P5, you encounter shadows in the field but if you fight them they turn into demons and angels from the Shin Megami Tensei series which has been long absent after P2.

P5 emphasizes on stealth. You can hide in the objects and walls when you see the [Hide] prompt and pressing X. Shadows can't see you while hiding even when you're literally on the shadow's line of sight, so exploit that. If the shadow gets near you while hiding, you can ambush it giving you the first attack in battle. If you got spotted, the alert gauge will increase making it harder to infiltrate the Place. If the gauge goes to 100%, you'll get kicked out of the Palace.

You're maybe stuck in Tokyo, but when you went in a Palace, the scenery changes from castle, desert and even outer space. The Palaces looks great but they're not randomized dungeons and once you defeated the Palace ruler and took their treasure, the Palace disappears and you can never go back to visit it again.

Mementos is P5's Tartarus, a randomly generated dungeon where you grind, earn more exp and obtain Personas. Yes, if you don't grind enough you will die a lot in this game. You can do some side quests (Requests) here and beat some people's distorted shadow counterparts for rewards.

The Third Eye (L1) lets you see if the Shadow is stronger (red), about your level (yellow) and weaker (blue). This also highlights some hidden clues and items around the area. It's very useful for solving some puzzles.

The battle is the same as P3 and P4 where you exploit the enemy weaknesses to have extra turns and eliminate the enemy. Taking down enemies by dealing weak and critical hits will result to a Hold-up. While the enemies is in Hold-up, you can choose if you want to do an All-out Attack, break the Hold-up phase, or do Demon Negotiations or Shadow Negotiations in this game a mechanic also long absent since P2.

The battle controls uses all the available buttons on your controller. Attack, Items, Personas, Guarding, using the gun, analyzing the enemy all have their assigned buttons. No more menu scrolling (except when selecting Personas, skills and some other things), making battles faster. No button re-mapping here so those who want to customize the battle controls will be disappointed.

The bosses of this game have some quirks and gimmicks, making their battle unique when it comes to their presentation and theme. One boss requires you to destroy its item so that it can't heal itself anymore and another boss requires you to give some item to keep it distracted making it open to attacks. You can dispatch one of your allies to do these tasks but you will be missing one character to command for a while. One tip, stay alert when fighting these bosses. Don't ask why, just be careful if you don't want to restart the battle again.

Overall the game is fast paced, exciting and always keep you on your toes in the Metaverse even in the normal world. The controls are great.

This is meant just to be a PS3 title but due to delays, it reached the next gen of consoles and got a PS4 version which is good. Both PS3 and PS4 versions are similar but it's obvious that the PS4 performs a tiny bit better that the PS3. Both versions run at 30FPS without any hard drops in frame-rate. PS3 is in 720p while PS4 is 1080p and loads everything a bit faster. For this review, I played the PS3 version and this have screen-tearing issues mostly noticeable in the loading screen transitions. Speaking of loading screen transitions, they have variety and will keep you entertained while waiting for the area to load.

The game looks amazing. The particle effects in the real world changes depending on the season. Some particle effects are detailed like the flu viruses that floats around. I know it's detailed because one flu virus flew very close to the game's camera. More particle and detailed effects are present when you're in the Metaverse, Palaces and Mementos.

The world is detailed and lively too, but if you stay still and look closer to the textures, some of them are a bit muddy (PS4 have sharper textures) but you wont notice it when playing the game.

P5's world is the most crowded with people than the older Persona games. Because its game engine produces lots of low polygon, bland and faceless NPCs that you cant interact with. Other NPCs have more polygon count and details and you can interact with these NPCs.

Character, Persona, NPC, shadow/demon animations looks good and they move nicely. The Phantom Thieves' moves are cool flashy. Spell and skill effects looks awesome and the high tier spells/skills looks and sounds really painful.

The cutscenes of this game and might throw some people off because for example: first you're watching the anime scene then the next scene uses in-game graphics. But the anime scenes looks good and the in-game cutscenes also looks good with different character facial expressions and motion captured acting.

Character dialogue boxes looks really good and well animated. And the menu is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Everything is animated and here are lots of animations/transitions just to select an item, check your stats, etc. This game probably have the most amazing UI/HUD/Menu ever.

P5's soundtrack is composed by Shoji Meguro and it's awesome. The soundtrack have that jazzy and funky vibe, very fitting for classy thieves going for a big heist.

For sound effects while there are new ones, the devs retained lots of the old sound effects from the older games, but it still sounds good and convincing especially if you landed a weakness and a critical hit. Stronger and heavy-hitting skills sounded powerful.

Voice acting is great and really fitting for all the characters and the voice actors performed so well too so no complaints there. If you prefer the Japanese voices, you need to download them first.

This game is long and my first playthrough is 130 hours! Once you finish the game, you can save the it and load the New Game Plus (NG+). In NG+, you're back to level 1 but your social stats, important key items given to you by your maxed-out confidants, Persona compendium, equipment, skill cards and playtime are carried over. There are more challenges awaits you in NG+

Atlus gives some free DLCs and have some paid ones as well like costumes and they're just cosmetic.

Persona 5 raises the bar because of its excellent visuals, fast-paced gameplay and story that tackles some serious real world issues while having a great cast of fun characters. It's a true old-school, like PS2 era, JRPG with a modern look and improved mechanics. There are lots to do in this game, especially if you're going to collect all the Personas, items and max all the Confidants and your social stats. The game is really worth the wait. If you don't have this game yet, buy it and play it now and uhh get ready to lose your social life for a while. This game is available on PS3 and PS4

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