For these past few days (which turned into weeks), I have been enslaved by Persona 5 and only now have I been emancipated. To tell you the truth, I’ve been playing it 24/7 for the past 2~3 weeks–which ended up being almost 170 hours of gameplay, give or take–and just finished it yesterday. As promised I’ll do a little small review to give my thoughts on it.
I’ll give a little warning now: I will talk a little bit about spoilers, if you’re planning to play it yourself and rather go in blind, by all means stop reading this post. If you don’t care about spoilers or have finished it yourself then enjoy a bit of my rant. The first parts won’t have heavy spoilers but the discussion on the story will, so proceed with caution.
My history with the Persona series was when a friend helped me get an emulator for P3P, and then eventually I saved up my money to get the real deal on my PS Vita along with P4G. I loved both of them and even went to try out the first two games: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona and Persona 2: Innocent Sin (I’ve still yet to finish them but I think I’m at the final boss with Persona and almost gonna punch not-Hitler in the face in Persona 2). So I was definitely excited for Persona 5… but then I had to curb my enthusiasm as the delays kept coming and I didn’t want to be disappointed if it were to delay about 3 years or so haha.
——Persona 5 Localisation
So was the wait worth it? I’d say yeah, though god knows how long I walked all over the city trying to find a physical copy on the shelf of any shop that sold games 😆 And this was the day after its release! I ended up buying it on PSN and getting the JPN audio as well, which was a nice choice because there were some things that couldn’t be translated as well in English, like when Ryuji answers an English speaking passport checking dude with the limited vocabulary he has in English:
Previously in the game everyone including Ryuji acknowledges that he sucks at English so its a nice call back, though it’d be kinda hard to portray that through English dub without making it sound kinda… iffy. Ann also speaks full sentences in English to deceive a guy into thinking she’s from a noble background and is half British (and I gotta say, the voice actress did alright to the point that it could be authentic to Japanese listeners, though she did have an American accent but I’ll let that slide), so I’m gonna imagine that in the English audio she’d be putting on a British accent 😂 . I’ve yet to experience it in English, but I’m willing to turn on English audio on new game+. Though ngl, I mainly wanted to play it in Japanese audio because of Tomokazu Sugita.
Anyway, besides that I think they did an alright job at translating/localising the game, unlike a certain team that localised another turn-base JRPG about a year ago, putting cringey dialogue and tried to force memes. Y’know… Fire Emblem Fates. Of course, some dialogue in this game may come across as cringey like the internet slang and stuff used to compliment the internet culture used in Japan, though I don’t seem to mind. Actually, some of them I laughed at a bit because of how ridiculous it is or how I would sometimes come across that kind of internet slang when I’m lurking on twitter. It’s better than changing a characters dialogue to be nothing but talking about pickles, that’s for sure.
I can also see why people would be turned off by how Ryuji is translated, with the “dude” and the parts where he’s trying to swear but tries to go somewhere safe so the rating won’t go further than an MA15+ (I don’t know how America does the ratings for mature shit but a few more “fucks” and “shits” etc can prolly get you an R18+ maybe). To be fair, it’s in Ryuji’s character to use foul language because of his mannerisms used in the Japanese audio is that of some street punk, so why would you translate that to something that makes him seem less vulgar lol, it wouldn’t make sense. Like, I guess the only equivalent to a Japanese street punk’s speech mannerisms in English is by having him talk like he’s from the “ghetto” or whatever the shit you call it, and add a bunch of swears or almost swears.
I’ve only studied Japanese for 6 years but I’m still no expert, however by the side-by-side comparison of the Japanese audio track and the English Translation, I can say most of it was closely translated with a bit of liberal choices to make sure the dialogue doesn’t seem stiff. Again, with the non-voiced dialogue I’m not 100% sure if it’s all closely the same but it still manages to get what’s going on across. There are a few times where I do hear something in Japanese but see it not mentioned in the English translation, either they thought all of it wouldn’t fit into one text box and tried to cut some words that didn’t matter or that it may seem a little bit weird in terms of Western Culture. I think I remember one line where in the Japanese Audio Sojiro said something along the lines as “As men” or “As two guys” but the English translation was “After we’ve been through… (yadda yadda yadda)” and I think in the JPN audio he was trying to be like “as guys we’ve got this duty to stick by each other through thick and thin”, so maybe it would’ve been perceived as something sexist, who knows. Though it seems better when it’s put into the perspective of him sticking by Protag after all they’ve been through as almost family. That’s the only translation that stuck out to me, then again I wasn’t paying much attention to the audio sometimes haha. To be honest, I might not have remembered that part I mentioned properly so take it with a grain of salt… Speaking of salt…
There has been a few debates on the internet about P5’s localisation, I guess you become more aware of this when you stick around twitter and other places where complaints and opinions are thrown about here and there. At the end of the day, localisations are there for those to experience a game in their native language, given that there may be cultural differences from the country of origin the game came from and the countries it is localised to. There may be some shit that you might not understand/feel complicated about because of the cultural barrier, as well as ideology/cultural norms that seem normal to one country but aren’t in others, and there’s prolly no way to cut that out when it’s programmed into the game/is intertwined in the story, there may be ways to try and accustom the dialogue to the targeted country but who knows if people will accept it or be uncomfortable with it. Either way, it’s a game made with the setting of Japan in mind, and is tailored to reflect on Japanese society, not Western society, of course we won’t understand some stuff or might feel complicated about how things are portrayed (like the two gay characters who might seem over the top to us rather than comedy to those in Japan). Cultural barriers, man, it might be hard to accept them but eh, what can you do. Anyway, if the translated dialogue is that game breaking to you then, I’m sorry and keep on complaining/voicing your opinion, usually that helps (maybe).
