Why Persona 5 is the Perfect First JRPG


So many people including myself have stayed away from JRPGs for countless reasons. Some it may be about the art style, while others may not want such a long game. A few might think that the combat is boring, or the story will be an after thought. I made those arguments for the last 16 years that I’ve been playing video games. About a month ago, something changed my mind about JRPGs and that something is Persona 5.

Most of you have probably heard about the game before. The fan based around the series is die hard, and if someone you know has played the game, they’ve talked about it. Other than that, It was also nominated for Game of the Year in 2017. It didn’t get many GOTYs because it went up against games like Super Mario Odyssey, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That’s not to take away from Persona 5, both of those games redefined two of the biggest series in history.

Okay, some of you still haven’t heard of Persona 5, so what is it? Best way to describe it is as a JRPG that is 50% high school simulator and 50% dungeon crawler. Trust me I understand that high school wasn’t the best time for everyone, but don’t let that turn you off. Persona 5 is the perfect first JRPG for anyone looking to get into the genre.

Everyone Can Relate To At Least One Part Of The Story

How can anyone related to a story about a group of high school students stealing hearts and breaking into other dimension palaces? Surprisingly, it’s quite easy because the story has so many themes in it that effect people daily.

We see a student who is so focused on school and her future, she forgets what drives her to work so hard. A character who’s main drive is justice has to make bad choices due to stress and pressure to solve their case. It’s not only these two themes that are present in the game. We see ideas like bosses mistreating employees, friends turning their back on you, and so many others.

Persona 5 does a great job of sucking you into the game because of these problems. So many of them you can see in the world around you each day. The main and side stories are all packed full of emotions. I believe anyone can relate to at least one of the scenarios or emotions the characters feel.

Despite Being Turn Based, The Combat Feels Quick and Engaging

The last turn-based game I played was Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, that game came out in 2004. Every turn-based game since then has looked too slow, complicated or uninteresting to me. Only after five hours into Persona 5, the combat had hooked me and made me want more. Stylish, fast-paced, strategic and so much more. I knew at this point it was going to be one of my favorite games of all time, and the combat is a major part of that. I’m not joking, I even tweeted about it.

Every battle sequence in Persona 5 is fantastic from start to finish. After engaging an enemy you’re dropped right into the battle screen. The user interface not only not only stylish and oozes the aesthetic of the game, but it’s super simple to use. Jumping between each of the mini menus feels smooth and once you get into the flow of the game, it becomes second nature.

Once you start finding weaknesses or get a little stronger most encounters feel like it is over in seconds. It doesn’t get too easy though, certain encounters still caught you off guard and force you to try. Most boss fights also only take a couple of attempts to figure out the mechanic, and then after that, it takes time. The whole combat experience feels rewarding, doesn’t drag on too quick and rarely feels competitive.

Plus can we talk about how the experience screen is one of the coolest and smoothest ways to get back exploring?

You Get To Focus On What Type Of Experience You Want

Like I said at the beginning of the piece, Persona 5 is half high school sim and half dungeon crawler. It’s impossible to ignore one half or the other, but that doesn’t mean you can’t focus your experience. Outside of the main experience of fighting through and tackling the palaces, you can pick what you do.

Want to focus on expanding your relationships with other characters? How about only crawling through dungeons trying to get as strong as possible? For the most part, you can focus on just one. There are going to be story prompts that may force you to focus on one for a day or two, but that is about all. In my first playthrough, I’ve focused on building relationships and exploring the side stories. Because of that, I’ve realized that I am under leveled going into some situations.

Between power leveling, boosting stats, romantic relationships and more, you can find side content that fits what you want to do. I wouldn’t recommend getting into the game if you’re not interested in combat though, because that is still a heavy part of the game.

In Game Systems Are Easy To Use And Understand

My biggest fear jumping into JRPGs or even some traditional RPGs are the in game systems. Learning new mechanics and understanding complex systems in every new game is exhausting. Persona 5 makes it pretty easy to understand without holding your hand too tight.

First off there are only five passive skills, and then Health Points and Skill Points. HP and SP go up through leveling, certain items, and specific training events, not too hard right? The passive skills are Charm, Intelligence, Guts, Proficiency, and Kindness. They are mostly used in relationship building with confidants or unlocking certain jobs/events. Understanding the specific ways to level up each skill isn’t super clear right away, but you can pick them all up after a couple of hours of game play.

Outside of that, most systems are pretty straight forward. Combat user interface is straight forward. The only complicated part there is understanding strengths and weaknesses and the “Hold-Up” system. Both get explained in game and I’m confident you’ll pick up in no time.

The Art Style Is Timeless And Unique

If someone ever wanted to argue that video games aren’t art, I’d show them Persona 5 and prove them wrong. I could write a 10-page essay on the art style alone, but that doesn’t help convince you to play the game right now.

Persona 5 came out in 2016, but when I started it up for the first time in 2019 it looked amazing. So many game’s graphics starts to feel dated as early as a year after it comes out. It’s not a knock against those games, it’s how fast graphics are advancing on new systems. This will not apply to Persona 5 anytime soon, if ever.

Everything about this game just feels…cool? I mean it’s almost as if it has effortlessly put the definition of cool into an art style. The main menus, combat, character design it all feels connected and creates an incredible aesthetic. No matter what you do you see the pillar colors of red, black and white everywhere. Because of those core colors, it also makes other colors such as Ann’s blue eyes or Ryu’s blond hair pop even more.

On top of that, we have the incredible designs of the 225 different personas in the game. Each one feels completely unique, and designed so well you can sometimes guess their strengths and weaknesses by just looking at them. It made me feel like the first time I played a Pokemon game. I wanted to capture them all and always felt like I could never find a cooler one until I played 10 more minutes and did.

Again like I said, I could talk about the art style of Persona 5 for so much longer. The best way to understand my emotions on it though is to play it. You’re able to understand what I’m trying to say by only watching the opening animation. Don’t believe me? Well watch it for yourself then.

You Will Listen To This Soundtrack In Your Free Time

The Persona series is always well known for their soundtrack and Persona 5 isn’t any different. It starts with the opening animated theme, which is so good you can sit there and watch it on repeat. It doesn’t end there though, the music fits the aesthetic of not only what you’re doing but the whole game. It never feels out of place no matter if you’re in the middle of a palace or bonding with a confidant.

Once you through a good chunk of the game, the music almost starts to feel like comfort food. You know that same music is going to play in certain scenarios, yet it never gets old. Despite playing countless hours each week, I still find myself listening to the soundtrack while relaxing or studying. I’ve never appreciated a game’s soundtrack before Persona 5, but it’s set the bar high. I don’t know if a soundtrack will ever be able to beat it.

So How And Where Do I Play It?

Persona 5 is currently only available on PS3 and PS4. You can pick up either copy through the PlayStation Store for only $20! It often goes on sale as well considering it’s been a couple years since release and it’s one of the games Sony dubbed a “PlayStation Hit.”

Another thing to think about though is Persona 5 Royal. It is a upcoming version of Persona 5 that is going to be an extended and upgraded version of the first game! It’ll have new characters, an expanded story line and a ton of other features. This version will released in Japan in October of 2019, with a foreign release sometime in 2020. It is set to release at the standard $59.99 price, but will be the best version of Persona 5 out there.

So it comes down to how sold you are on this game. If you’re unsure but think it sounds interesting, I’d recommend borrowing from a friend or buying the original version! Otherwise, It might not be a horrible idea to wait for Persona 5 Royal. They’ve said you will not be able to carry over save files, so if you get hooked you may have to start over again.

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