For the past several weeks, I’ve been slowly making my way through “Persona 5.” It’s a game I knew almost nothing about going in, but it’s been surprisingly fun to simulate high school life while occasionally battling cognitively generated shadows and dealing with other anime-esque craziness.
I’d heard about the “Persona” games several times over the years but never really looked into the series. Before “Persona 5” launched in late 2016, “Persona 4” released in 2008. Considering the gap between main entries, it made sense the series wasn’t really on my or my friends’ radars this past decade.
“Persona 5” released to glowing reviews and commercial acclaim, so I got it and let it sit on my shelf for a while. I started playing in April and now, two months later, I’m still far from finishing. Luckily, the game is a blast despite the fact a majority of it simulates high school life.
The premise of “Persona 5” is pretty simple: You and a few friends are anonymous antiheroes who have the ability to travel into cognitive “palaces” and change the hearts of corrupt people by battling creatures. Combat is turn-based, and characters use monsters called personas to fight in rock-paper-scissors-like battles, such as a souped-up “Pokemon” game.
That alone is enough to make for a fun experience, but “Persona 5” goes much deeper.
When not infiltrating someone’s palace (which makes up only a fraction of gameplay), it’s up to you how you spend your days. And yes, “Persona 5” requires you to live out each day over the course of nearly a year.
“Persona 5” accurately depicts high school life in a lot of ways. There’s limited time to do all the things you want to accomplish, and whatever you choose to do comes with consequences.
For example, spend time playing baseball, and you might become more proficient. But that might come at the cost of doing well on your exams. It can be almost stressful deciding the best way to take advantage of whatever precious free time the game allows you. It reminds me of my high school days. If only “Persona 5” let you join the marching band.
Another huge component to the gameplay is the ability to grow relationships with your fellow combatants and other friends by spending time with them. How you treat your friends and the strength of your bonds also affect combat and the story. It’s been a delight to make friends with certain characters and grow closer to and learn more about them.
Plus, as you better yourself by studying, working, reading and so on, you boost your social stats, and those skills play an indirect role in how you perform in combat. “Persona 5” makes all that pointless knowledge you learned in high school actually feel useful.
But the best part is the story’s slow grind really helps immerse you in this fictional world. This isn’t a quick game you pick up and burn through. After pouring about 70 hours into “Persona 5” so far, I’d estimate I’m just past the game’s halfway mark. That’s just fine with me. The game’s length helps you familiarize yourself with the characters and the story.
Of course, even a great high school simulator would get tedious after a while, which is why I’m thankful there’s some fun combat to break it all up. Add in some fun characters, an interesting story and a stellar soundtrack, and you’ve got a recipe for an awesome game I wouldn’t mind blowing another 70 hours on.