Persona 5: Stealing our hearts

As if we weren’t excited enough about Persona 5, Atlus has only gone and made it look like the most stylish JRPG ever. That all starts with the cinematic anime cutscenes made by ProductionI.G–the studio behind the Ghost In The Shell films and the animated sequence you may remember from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill which are, quite simply, stunning. Given the Persona series’ strength when it comes to art direction, it’s no surprise to see that sense of style carry over to every other aspect of the game. Whether we see our protagonist walking through a train station, exploring a dungeon or engaging in turn-based combat, the game looks incredible. That’s inno small part due to the fact that Atlus is careful to ensure that it ties everything in the Persona games to a specific theme and representative colour, lending them a visual consistency that makes them an aesthetic delight.

As pleased as we are to see Atlus bring that trademark Persona panache to the fifth entry in the series, what is more intriguing to us is that there are hints that Persona 5 will shake up what has unquestionably been the weakest element of the game: dungeon crawling. For a start, those boring and repetitive corridors look as if they will be replaced with environments that are more intricate and interesting to explore. Even more enticing is the potential introduction of some new mechanics. We’ve seen Persona 5’s protagonist making lightning-fast dashes between cover while exploring a dungeon with an oblivious enemy in the background. There’s a suggestion, then, that there is at least one kind of stealth-like mechanic to allow you to avoid, or perhaps get the drop on, enemies.
If there’s another obvious area in which Persona 5 is changing things up, it has to be the way it treats its main characters. Where Persona’s characters have traditionally been placed unequivocally on the side of good, it seems there are shades of grey in this game. In opposition to being a unassuming new student transferred to a Tokyo high school, the game’s protagonist has an alternate and more exciting identity that of a phantom, mask-wearing thief (it’s no coincidence that his Persona is named Arsène, a reference to the fictional French thief, Arsène Lupin). At least part of the game, then, will involve undertaking heists planned with the three other characters we’ve had a look at two fellow students and a talking cat, who we assume will be the equivalent to Persona 4’s Teddie. This propensity for law-breaking is related to the themes the game tackles, with the game’s director, Katsura Hashino, talking about how the game reflects the fact that many people feel like they don’t know where their place is in the world and that challenging the status quo can sometimes be the only response to that.

Though challenging the status quo is what Persona 5 itself seems to be doing in some ways, it’s clear that a number of traditional Persona elements also remain. Each day will be segmented into morning, afternoon and evening, with the choice being placed in your hands as to how you spend that time.  Social Links will return, meaning that you can choose to socialise with different characters that you meet in order to improve your relationships with them and, by extension, your abilities in battle. We’d also speculate that the ability to take on jobs to earn cash, study to improve your stats or visit dungeons to level up your Personas will return. In any case, Persona’s calendar mechanic has proved to be a great way of pacing the game, so we’re pleased to see it return.  

Persona 5’s apparent intent to reflect on the angst of living in the modern world via the perspective of some masked thieves/ high school students suggests to us that the game will maintain the bizarre oscillating tone and unique mix of gameplay styles that made its predecessor so enjoyable. If we get that eclectic mix of social simulation and JRPG combat, along with a commitment to rethink some of the series’ less compelling elements, we will be very happy indeed.  

Persona 4 Golden gave you the option to sit in on lessons explaining the psychology of Carl Jung, on which the game’s fiction is based. If you’ve missed that, let us give you a crash course .

In Jungian psychology, the Persona is a mask that we use in order to interact with the social community. In the Persona games, that concept is given a twist, the Persona being the avatar that gives each character their power in battle.

For Jung, the shadow represents aspects of our personality that  we refuse to associate ourselves with and, consequently, reject. In the Persona  games, these negative emotions constellate into the ‘Shadows’  that you face throughout the game.

The unconscious is neither inherently good or bad, but it can become dangerous if not kept in balance. In the Persona games, aspects of its characters’ personality that they’ve pushed into their unconscious come back to confront them as enemies.

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