The cult classic Persona releases its latest game Persona 5. The game comes out almost 10 years after the debut of Persona 4. With this break in to the mainstream it’s easy to sit down through a couple of Persona 5 trailers and still not know what the hell it’s about. That’s fine, but there’s a couple of things you should know before getting your Shin Megami Tensei fix.
What Is A Persona?
Persona is first and foremost a dungeon crawler of sorts. You’ll battle either demons or shadows, with your Hero and his teammates taking command of Personas. These creatures are physical manifestations of a person’s personality. Which make for some fascinating visual representations.
On a more mechanical level, they govern your abilities within fights. Personas have their own strengths and weakness, which tie into the game’s many different elemental statuses. One Persona might have a bunch of fire attacks but be weak to ice, for example. Another might be able to wipe out Darkness prone enemies with a single attack, but do little else beyond that.
Personas are the lifeblood of the series. You’ll fuse them in the Velvet Room (a reoccurring point in all games that ties them all loosely together). While upgrading their stats, acquiring new ones and shuffling between them in battles. Persona 3 and 4 both tied this progression of Personas to Social Links, which make a big impact on how you play the other half of these RPGs.
What Do We Do In Persona?
For as much as Persona is a dungeon crawler, since Persona 3 it’s also been a heavy social life simulator of sorts. Outside of the mystic worlds, Persona really focuses on the day-to-day activities of your characters in traditional Japanese school life. You’ll attend classes, answer stupid questions from tutors, hang out with friends and eat ridiculously large bowls of spicy noodles on rainy days.
Each of these actions have an effect. Whether it be on your personal stats which help progress your own growth through the game. Or on those of your Social Links but just as in reality they take time. Performing one action usually locks all the other out for the rest of the day. With the entirety of Persona’s campaigns taking place during a calendar year. As the days’ tick by, the game progresses, making each of your decisions vital and important as you edge closer to the end of the year.
In Persona 4 especially, this time was used wisely to pressure you into solving the game’s central mysteries. Victims would have specific times as to when they would be murdered in the game’s alternate world. Which added a neat element of urgency to your player progressions and leisurely activities.
What Are Social Links?
Social Links in both Persona 3 and 4 open up new Personas for you to acquire and upgrade. While also introducing you to the stellar side cast that both titles had. Each of these characters are complex, unraveling their inner turmoil the more you get to know them. These personalities are directly tied to the Personas they unlock. Taking on specific traits and appearances based on the people they manifest from.
The stronger your Social Link to the character, the more powerful Personas in that branch you’re able to fuse. It’s easy to want to work on all your Social Links at once, but Persona 3 and 4 make you manage your time wisely. You can only be best friends with so many people. Our advice? Be sure to always go for lunch with Yukiko.
What’s Different In Persona 5?
Persona 5 expands on the core pillars that both Persona 3 and 4 have established. It retains the calendar system introduced in three and keeps the multiple dungeon structure of Persona 4. But it also dives deep into the heritage of older instalments. Unlike Persona 4, dungeons aren’t just randomly generated floors with empty hallways and shadows. Here they’re specifically designed spaces, allowing you to employ some new stealth mechanics to get the jump on demons.
Like earlier games too, you’ll be able to converse with these demons again. Original Persona titles allowed you to sometimes talk your way out of combat, forcing demons to reward you with gear, additional Personas and more. This system was eventually replaced, culminating in the random Shuffle Time card system in Persona 4.
Persona 5 is bigger. The more central Tokyo setting is larger and packed with more side activities to lose yourself in, and that’s discounting the many side missions and alternate dungeons you can find yourself exploring. You’ll still have to keep your grades up though, so try listen in class and ignore the talking cat.
Persona 5 is out now on PS4 and PS3. Reviews have been stellar, and since each story stands on its own there’s no need to worry about missing out on the long lineage of the series. Just go eat some noodles, attend class and kick demon ass at night.