Reviews: Gaming

Persona 5 will steal your heart

Persona 5 tells the tale of a high-school student and his gang of teenage misfits. The game is presented in a slick, visually arresting style.
Persona 5 tells the tale of a high-school student and his gang of teenage misfits. The game is presented in a slick, visually arresting style.PHOTO: ALTUS

The game's about managing time, which you will also need to do when it gets you hooked

Persona 5 is about a band of "phantom thieves" that steal the hearts of corrupt men to change their evil ways.

It certainly stole my heart right from the start, with a flashy heist sequence that introduces the basics of the game and sets up its tale of a high-school student and his gang of teenage misfits.

It is equal parts Scooby-Doo and Inception, but instead of a dog, there is a talking cat that turns into a cat bus in a nod to Studio Ghibli's My Neighbour Totoro.

The main character, nicknamed Joker, and his friends are able to enter a person's subconscious world, dubbed the Metaverse. They use this ability to literally steal the warped desires, manifested as a treasure item, of evil-doers. Doing so causes a change of heart and results in the bad guy confessing his crimes in the real world.

The actual heist plays out like a typical dungeon crawl in a role-playing game. Your party members summon Personas, powerful beings of fictional, historical or mythological origins, to fight enemies. Only Joker is able to summon multiple Personas.

Dungeons, known as Palaces in the game, are set in unique locales - such as a museum, a castle and a pyramid - that reflect the villain's subconscious mind and are guarded by enemies called Shadows.

In classic Japanese role-playing- game (JRPG) fashion, Shadows are usually weak to a certain type of attack, such as elemental attacks like a fire spell or physical strikes.

Triggering an enemy's weakness earns you an extra move and stuns the enemy. While it is in this dazed state, you can extort money or items, or recruit it to the Joker's stable of Personas. It feels very much like a collectible RPG game such as Pokemon, especially as you can create new Personas by fusing two or more of them together.

The other half of the game is about managing your time. As a high-school student, you have to juggle between your studies, friends and even part-time jobs. Spending time with your friends and other non-playing characters deepens your bonds with them. This unlocks special abilities and helps in the creation of more powerful Personas.

  • 9/10


    PRICE: $79.90 (PS4, digital version tested; PS3)

    GENRE: Role-playing game

Choosing how you spend your time, and with whom, is hence the crux of Persona 5. There are usually two free time slots each day to spend on activities, but they soon feel insufficient. The story imposes a deadline to complete each Palace - this is not an open world game.

Set in Tokyo, Persona 5 makes zero concessions to foreign audiences. The pop quizzes that Joker has to answer in classes often draw on Japanese history or culture.

But its story about young vigilantes fighting against the injustices of a corrupt society will likely resonate with millennials who feel the odds of succeeding in society are stacked against them by the actions of older folks. Its cast of bad guys are not super-villains that want to take over the world, but weak and selfish individuals who abuse their authority over others.

The game is presented in a slick, visually arresting style. Transitions between different scenes never looked as good, while its anime cutscenes are produced by Production I.G, known for the Ghost in the Shell TV series, among others.

Final warning: Persona 5 will take over your life if you let it. You will need all your time management skills to juggle this game, which will take around 80 to 100hr to complete, with your real life.

•Verdict: Not only is Persona 5 one of the best JRPGs in years, its tale of youthful rebellion will resonate with anyone with a heart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Persona 5 will steal your heart'. Print Edition | Subscribe