——Persona 5’s Gameplay
It feels like Persona 5’s gamplay has a little bit of everything from the previous series, especially the first two games which were retained most of the spirit of the Shin Megami Tensei series. We’ve got demon negotiation back from Persona 1 & 2, the use of guns which were in Persona 1 (and maybe 2 if I remember, though it’s hazy) which has limitations to how many bullets you use in one day of Palace raiding and also two new attributes/forces: Psy and Frei which was also in the first two games along with other forces that weren’t included in P3/P4 but I can’t remember. It seems like they kicked out the spinning cards mini-game after finishing a battle to get items and shit, so now you have to do it through negotiations which ain’t so bad (especially when you improve confidant levels).
One thing that I’m pleased that they improved is the S.Links/Social Links which is now labeled as “Confidants”, each confidant has different skills that will help you greatly so it gives you a drive to complete them to become more efficient at your heists and battle. Though it feels like the only confidant that seemed lacking/almost useless for me is Ohya’s scoops because later in the game I found myself securing infiltration roots in one day so I didn’t need her scoops to lower the security level, plus I seemed to manage keeping the security/awareness level at bay (almost 0% some of the time). I can see these might be handy if you’re on higher difficulty though it seems like with normal difficulty it’s manageable. Plus, doing Palaces in one day leaves more room for me to do other stuff and I gotta say, I’m impressed with myself on how I managed to almost MAX all my confidants in one playthrough. I remember I could only MAX my team members in Persona 4 and only managed to MAX the devil arcana, the nurse lady, so she was the only one who appeared as a side character to cheer me on lmao.
Tokyo as your ‘overworld’ is alright but damn do I get lost when it comes to the subways. I usually found myself using the quick travel because it’s faster that way but then I miss out on things like what’s happening in the city and it’s people, like the mother and the daughter in the backstreets with their dog [Spoiler, highlight to read] and at the end of the game where I was saying my goodbyes I noticed that the girl didn’t have her dog anymore and I’m guessing it died at one point without me knowing omg. Kinda feel bad for skipping that stuff because I’d listen into other ppl chat in P3 and P4 to see how their story goes as the year goes on and in P5 it was hard to catch up because there were so many places and it costed money to go everywhere. Well, what can you do, next time I’ll be vigilant.
Finally the most impressive thing they’ve overhauled is how it does its dungeon crawling. It’s got more of a stealth-like gameplay to it when doing heists as well as giving a mix of puzzles to figure out and mini-bosses to defeat, it seems far more different than the previous games and I kinda like it. Though it got me worried about how they would do Persona 6, if they ever do it. Will they revert to the usual dungeon crawling where you climb up/down levels in a tower like P3 or in Mementos in P5 or will they keep in mind of what they did with P5. The stealth parts seems to go hand in hand with the theme of the game, which is being Phantom Thieves that move in the shadows, so I’m not sure if they’ll do that again for P6… but who knows what the future holds. It’s still too early for another installment to the series for me to assume shit. Anyway, I like the steps you have to take to do the actual heist, if the game was handled by someone else it’d prolly be like “just go through the dungeon and get the treasure without stopping”, so it makes the whole process intricate and kinda authentic.
As for battles, it feels better with the new additions of ally supports, baton passes and navigator support (which she actually helps a lot this time by giving the whole team buffs when things look bad) so battles can be more fine and quick. Though, I’m not sure how everyone else feels about it, it seems fun to me.
