The grab bag variety of game releases this April featured several high profile remasters with Mario Kart 8: Deluxe and Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, as well as the Kickstarter-funded Yooka-Laylee from former Rare developers Playtonic. Without a doubt, however, Persona 5 takes the prize for our April Game of the Month. The Persona series has been consistently well-received for its combination of epic JRPG combat and its alluring, colorful casts of characters. It’s an entertaining mix of The Breakfast Club meeting Final Fantasy. The newest addition to the franchise, Persona 5, is a most welcome installment, integrating the best elements of the series while still standing out enough to be unique.
Another year, another Japanese high school at the center of world-shattering events. As with previous games in the series, Persona 5 has players living a dual life, splitting your time between the day-to-day struggles of high school and defeating spectral monsters with your own spectral monsters. When you’re not playing video games, going shopping, or bonding with friends, you travel to a parallel world and gain control of powerful guardians known as Personas. While previous entries in the series explored characters coming to terms with these new powers, Persona 5’s cast embraces their abilities and become a gang of vigilantes. They enter another dimension, the Metaverse, and steal hearts in order to make a real-world counterpart repent for their actions. Rather than traversing randomly generated dungeons, the Phantom Thieves enter otherworldly Palaces in order to these defeat real-world villains. These areas are far easier and more fun to explore, and with the addition of a faster and flashier combat system, you can access more content in the 100+ hours needed to fully master this game.
Only half of the game is spent traversing the phantasmal world, however. In the other half, you’re bonding with friends and acquaintances in the aforementioned daytime segments. These bonds are the most interesting parts of the game, getting to know the backstories and motivations of the people you’ll be interacting with day after day. The party members become heroes while also learning more about themselves and growing as individuals. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition leading to a complex story. Persona 5 in particular features \characters dealing with issues like alcoholism, politics, and the bleak future. It’s rare to see a game tackle these kinds of themes, and even rarer for them to be handled in such a manner that feels appropriate while simultaneously retaining the game’s sense of joy. Persona 5 manages to achieve this balance.
This game just oozes personality. There’s a sort-of “style” that is part anime, part cool, part ridiculous, part insanity, sitting at the center of this game that makes it eye-popping and fun. The upbeat soundtrack, the dialogue, even the menus and user interface are all filled with character. Details like this show that the developers took time and care while working on this game. There’s a sense of joy that emanates from within when you’re playing it. You can’t help but crack a smile and have fun along with it.
2017 has been a fantastic year for RPGs. Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have all taken this familiar genre and found ways to reinvent it for their own universes. Persona 5 is another contender for one of the best games this year. It stands atop Metacritic’s list of best PS4 games (at the time of this review), even coming close to challenging Breath of the Wild, and is more than worthy of being considered Game of the Month.