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PaigeFTW: ‘Persona 5’ Steals Your Heart

I thought March was going to be the greatest month for games ever. How could it not? Between Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildNier: Automata, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Persona 5, there was just no way it could be a bad month.

But loyal readers know that my experiences have been, well, less than stellar. (I also just have not had the time to play HZD or Nier like, at all.)

I had one hope remaining.

Persona 5 knows its roots as a devastatingly difficult old-school JRPG dungeon crawler. It also knows its fans hold it beloved for its forays into visual novel territory. The game does not reinvent the wheel — it just spruces the car up with an uber-stylish coat of paint and demands to be driven.

The dark story finds you, the protagonist, unfairly convicted of assault and shipped away to the big city. The world is cruel and cold. Bad people do worse things and go unpunished. A chance sequence of events means that he unlocks the power to “steal hearts” – and punish evildoers in a metaphysical world of shadows.

The story is probably the darkest the series has ever delved — and yes, I include Persona 3, the game where you literally shoot yourself in the head every five minutes, in that estimation.

Despite this, you’re also still an ordinary Japanese high school student, and so the rest of your time will be spent taking exams, romancing your classmates and working part-time at the beef bowl shop.

It’s the same old Persona formula, yes, but with a few notable tweaks. Dungeons have been reinvented and redesigned to avoid the auto-generated labyrinths of the past. Now they have unique character and trickier puzzles. Combat reincorporates older tricks lost in Persona over time, like negotiation and bribes, adding a welcome change of pace to battles.

The menus and general aesthetic are probably the best designed in any game I have ever played, ever. Flipping through your inventory has never felt so awesome. Everything oozes style.

It’s the sequel that knows what the people want — and gave them a little more. I’ll have more to say next week…