Some things that I felt like I didn’t have time for and never used would be the home training/going to the gym where you can beef yourself up and increase your HP/SP, hell, I never even went to the gym. Another few things I didn’t use was the crossword puzzle, reading at home, studying at home etc. The other activities I barely used was the batting place, playing video games, fishing, watched a few rented DVDs (I have 1 DVD that I haven’t returned for like months, even when the game finished), went to the maid cafe twice and had a couple of baths. The ones that I haven’t used seems like a waste, though, I can see myself using them often in my second playthrough now that I have my social stats maxed. Maybe it would be best to do a second playthrough on hard, now that I have a few stuff that’ll carry over to new game+… but considering there won’t be much to uncover, like a secret ending, it seems like it’s not gonna be on my priority list to do it anytime soon. I hope that if they do make an enhanced version like Persona 3 Portable or Persona 4 Golden, I hope they’ll have data transfer or something so I can transfer my new game+. I remember P3P has a transfer data option but I’m not sure how that works.
I have high hopes for an enhanced port/version that it’ll add some bonus stuff, maybe some more story stuff, or maybe even a female protagonist (but that might be stretching it a little, there’s prolly no way ATLUS will make another port with a heroine, they didn’t do it for P4). Also, seeing that the PS Vita is kinda dead in the West I’m not even sure if they’ll do the usual PS Vita/PSP port, but if it’s alive in Japan then maybe they can make it work. For most of the time I was playing Persona 5 on my Vita through the PS4 Remote Play feature that prolly everyone forgets about… I can see why though because you’re not allowed to walk too far away from the PS4 or else the connection will break or you’ll get video/audio stuttering. It does have the max resolution of 540p and it plays well seeing that there’s not much to control when it’s a turn base RPG so no button mashing or anything. Plus, playing it on the Vita was a nice way to keep playing even when I’m tired/about to fall asleep.
Overall, gameplay was nice, it was especially engaging when they would change it up with the boss battles and there would be some kind of gimmick to overcome to win the battle which I appreciate compared to any old battle. Though, the only fight that felt a bit disappointing was Shadow Shido’s, then again the battle had multiple phases so I guess that’s the gimmick… but still, it didn’t feel like it was challenging my skills/strategies, plus I couldn’t get the thought of Final Phase Shadow Shido is so much similar to Senator Armstrong (Metal Gear Rising) that it kept me from being serious about this fight and kept thinking about Shido saying “Nanomachines, Son.” . Last boss fight was interesting, particularly near the end. But is it as good as Persona 3’s final boss and the hero’s resolve? Maybe not as good, but it was still satisfying to see the hero’s giant as hell ultimate persona shoot a god point blank between the eyes(?), I’m not even sure if it has eyes.
——Persona 5’s Story
This is where I drop some heavy spoilers for both P5 and P3/P4, please don’t read if you don’t want anything spoiled (even though I did kinda spoil the final boss)
The start of the story was nice, you’re an outcast, everyone looks down on you like you’re a criminal but you’re not and you have no place to belong. It was interesting to see that most of your future teammates, except Ryuji/Morgana and maybe a bit of Haru, were kinda shit towards you but it was interesting to see them reveal that they too wish to be free from the situation they placed themselves in to belong in society and thought that it was fine. I think the main point of the story was to break away from or at least rebel against society, particularly the society that Japan is built upon. It may be a bit hard for Westerners to understand it because of the cultural differences but if I remember what I studied, it seems like the moral teachings/the norms is that there’s not a lot of sense of individuality, that society and its people are “homogeneous” and group oriented, which becomes more relevant when you slowly realise the true culprit behind it all (and I’m not talking about Shido the bald guy). The struggle for our main cast is try to break away from the society that governs all Japanese people… or so I think haha, just take that with a grain of salt. It’d prolly be hard for a foreigner to understand/sympathise with the main struggle the characters face because of our different societies/culture but I’m sure the point does gets across.
All of that is well and good but for the last portion of the game I started getting this feeling like there’s something lacking or missing. One of the things that seemed lacking and has been on my mind the whole time was Akechi Goro and how he was written and stuff. I’ll be completely honest here, I knew from the beginning he might turn heel or become bad and my assumptions kept being fueled by how they kept ignoring him during marketing of the game that it became suspicious and surprise, surprise… he was a bad guy all along. Actually there were quite a few things I had anticipated/predicted so most of the surprises didn’t really, well, surprise me.
