The Summer of 20XX

Ryuji, the protagonist, and Ann

Blessed be both free time and Persona 5! The exchange year of our protagonist began in April. Now, after more than 60 hours played, I’m enjoying the last few days of November. What has already been a most emotional and action-packed roller coaster ride just keeps on getting wilder! With yet three more members, the Phantom Thieves have risen to fame, fallen from grace, experienced surprises and plot twists of all kinds, and the story is currently scorching at a hundred miles per hour on a straight that seems to lead towards the finishing line. There’s still plenty to do but the feeling that this might be my game of the year just keeps on growing stronger.

Only a handful of games manage to be this captivating, and Persona 5 manages to excel on multiple fronts at that. As I’ve already pointed out a couple of times, it’s a pinnacle of pure style. Its visuals are an exhilarating explosion of color, and absolutely everything from menus and loading screens to dialogue windows and character close-up shots have been designed with utmost care and originality. The wonderful looks are complemented by an equally wonderful soundtrack, which might not feature that many songs, but which provides appropriate aural bliss for every occasion; bass-heavy jazz and lounge music for the more relaxed scenes, wailing electric guitars for the thrilling boss fights.

Voice acting is particularly brilliant. The previous game featured a forced dub which which wasn’t bad as such but seriously subtracted from the ambiance of an otherwise so fundamentally Japanese experience. This time around Atlus was considerate enough to remember us purists, too, releasing the original audio as a free piece of DLC. Granted, when I downloaded it from the European PSN store, it cryptically stated just “Cannot find the application.” The reason for this was my physical copy imported from North America, and the “simple” solution was to create a new US account and use that to download the same DLC from the PSN store across the pond. Oh, how easy and convenient this digital future can be. Still, well worth the hassle as there’s no better audio than original audio!

Most importantly, Persona 5 possesses that ever-so-essential soul. The charm of our mystical hero is like a magnet, drawing in not just other main characters but several NPCs as well. Everyone has been written a meaningful side-story that has been split into more than ten scenarios. The game has plenty of humor to enjoy, but it can also be extremely touching and does not shy away from such controversial subjects as depression, suicide, arranged marriages, social anxiety, bullying, etc. All of this takes place during a delightfully authentic school year that features everything essential from grueling exam weeks to school trips, culture festivals, and intolerably humid summer holidays. The game does a fantastic job combining a supernatural adventure with everyday life, and it’s a recipe that is just plain stellar!

As for the minor annoyances mentioned last time, they’re really rather inconsequential. If fighting through the dungeons feels too challenging, there’s always a Safe difficulty mode that gives out such ridiculous amounts of money and experience that a game over is pretty much impossible. As for time management, it’s just a matter of consulting the internet (e.g. KillScottKill’s nifty spoiler-free walkthrough) on what to do at any given free moment. Sure, these are extremely cheap ways to experience the game but then again, they are polite nods towards those who either can’t or don’t want to sink triple or quadruple digit hours into a single game. Then again, with or without training wheels, the game simply has so much to see and do that NG+ is pretty much a given once the end credits have rolled. For now, I’m off to reach them!