What do you look for when playing a video game? Is it amazing mechanics that keep you engaged throughout the entire game? Is it wonderful stories that immerse you in the world the game sets up? Persona 5 does both of these, but where it shines is with its characters and how they interact. The way the personalities are expressed string together the world, as well as the combat, and make an extensive RPG like this enjoyable for dozens of hours.
Persona 5 has roots set in traditional turn based Japanese role playing games. You have a playable silent protagonist, as well as multiple party members that you meet throughout the story. There are also things present in more recent RPGs that Persona does as well. Each party member, alongside many other non-playable characters, have individual stories you can explore and deepen your relationship by helping them and spending time them.
Now, I know these mechanics have been done before. Mass Effect’s Loyalty Missions are a more recent example of strengthening the bond of your party members, and turn based RPG mechanics have been around since the dawn of video games themselves. What makes Persona so special?
Persona’s approach to character relationships and combat mechanics are deeply woven together. Simply put, what you do with one, affects the other. Did you spend time with one character a lot? Good, because that will give them abilities to use when exploring dungeons and facing monsters during combat. Did you use a character in combat frequently and level them up through various battles? Awesome, because that will strengthen your bond with them and open new social avenues.
Persona 5 is all about the characters. Every interaction matters. Not only do they matter for combat and pushing the story forward, but they allow you to fall in love with the characters individually. When was the last time you can say your party members in an RPG felt like your best friends? For me, it was when I played Persona 4. I can tell you every aspect of every party member in Persona 4, and I can’t do that for many other games. You learn what each character’s dreams and aspirations are. You learn what they like, and what they dislike. You learn and help shape their issues, and you truly feel for them. That’s the beauty of the Persona franchise, and Persona 5 is no different.
You want to spend as much time with everyone you become friends with. Everyone has their annoying quirks and everyone has their lovable follies. They feel human, and I don’t think I have felt more attached to party members in a game. The issues are relatable, allowing you to empathize with each character’s issues. You put effort into your relationships with them, and that investment only brings you closer together. This give-and-take is the core reason you feel so invested in each individual character.
Persona 5 may just be the deepest Persona game when it comes to personal stories. They’re dark, heavy, funny, lighthearted, and overall some of the most engaging individual stories I have seen in a game. The reality of the problems these characters face can not only hit close to home, but can make you think about how you’re handling situations outside of the game. The relationships linger, and that is amazing storytelling.
I have yet to finish Persona 5, but from the 50 hours I have invested in these characters, I can honestly say I will remember them forever. I went into this game looking for more characters to build everlasting memories with, and man, it has delivered.