The Jakarta Post
Also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, the video game series was originally a spinoff of Megami Tensei, a supremely popular multimedia franchise in Japan. (Atlus /File)
The Japanese role-playing game (JPRG) Persona series is one of the most popular recent Japanese pop-culture exports to have graced the rest of the world. Also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, the video game series was originally a spinoff of Megami Tensei, a supremely popular multimedia franchise in Japan.
The series’ popularity is due to its uncanny ability to effectively juggle the seeming mundanity of a Japanese teenager’s life with exciting battles—both of the supernatural (demons) and regular kind (big, bad adults).
To many, Persona 4 felt like the pinnacle of this concept, as it was so complete that fans would not be faulted for thinking that from then on, such achievements would only be made in small iterations. As it turns out, that is not the case. Persona 5, the series’ newest entry, is one of the best video games to ever be released — full stop. It succeeds at every level — from addictive gameplay and strong characters to absorbing graphics.
The game was published by Atlus in Japan and North America and by Deep Silver in Europe and Australia, and was released first in Japan last year in September before receiving a worldwide release this month.
The game takes place in Tokyo and follows the geographical detail of the city very well, a plus for those looking for a virtual holiday of sorts. It stars a silent protagonist who is put on probation for an attack he did not commit.
During a school year, this hero, along with his buddies, start to awaken their Persona powers, ultimately becoming secret vigilantes called the very JPRG-sounding Phantom Thieves of Hearts. As always, these goodhearted teenagers must brawl with supernatural entities utilizing their Personas. The process mixes RPG elements with dungeon exploration.
While the game’s translation can sometimes feel wonky — though it has been debated that this was done on purpose — the story and characters are the game’s best qualities. Though very Japanese in context, these characters are identifiable and filled with heart.
The Japanese role-playing game (JPRG) Persona series is one of the most popular recent Japanese pop-culture exports to have graced the rest of the world.(Atlus/File)
The game’s empathic band of teens battle not only unfriendly beings but real-world evil in the form of sexual abuse, suicide, abuse at school, child slavery and even corporate bullying. Of course, as is the series’ wont, these darker elements are balanced with simulated activities such as attending class, sunbathing, working part-time, studying in cool places and taking naps in Japanese huts. These teenage elements never feel compulsory. Rather, it adds to your character’s sense of humanity.
While modern video games tend to find success in creating empathy for a character, it is still a feat when moving elements are integrated in a way that impacts a player’s decision, lending a very tangible sense of purpose and weight to its story. For example, the “bad” drug dealer is given a backstory that pushes him far from being yet another video game cliché.
The game’s depth is another plus, with abilities that include ranged weapons and negotiation tactics.
The battles take place in “palaces” in the target’s mind. Such a concept has allowed developer Atlus to come up with the most creative of scenarios, including challenging puzzles — in locations ranging from museums and old castles to spaceships — that could include solving a bank vault’s cryptogram or a hieroglyphics puzzle.
The game’s map is immense and Tokyo feels very real, even in anime form. Players will spend countless hours running through Shibuya, for instance. Watching movies or simply going to the gym has rarely felt so fun inside a video game.
Persona 5 is truly a world-building game with up to 100 hours of official gameplay for the most dedicated of gamers. It is fun, it is full of emotion and it is filled with an unbeatable sense of style and purposeful conviction — a must-have game without a shadow of a doubt.
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