Persona 5 is one of the best games that I have ever played. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s true. The 87 hours it took me to beat the game never felt like a chore. It never felt like I was struggling to get through specific sections. Sure I wanted to beat it so that I could move on to other games at some point, but I never rushed myself and never felt rushed. The cycle of dungeon-crawling, relationships and Pokemon-esque Persona collection and fusion is as addictive as it has ever been with refinements in almost every area. Let me talk about each one.
Let me lay out my history with the Persona series. I have finished Persona 3, watched the entire Endurance Run of Persona 4 on Giant Bomb (and have started my own game on the Vita) and have finished Persona 5. Persona 3 had two major knocks against it originally: AI party control and the main dungeon. In the initial release, you could not control your party members with the AI taking over those duties. This would be fixed in the PSP release called Persona 3: Portable (which is the version that I have). The main dungeon, Tartarus, on the other hand was consistent across all versions. It is a randomly generated dungeon that lasts over 250 floors with slight color variations between sections. For many, it became monotonous and repetitive which I totally understand. I’m not sure why it never bothered me, but it didn’t.
Persona 4 took a step in the right direction toward providing more variety. Each dungeon was specifically themed giving a sense of identity to each one. However, they were still randomly generated resulting in a lot of square rooms and long hallways.
Persona 5 still has a randomly generated dungeon in the form of the optional Mementos. It’s similar to previous games in this regard with an actual reason in game for why the layout changes every time you enter which is a nice touch. However, the main story dungeons have actually been created and laid out with no randomization whatsoever. Not only does this make them more interesting to explore but allows the developers to have more options in terms of layouts and landmarks. It was a fantastic change with Mementos being an appreciated nod to the series’ past.
Social links (or Confidants as they are known in Persona 5) are the other main aspect to this series. These happen between you and your party members but also with others around town. In the past, you would get some combat benefits from spending time and ranking up your links with party members but nothing with those on the outside. Ranking any of them up provides a greater experience bonus when fusing a persona of the arcana associated with that person, but that was the main benefit.
Persona 5 brilliantly adds to this so much that it makes spending time with these people that much more worthwhile. For example, spending time with a particular Shogi player will unlock the ability to switch out party members mid-battle. A politician can help your negotiating skills when speaking to Personas to lure them to your side. A teacher can help free up more time for you by performing tasks that would otherwise take up part of the day. The tangible and diverse array of benefits is intoxicating and makes you want to max out every single confidant where in previous games, sure all of them helped give experience boosts when fusing, but if the storyline with that character wasn’t intriguing, I lost interest in pursuing it any further.
There have been multiple ways to fuse personas in previous games whether it’s two at a time, three, four, five or six at a time. However, Persona 5 opens up more options such as being able to turn personas into items, lock a persona away to learn new resistances and more. At this moment I can’t remember if it was in previous games, but one welcome addition is being able to fuse by result instead of selecting and unselecting two personas to see what they would make. It seems simple, but it makes a big difference.
Also actually acquiring personas takes the series back to its roots as well where negotiation was a major gameplay aspect. It has returned here allowing for a more intriguing way of gaining them rather than selecting a card post-battle and getting the persona. In order to enter negotiations, you have knock down the enemy either with a critical hit or an elemental weakness. Each persona has a personality type and the answers you can provide them will either make them happy, make them uneasy or make them angry. Providing two of each either results in the persona joining you, it giving you an item, or it getting up and attacking. Combinations of them have resulted in different outcomes for me. At first it was frustrating, but once I took into account the personality types, it became much easier. You can also straight up ask for money or items which is nice if you’re short on either.
At the time of writing this, I have already started up a new game plus in order to get the platinum trophy and haven’t regretted it one bit. Another 14 hours deep and it partially feels like a new game with me fleshing out confidants and doing side activities that I wasn’t able to dive into on my initial playthrough. I started this partially because I love the game and want the platinum, partly because I am still craving more and because I’m about to have my wedding and honeymoon and did not want to start anything new! Moral of the story is, if this was on Switch, I’d probably have double the amount of playtime I have already. You should give Persona 5 a chance even if you won’t think that you will like it. It just might surprise you.