Persona 4 is often considered one of the greatest JRPGS of all time, constantly praised by passionate fans and critics alike since its debut release back on PS2. The dark yet relatable adventure set a new benchmark with its wonderful characters and immersive dungeon exploration. Now, after years of waiting, it's almost time for Persona 5.
We've compiled all the little details you need to know about Persona 5 followed by our hands-on preview in which we spend over 30 hours with the colossal JRPG.
Persona 5 is finally set to launch on April 4, 2017 for PS4 and PS3 in North America and Europe, Atlus has confirmed.
Persona 5 is a Japanese role-playing title set in modern day Tokyo, Japan. By day, you’re an ordinary high school student attending classes and forming relationships with your friends. By night, you descend into a mysterious underworld known as “The Palace.”
Atlus has been ramping up the marketing for Persona 5 in recent days, and as such we've been treated to a bunch of new trailers. Take a look at the latest one below:
Available April 4 on PS3 and PS4
It took me almost 30 hours to reach and clear the second dungeon in Persona 5, the latest high-school-set JRPG from Atlus – 30 hours and I was still being introduced to new mechanics and fresh locations to explore within its open-world Tokyo. It’s an absolute beast of a game. It takes around seven hours to even get clear of the tutorials, but as soon as the training wheels came off, I was hooked.
You take on the role of a mute protagonist: a high-school transfer student who’s on probation for a crime I won’t spoil. You live out of a dilapidated attic above the cafe of your new guardian, Sojiro Sakura, from where you’re free to explore Tokyo’s various districts and attend Shujin High School. There are a wealth of activities to get stuck into. Hours are whiled away bonding with friends, working part-time jobs, and performing various other activities that boost your social stats: knowledge, guts, charm, kindness, and proficiency. Everything you do has an impact on something else.
When you’re not killing time in the real world, you’ll be exploring Palaces: distorted mirrors of our own world that manifest from the hearts of the truly twisted. These are essentially monster-filled dungeons to fight through, but each one I’ve seen so far is massive, distinct, and full of surprises. You can’t hope to finish them in one sitting, either. You have to leave and recuperate your health and stamina points, so you need to chip away at them. You usually have around a month to get them done, and you can only either infiltrate a Palace or do a couple of activities before you’re forced to sleep and the next day on the calendar ticks around.
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It’s a game with a very distinct pace. You’re always under some time restraint, but you’re encouraged to drag things out as long as possible. Once you reach the end of a dungeon, you can trigger its boss fight – the first of these is truly grotesque – but you’re better off waiting until near the deadline, as you can then spend the remaining days boosting your HP by doing pull-ups in your room, battling monsters in a procedurally-generated dungeon called Mementos, or bonding with pals, boosting their Confidant rank and strengthening your Persona – more on that soon. Even the game’s loading screen encourages you to embrace this rhythm, with a piece of spinning text telling you to simply “take your time”.
It nails the feeling of being a schoolkid trying to juggle a social life with responsibilities – it’s just that some of those responsibilities involve delving into other dimensions and occasionally fighting sentient bellends. Yes, that is literally a thing. It’s a hell of a contrast, and it makes the game constantly surprising. Developer Atlus knows how to leverage the mundane, using contrast to make exciting moments really sing.
“Exciting” might be a strange way to describe turn-based JRPG combat and dungeon crawling, but the mix of inspired environments, stealth-fueled exploration, and a fast, efficient combat system makes each dungeon a joy to explore. Where most games in this genre have you jog around the environments uninterrupted, here you’ll be skipping along the rafters, stealing treasure, and jumping between cover points to get the drop on enemies. Successfully ambush a foe and you get a free turn when the battle begins.
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When you first meet a new enemy type, you need to discover its weakness to drop them to their knees. If you do, you get another free turn. Some enemies are susceptible to bullets, some will drop when smacked with a critical physical attack, and some will fall if you zap them with the right elemental spell. If you manage to drop all enemies to the floor in the same two turns, you perform a Hold Up, which lets you recruit them as a Persona by answering their bizarre, visual novel-style questions with the correct responses. If you don’t want to do that, you can ask for an item, ask for money, or you can do a fight-ending special attack.
Capturing Personas is crucial. While your party members only hold one Persona each, the main character can collect the creatures you fight, giving him chance to use their abilities, becoming more versatile. You can also fuse Persona together to create more powerful forms, and this process is strengthened by how strong your bonds with your friends are. Use your time efficiently outside of combat and you will be able to create mega powerful specters to aid you in battle. Almost everything feeds something else, so you’re always considering your next move – yes, even when you’re not playing.
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I’ve purposely not touched on the story as I didn’t want to spoil anything, but Persona 5 is really delivering so far on that front. The cast of characters are all brilliant, including the antagonists. Some of the bad guys are truly despicable, but they’re still identifiably human. Nobody is evil in the same way Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth is evil, for example. Like the Tokyo-setting, it’s very grounded in the subjects it tackles, outside of the multi-dimensional weirdness and turn-based dick fighting. It’s super dark and very adult, but there are plenty of light moments in-between. At its heart, it’s optimistic. The world is gross and you’re out to change it, one corrupt person’s heart at a time.
There are still dozens of hours of the game left, but it’s shaping up to be one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever played. The structure is refreshing, the presentation is stylish, and the acid jazz soundtrack burrows into your brain until you’re humming the OST while washing the pots. Persona 5 starts off slow, but it soon has you walking at its speed. I can’t wait to stroll along with it some more.