“Take Your Heart:” A Review of Persona 5

Rebecca Hunt

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For people who aren’t super invested in RPGs, the Persona series (a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei series) can seem overwhelming. It definitely seemed that way to me when I picked up a copy of Persona 5 for the PS4, a game I ended up absolutely smitten with. This game was stuck in development for years, with the publishers promising a game release as early as 2014. It didn’t actually see the light of day until late 2016, though, but the wait was worth it.

The story follows a teenage boy named Akira Kurusu, whose situation is more than a little messed up. One day, he was walking home from school and heard screaming. When he ran to see what was going on, he found a man harassing a woman. Akira, in a moment of courage, pushes the man aside to protect her. Unfortunately, this man turns out to be someone with a fair amount of influence, leading Akira to be put on a year’s probation, expelled from his school, and forced to move in with a total stranger in the middle of Tokyo for the next year. Over the next few months, Akira meets a colorful cast of characters and discovers that he — along with several of his new friends — possesses the power of Persona, a sort of extension of one’s soul. Using this power, he creates the Phantom Thieves, an organization dedicated to “stealing hearts” and forcing people in power to repent. They target all sorts of corrupt or otherwise “evil” people, starting with a teacher at their school who abuses the volleyball team (and one of the Thieves) and moving on to bigger targets, like a famous artist who steals from his pupils and a father willing to force his daughter into an arranged marriage with a man much older than her.

Without a doubt, the best part of Persona 5 is its aesthetic. The game is one of the most stylish RPGs I’ve ever played, though people may not approve of its cartoonish style. The combat system is smooth, effective, and easy to jump into, especially compared to the styles of the also fantastic last two Persona games. Its color scheme of black and red is fantastic, the Shujin Academy school uniforms are the best-looking uniforms I’ve ever seen, and the character designs are unique in the best way. The dungeons the player ventures into throughout the game all have crazy designs, from a flying bank to a pharaoh’s tomb. Every part of this game is visually stunning.

Though at first the game seems to promise amazing characters, all with their own storylines to follow (though in previous games they were known as Social Links, now they’re Confidants), many characters ended up not developing as much as they should have. The first members of the Thieves, Ann Takamaki and Ryuji Sakamoto, start off as amazing characters, highlighting both Ann’s struggles with sexual harassment and objectification and Ryuji’s despair after being kicked off the track team, but as the game progresses they lose some of what made them amazing in the first place. Others, though, are developed really well, especially the story-required Confidants, most notably Morgana the cat. He’s a little tuxedo cat who Ryuji and Akira meet the day their Personas awaken, and he’s the funniest, sassiest little cat in the world. Throughout the story, he is recovering from amnesia and remembering more and more about his life, leaving the player guessing at who, or what, Mona really is.

I played the game for about 120 hours on my first play-through, and missed a lot of content. The story is very linear and you have limited time to progress, so it takes two play-throughs to fully complete the game. Because of this, I felt like the $60 I invested in the game was well worth it. It is by no means a perfect game, but it’s those criticisms that make me love it even more. Persona 5 left me laughing, crying, and angry all at once, and I wasn’t even a prior fan of the series.

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