After more than 25 hours, Persona 5 just keeps on getting better! Having named their group the Phantom Thieves, the upbeat Shujin high schoolers have already managed to get three treacherous adults to confess their crimes. While at it, this elusive group has also gotten two new members, and is starting to draw the attention of both the media and the police. While it’s nice to be famous, some are still on the fence about such vigilantism. Thus, our heroes have no choice but to up the ante and try to win over public support by exposing grim secrets of increasingly more famous and dangerous individuals.
Catching these wrongdoers is not a particularly straightforward process. To find a suitable target, the Phantoms need to figure out not just their name and location, but also the nature of the place that lurks within their subconscious. Once these are known, the team can enter said subconscious to work their way towards the desire hidden deep within its depths. To stand in their way are plenty of Persona demons to be bested in turn-based battles. They could be a real threat, but thankfully each team member has awoken a Persona of their own, and the protagonist can actually possess several of them. Each Persona has its own skills, strengths, and weaknesses, so combat requires a constant keen tactical eye to take the best advantage of them. If a Persona has been given a thorough thrashing, it can sometimes be recruited into the arsenal of the main character, or extorted for extra cash or items. Of course, the same applies the other way around, so a careless player can end up in a hostage negotiation about the life of his friend.
Even if the battle system is heavenly versatile and full of depth, it suffers from rather unbalanced economics. Even on easy difficulty, individual encounters yield only pitiful amounts of money. Just a single weapon or a piece of gear for a single character is often a notable investment that has to be thought through long and hard. Even more annoying is the weakness and rarity of health items. Especially magic points needed to invoke persona skills are nigh on impossible to restore, because those recovery items are ridiculously rare and might not even restore enough points for a single use of a single skill. Resorting to melee attacks only is hardly an option, so the most common reason to retreat from a dungeon back into the real world is running out of skill points to fight efficiently.
Slow grinding wouldn’t be a problem as such, but just like in previous Persona games, time is also an extremely finite resource. There’s a deadline for conquering each parallel world, and while it is often generous on its own, enjoying adolescence to its fullest takes plenty of time, too. Each day only has a couple of slots that can be used as the player sees fit. As well as challenging the main story dungeons, there’s plenty of relationships to deepen, five different personal attributes to improve, several part-time jobs to consider for additional income, etc. There’s always so many ways to spend free time that it’s pretty much impossible to experience absolutely everything in a single playthrough. Since this adventure will probably take well over 80 hours to begin with, such blatant dependence on an eventual NG+ is actually pretty disheartening.
Still, it’s quite possible to forgive (or even circumvent) all these apparent defects as the Phantoms stylishly steal the hearts of not just the bad guys but the player, too. More about that not until the next status update, as right now the pull back into this wondrous virtual Tokyo is just too strong to resist.