In a year shaping up to be excellent for gaming, Persona 5 is here to steal your heart. The off-kilter Japanese RPG oozes style and flair while nailing some heavy themes.
Set to an acid-jazz soundtrack, the game moves in a languid, flowing pace as it follows a group of teenagers who set out to change the hearts of corrupt adults.
A classic turn-based fighting system provides strategic challenges: players must find their enemies' weaknesses quickly or face a punishing series of attacks. Some of the early fights feel almost unfair, but as you level up and unlock new abilities, losing tends to make you feel outsmarted rather than out muscled.
The gang of teens, and a talking cat, dubbed The Phantom Thieves are on a mission to force a psychological breakdown in corrupt adults by entering their repressed fantasies. If you haven't already guessed it, this game draws deeply on the ideas of Freud and Jung.
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One villain has sexually abused schoolgirls, bringing one to attempt suicide, while another has plagiarised art. A Mafia boss blackmails students with private information. Persona 5 certainly focuses on adults trying to mess with teens and while themes can be mature and heavy, the writing is well-handled.
My only criticism is a rather annoying character whose lines are so easy to predict, you can just skip through them.
Apart from bringing down corrupt adults, the player must attend school, make friends, get along with their caregiver and otherwise be a good kid in Tokyo. For anyone who's lived or travelled in Tokyo, finding your way to school on the first day by navigating the subway system will make you laugh.
Participating in regular activities will net benefits for fighting in the shadow world, and are hilarious and touching,. You can take a part-time job, study, read a book on picking up girls, participate in medical experiments, try to eat an enormous burger, and much more. Unless your talking cat won't let you, that is.
The choices in Persona 5 can feel overwhelming. There's so much to do, so many enemies to fight, so many waifus to court. The best advice comes from a loading symbol in the bottom corner of the screen which reads: "Take your time."
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Verdict: An instant classic let down by an annoying character.