“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” -Obi Wan Kenobi
While it might not be quite as serious as the utter obliteration of Alderaan, Atlus fans—including yours truly—certainly were dismayed to hear that the latest installment of the hit Persona series is to be delayed for at least six months.
While Persona 5 was originally slated to be released by the end of this calendar year, a recent video released by Atlus indicated that it would not be available for purchase until Summer of 2016. While the specific reasons for this delay are unknown, Atlus rewarded its fans with a sneak peek of some of the fruits of its hard work in an updated trailer featuring animated cutscenes, gameplay, and more.
The Persona series has enjoyed great success, especially since the release of its third and fourth installments in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The high praise it has received from gamers and critics alike is due to a variety of factors. Much of their appeal comes from the unique gameplay, which includes RPG, school/dating sim, and collection elements, as players must battle malevolent forces in a space-time continuum of which ordinary citizens are unaware, maintain social relationships, and meet academic expectations, all the while continuing to collect and fuse new Personas—reflections of one’s inner self that permit the use of skills in battle. Navigating through these diverse tasks presents a stimulating challenge for gamers, and I personally have not been able to find anything quite like it anywhere else on the market. I feel that it provides just the right balance of realism and fantasy to make it truly compelling. What student hasn’t wanted to leave school knowing that the evening holds the promise of saving the world with a power only a select few possess?
Additionally, Atlus is committed to including quality art in their games. Everything from the user interface of the inventory screen, to the multiple outfits that the characters wear as the seasons pass, to the character design is very aesthetically pleasing. While their graphics are not the most advanced on the market, the series continues to innovate and present colorful, detailed, precise, and user-friendly art to the table. With an eye for graphic design, I really appreciate all the little touches that Atlus adds and find that it really enhances my gaming experience.
The series is also known for its excellent storylines, which are famous for their flair for mystery and suspense, well seasoned with drama and even a few dashes of romance. Perhaps most strikingly, the Persona games tend to involve a heavy and substantive psychological element, exploring each of the main characters in depth. (Cue heavy breathing for psychology students like me). Such is the beauty of the use of Personas: while the party uses them to survive amidst the onslaught of the monsters referred to as Shadows, these expressions of their inner selves begin to reveal hidden motivations, insecurities, and secrets. In order to survive, the characters must be willing to bare themselves to their teammates and grow as a group. I find this marriage of individual character development with emphasis on the growing community and interrelatedness of the protagonists to be fascinating and touching. These games move beyond your typical storyline of overcoming an obstacle and thereby gaining a few nuggets of insight on life; they dive deep and show you real glimpses of true humanity in all of its complex multifacetedness while also emphasizing a kind of vulnerable, unconditionally accepted relationality that every person is made to long for.
It is ironic, then, that the cast of Persona 5 summons their alter egos by donning masquerade masks; though outwardly concealing their identities, they are actually slowly disclosing who they truly are. This exists in stark contrast to the previous installments in the series; in Persona 3, characters used gun-like “Evokers” to bring forth their inner selves, reflecting a willingness to die to pretense and illusion. In Persona 4, party members wore glasses, indicating their ability to see the world uniquely colored through the new lens of their powers. I’m a sucker for symbolism, so these little details make me swoon a little.
Those eagerly awaiting Persona 5 also express interest in its one-of-a-kind soundtrack, once again produced by composer Shoji Meguro. His jazzy inspirations, coupled with distortions, funky bass lines, and interesting vocal choices are valued by musicians and gamers alike, lending themselves to a much more captivating playing experience. It’s a particularly rare experience to actually want to sit through the opening sequence before the title menu just to listen to the music it uses, and even more so to find yourself making that forehead-crinkled, lips-pursed, head-bobbing, shoulder-shimmying, and entirely mortifying little dance that quality music inspires in you. Don’t judge. I know you do it, too.
Set in modern-day Tokyo, Persona 5 follows a high school protagonist who has begun a secretive double life as the “phantom thief.” While many of the details about his reasons for this choice are of yet unknown, the game promises for another enthralling coming-of-age adventure that you won’t want to miss! You’ll just have to wait until Summer 2016 to dive in.
Now it’s time for you to unleash your inner Persona; let us know what you think about the series in the comments section, and don’t forget to explore other articles on Top Shelf Gaming!