Holy shit, it’s finally here. After all this time, it’s finally here. After many delays, it’s finally here. This game, one that has eluded me for well over five years now, shrouded in mystery and doubt, is finally here. You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to play this game, even when it was first announced and all we had was a simple little teaser image to go on. Now that I finally have it and I get to play it… it’s something else. Persona titles have always had this kind of panache of mixing many Japanese-oriented game styles and telling a story absolutely filled with animé tropes and social commentary but this game doesn’t wait until the end to completely obliterate the walls of expectation. While it’s very clear that this is a Persona title, through and through, there’s something different about this one: this almost feels like the amalgamation of everything that has made this spin-off franchise of Shin Megami Tensei great over the years and then mixed with something all-new that gives this game its own brand-new taste.
The First Dungeon
I can’t really quantify anything about this game in the first twenty minutes, which is why I’m changing things up a little for this one. It’s really slow to get going, much like any Persona game, really. You go through the first stretch of the game while it takes you through the establishment of its world, its characters, and the setup for the conflicts you’ll be faced with. It takes a couple of hours to get through but the game does very well to keep it from being too boring and it’s done in a way that’s very familiar to those who have played the games before.
However, once the game lets you enter into the first dungeon and you’re given free reign for the first time, a lot of the similarities end: gone are the endless trawls through floor after floor of randomly generated boredom while you grind out the necessarily levels until you reach a point where you can’t go past until the story proceeds… you have a set dungeon with a set layout, a unique look, and a style that stands out very well for the character it’s meant to represent without jamming it down your throat. When it’s pointed out the character in question thinks a territory is his “castle,” the game doesn’t stray far from the castle motif but does it without cramming castle motifs in every corner possible. It just looks and works like a castle with some very unique character-based imagery, and that’s it. While you still get the randomized dungeon crawl thing later on as a kind of set of side quests, it’s clearly not the focus. You know what? I’m perfectly fine with this.
As you’re going through the dungeon and you play through a couple of battles you start to realize that it’s clear that this game has a theme and a style all its own and it will take every opportunity to present that and it does so with such flair, finesse, and classiness that very, very, very few games accomplish in the same way. That being said, though, if you don’t like the style, it’s going to rub you the wrong way for the entire game and it’s not going to let up. EVER. While I’m okay with that, I know that this could turn a lot of people off.
Other than that, the game controls good, sounds amazing, and plays like any Persona game – nay, any Japanese-styled RPG, period – should play. There’s just a sense of reward and presentation for doing damn near anything well that just keeps making every session with the game entertaining and it’s not in the same sense that Persona used to do it, where you had to grind things out before it really got to the good stuff, but I casually find myself anticipating nearly every interaction I have with every character and every situation in the game so far and the first dungeon is no change in that.
This game has a very serious shot at being the game of the year – MetaCritic has it penned as one of the highest rated games this year and the highest rated PlayStation game of the year as of this article’s writing. This game also has this rare thing about it where the user ratings are also averaged near the critic’s ratings, showing just how universally good everyone seems to think this game is. I don’t really think there’s much more to say, honestly, other than the fact that this game has received three perfect ratings from notable publications as well as many, many more 90+ percentile ratings from many others. It’s insane how well this game is doing in the critical eye, in spite of complaints from those who, in all sincerity, would complain about nearly any major release that comes out, anyway.
The Final Word: Should I Buy?
Yes. If you’re a fan of JRPGs in any way, shape, or form, you owe it to yourself to purchase this game and thoroughly enjoy it. If you’re a fan of Persona games, there’s literally no excuse for you not getting this game at some point. I am honestly having the hardest time saying anything but extremely positive things about this game. While it’s not perfect and the style certainly is not for everyone, this feels like everything Persona could be and should be. I love this game and it’s one of those that will stick in my memory for as long as I play video games. It’s crazy and I love it.