Recently, after a countdown stream from Atlus that ended a few weeks ago, we have finally gotten a release date for the highly anticipated game, Persona 5. It releases September 15th, 2016 for the PS3 and PS4 in Japan, with no Western release date yet. There will still be an E3 event for Persona, so one can infer that more information on the North America release will be revealed then. This isn’t a well known game, so you might be wondering, “what’s all the excitement about?”
The full title of Persona 5 is actually Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. It’s a spin off series from a line of games called Shin Megami Tensei (MegaTen or SMT for short). The SMT series has always dealt with two things: demons and communication. The games let you talk to your enemies to learn their weaknesses, or to recruit them into your personal army. This mechanic is surprisingly deep and is one of the main features to all SMT games. Persona 5 and the SMT series aren’t directly connected, by the way. There are references and cameos to previous Persona games, but if you haven’t played them it doesn’t lessen the experience.
What makes this series so liked and respected is a tough question. One of the answers is that they are well told stories, about coming of age and realizing who you are, understanding the world around you and what different backgrounds people come from. This is emphasized with “Social Links”. Creating Social Links with certain NPC’s gets you the story behind their character, and you can receive EXP bonuses to Arcana (which are the different tarot cards in the game) to create powerful “Personas”. Personas are a manifestation of the user’s personality, used as a “mask” to help them go through their hardships. They can be used to kill “Shadows”(which is this game’s “Demons”), and deal magical and physical damage. At certain parts of the day, you can level up your team and Personas by going through randomly generated dungeons. Bonuses granted from the Social Links are relevant here. It’s a turn-based battle system, with the goal being that you have to find the elemental weakness of the Shadows to kill them efficiently. There is also ways to fuse different Personas together to inherit skills, make them stronger, or make a completely different Persona.
The game’s combat system doesn’t seem impressive, and isn’t something other RPG’s haven’t possibly done better. So why is it so well received? That’s because the story is engrossing. Every NPC has their own personality, and once you develop your Social Links with them, you learn their morality, goals and ambitions. By day you are a high school student; taking classes, talking to classmates, doing side jobs or hobbies that help develop your stats, but by night you’re a hero set to save the town (or even the world) from dark forces that nobody else knows about but you and your team. By the end of the game, you have grown up with these characters and developed your own personal relationships with them. That is what makes the Persona series amazing. You aren’t just hooked by the story. You become part of it, and with its 60+ hour playthroughs, it becomes an unforgettable experience.
The Persona series is something worth adventuring through. It offers unique game play that no other game has. It’s one of a kind and has a huge cult following, for good reason. With its mature touching story and characters, to the deep and developed systems they have placed, not to mention the phenomenal soundtracks created by Shoji Meguro, this series provides a rich, dense player experience. Persona 5 is set to raise that bar higher than ever before.