Persona 5 Preview – Surpassing Expectationson December 8, 2016 by Oscar TK
Given the amount of delays Persona 5 endured, nothing would be worse than if the game ended up sucking. Thankfully Persona 5 is the sort of game where you look at what’s been created and the time spent on it and can’t help but notice every minute must have been poured into realising a very clear and amazing vision.
We’ve got our wandering hands on the Japanese version of the game and have muddled through the first few areas of the game with only some grasp of what some of the characters were saying some of the time. Even with that hindrance, the game firmly has its hooks in me. I am ensnared.
Every minute of development must have been poured into realising a very clear and amazing vision.
The story starts off in media res, during some sort of Casino heist gone wrong. You, the player, are captured and brutally interrogated, before being handed off to a cold prosecutor for even more questioning. She asks you to remember when you first came to Tokyo, a transfer student at a new school, expelled from your last after trouble with the law. It’s something you still think about when you close your eyes at night. You found your way through the bustle of Tokyo to the family friend you’re staying with, packed into the back room of a coffee shop, and to your new school. You met new friends there, and stumbled on to strange, dark mysteries of those with “distorted hearts”.
Persona 5 has no qualms starting off with some dark themes. From the main character’s harsh treatment by the police, to the unsettling and disturbing story surrounding the first possessor of a “distorted heart”, whose crimes it becomes your responsibility to expose to the world.
You explore Tokyo by moving between specific, focused areas. Each one feels lived in and thoroughly detailed, be it the hustle and bustle of the commute at Shibuya Station with faceless, stooped salary men passing you by, or the quiet night streets of the residential area where your coffee shop is located. You talk to people or just eavesdrop on conversations, visit shops, and even take the train between areas.
The protagonist must exit train stations through the barriers though it’s completely unobtrusive. He just taps his way through. This is a real world he slides through. Atlus haven’t tried to go too wide in scope, and the attention to detail in these areas can definitely be felt. At no point do you walk around feeling like everyone has mysteriously disappeared from the world or is inexplicably static waiting for you to talk to them.
The first couple of dungeons we’ve played have been gorgeously designed.
The same is true, almost unbelievably, for the dungeons. The first couple of dungeons we’ve played have been gorgeously designed — one a creepy castle, and another a trendy modern art museum. They feel like twisted, evil mind palaces, yes, but they also feel like real, twisted evil mind palaces.
Clearly a lot of time has been spent on putting them together, and they’re packed with things to find that reward exploration and stop them from feeling stale. There’s a degree of interactivity with environments that isn’t really in other RPGs — for instance there might be some shelving you didn’t know you could climb, which will lead to a vent that goes through into a treasure room.
Every aspect of the game’s design oozes this finesse, from the menus to the area transition screens. Everything here has been fine tuned.
Stealth is the big new thing with how you interact with the dungeon’s enemy presence. You can now hide behind low objects or around corners, and zip between cover, before jumping an enemy to gain advantage in a battle. Do this and your character rushes out of cover, jumps at the enemy (suited thematically to the dungeon, hiding the demons that lie within — e.g. in the castle they are knights, in the museum they’re security) and rips their mask off. The camera spins as the shadows pour out of the enemy — the word “chance” pops out as the shadows form, and you’re instantly in the battle. Finish them off and your character will begin to move, speeding up into a jog as the battle results stylishly fly by, he then jogs down to a stop in the position you left the map. It’s not just seamless, it’s pure style. Every aspect of the game’s design oozes this finesse, from the menus to the area transition screens. Everything here has been fine tuned. They’ve certainly had the time do it.
Finally, the battle system. Various aspects of past Persona battle systems are present, whizzed up in a perfect blend with some spicy twists. Negotiations with demons are back from Persona and Persona 2, now a choice you can pursue instead of an All Out Attack — this is the main method of obtaining new Persona through battle. Rather than menus, the battle UI has been organised by tying different actions to the individual buttons on the controller.
Persona has always lent heavily on elemental weaknesses as the key way to dominate in battle (incidentally both Nuclear and Psychic elements return in this instalment from the first two games). Persona 5 takes the flow of type weaknesses to the next level, making it slicker, sharper, and more fluid than ever. Morgana can instantly remind you of an elemental weakness of an enemy you’ve encountered when you tap R1, and it’ll even pull up a suggested move in the UI. The 1More system is back once you attack with a move an enemy is weak to or you land a critical hit, but this isn’t where your chain has to end anymore.
There’s a rhythm to every battle that is just so damn swish it never feels old.
By fostering C0-Operations with your allies (the new name for social links) you can “Baton Touch” with your party members, effectively passing over your 1More move to them. And yes, they do a quick and very cool high five as they literally tag out. And, of course, it’ll let you know if that party member has a move you’ve previously discovered an enemy is weak to. With just a little exploration of type match ups and nudges to your strategy you can slam dunk a whole chain of enemies to Knock Down and initiate a crowd-clearing All Out Attack — especially if you’ve gotten the drop on them with the game’s stealth to initiate a Chance attack. There’s a rhythm to every battle that is just so damn swish it never feels old.
Can Persona 5 live up to expectations? The way things are looking it’ll surpass them.
I could gush about Persona 5 for hours, but I’ll save it for a full on review. I’ve spent quite a while harping on about what are essentially the basics of Persona 5, but that’s kind of what feels so good about it so far. It gets the basics and essentials of what the developers clearly want Persona 5 to be so absolutely right. It’s spot on. Everyone is already very excited for it. Can Persona 5 live up to expectations? The way things are looking it’ll surpass them.