(By mysterious glove guy I meant Akechi Goro, I don’t think I knew his name at the time)
I’m not 100% sure if they wanted to keep it a secret that he’d be bad or that they really did want to cover him up so then ppl will be suspicious as hell and drop hints but seriously…. I wasn’t surprised. They also didn’t waste time making him into the traitor, when he asked to join by blackmailing the gang I was like “oh boy, here comes a future heel turn”. The same was done for Adachi–a person you’d least suspect and you assumed was on the same side as you trying to get to the bottom of this case–so I’m sure no one else will be taken by surprise by this unless they weren’t paying attention to the marketing and didn’t playing P4. Akechi only lasted in the group for one heist and then trapped the gang and killed the Protag. It would’ve been more of a heel turn if he was part of the gang from the beginning or even after Makoto joined or something so then we can see him hang out with the rest for a while and gain their trust so then it would have more of an impact, especially when he sacrifices himself in the end to save the rest. They kinda just shrugged it off because they didn’t really care much about him and saw him as a rival/someone against them from the start. Hell, none of them stop to wonder about him at the ending and only Sae just dropped his name going “He’s missing”, so it shows how much of an impact he really was to everyone 😂 Plus, his death was an off-screen death so it made it so ambiguous as to whether he died or not. When a major character dies in Persona you either see them get killed and die or you see their dead body, or for special cases, fall “asleep” on Aigis’ lap and die. Who knows if they’re gonna patch in Akechi Goro somewhere in the enhanced version, if they make one.
Another thing about Akechi Goro’s death, it seems like it was one of the best options for him, he dies as a person who sacrificed himself to save the others and thus redeeming himself. If he had been taken in with the gang after all he’s done then he would have to atone for what he had done like Adachi who eventually got jailed for his crimes… either way it kinda does feel like he cheated by dying. It also feels like a wasted character too tbh, especially when he gets costumes from the DLC pack when you can only take him to battle for one Palace heist, good one, ATLUS. Plus I felt pity for the guy, and I might prolly be one of the few that thinks that he shouldn’t have died, mainly because he should’ve been tried for the crimes he did, would’ve been a nice ironic twist for the ace detective and a nice mirroring between him and the protagonist, like how Adachi mirrored Yu Narukami.
Alas, that didn’t happen and that’s what’s bothering me… that and his death was kinda swept under the rug like it was nothing. Its interesting to see myself get so conflicted with the main heroes of the game, bc sometimes they do some dumb shit and I find myself against them at some times which is a bit refreshing, considering most main casts these days are sometimes too good and above all evil and has no flaws. Though sometimes they do act like they’re they good guys at points and I’m like… yeah sure. I’d like to see a game where it went to an extreme to where the main cast thinks they’re doing what is right but are doing something that hurts others/complicate things (oh wait, I might be thinking about Nier) and I guess that’s what sorta happened in P5 too. Just for once I’d like to see more games with anti-heroes where they end up messing things up and create total havoc. But that’s just my thoughts.
Anyway, back to my train of thought about how things felt a bit lacking during the end. I’m not sure how to put it but it just feels like something’s not right/missing, it doesn’t seem to stick the landing for me or leave a heavy impact as Persona 3’s ending did for me, then again P3’s ending was pretty depressing. Maybe the story didn’t meet to my expectations or something, I’m not sure but something feels off. To be honest I’m not sure if I left feeling completely satisfied, maybe because I was playing it 24/7 and never took a break to think things over. Maybe it’s just me who thinks this. I wouldn’t say it was bad, I had fun, but it feels like it’s missing something, maybe more interactions as a normal high school student with some high jinks with the gang, then again, the protag can’t be a normal student seeing that he’s on probation. Sigh. This is prolly gonna eat away at me as I try to figure out what’s lacking. It’s like I have this feeling that I want to enjoy it more but I can’t and I don’t know why, maybe its sweet, sweet depression who knows 😉
I’m not sure why I came out of this game feeling complicated, there’s a resolved ending and everything but something just doesn’t feel right. It’s like I’m on the fence with this one, it’s got good graphics, nice soundtrack, good combat and gameplay but it feels like its lacking something somewhere. Maybe I wanted more scenes of the gang having fun and something to enjoy, tbh the last fun moment I had was the Valentine’s Event with Ryuji as bro-bachelors with no GFs.
The conclusion of the blossoming bromance
Maybe it’s just that I wish it could’ve lasted a bit longer, 1 year ain’t that long (jk it’s really long). Maybe if I replayed it and just take things slowly to savour it I might actually enjoy it more. Prolly my fault in the first place deciding to play it 24/7. One thing is for sure is that it has left me thinking about it a lot after having now finished it, trying to figure out its message and stuff. Usually things like that just fly over my head so it’s no surprise I’m wondering what’s missing, I prolly missed the point of it haha. My bad.
As always, thanks for reading. I hope I wasn’t a wet blanket on P5 with my thoughts/rant.