Release Date: April 4, 2017
Platform Played On: PS4
2018 Placement: #16 (-1)
What It Is:
The fifth entry in the SMT spinoff series, Persona 5 is a slice-of-life game combined with RPG action and the relentless march of oppressive adults ruining the world for the younger generation. You play as Joker, a silent protagonist who moves to a suburb of Tokyo and stays with a guardian for a year, being punished for a crime he committed in his actual hometown. Along the way he makes friends with a bunch of other high schoolers, investigates the hearts of evil adults and makes them repent their ways, and blackmails his teacher into becoming his maid.
Er, wait…uh, moving on.
Persona 5 is the high point of the franchise: it removes the randomized dungeon crawling in favor of specially crafted dungeons with a heist theme. The day-to-day gameplay has you managing your calendar as you want to increase your Social Links to both unlock more story and improve the stats of your character. You can hang out with friends, eat burgers, study, and do all sorts of different things in-between saving the world from the nasty adults. No other RPG really balances the social life and RPG dungeon battle gameplay the way the Persona series does, and Persona 5 nails all those aspects out of the park.
Why It’s Important To Me:
You play an RPG for nearly 100 hours and you really get to know and love the characters involved. By the time I wrapped up Persona 5’s ending I felt sad that this was the end of my journey with this particular group of students. Each character: Ryuji, Ann, Morgana, Makoto, and more, all of them fit together so nicely and the way the characters play off of each other is fantastic and ends up being one of the best RPG casts in the history of gaming. And the fact that Persona 5 ditches the random dungeons and incomplete control of your party just makes the actual dungeon gameplay part of the game the best of the series.
The theme is also the best of the Persona games (in my opinion): each character having a thief Persona and each dungeon basically being a heist to steal a person’s heart is a fantastic concept that’s executed to perfection. There are some hiccups: the aforementioned blackmailing of the teacher and very brief appearances by some homophobic side characters are low points in the game. But if you take the 90+ hours of content overall and compare it to the few bumps in the game, it’s a very well done RPG that is worth playing to completion.
My Strongest Memory:
You really think me, the person who has ranted and raved about soundtracks up and down this top 100 list, wouldn’t talk about the Persona 5 OST? Yeah, c’mon, like that was going to happen. I imported this 3-disc OST from Japan and it became a main staple for my car rides to work almost immediately (that is, when I actually had to drive to work). Almost all the strong memories I have of particular moments in this game are because of the awesome soundtrack.
Fighting Kamoshida for the first time and hearing Blooming Villain start its crescendo in his boss introduction. The first time Life Will Change kicks in with lyrics in a dungeon. Entering the fifth dungeon and hearing its hard-ass weird-ass rock theme blasting from my speakers. And, of course, when you get to the penultimate clash and Rivers In the Desert starts playing. I literally sat up and was on the edge of my seat as that theme was the cherry on top of how awesome that fight was. The Persona 5 OST is a top 5 gaming OST of all-time, you can’t change my mind (or steal my heart).
Why It’s #17:
Persona 5 is in an ultimate and neverending showdown with #16 on the list (which will be coming soon). I flip back and forth on which one is ranked higher as my enjoyment of both of these games is about equal. Whenever I make one of these lists, these two games will always be next to each other because Persona 5 is the peak of modern JRPGs for me, while the next game is the peak of another genre and depending on my mood, one genre will currently be outranking the other. While I can’t wait to see what they do with Persona 6, it’s going to be very hard for it to outclass 5 for me simply due to how much I adore the cast and music. And no, I haven’t played Royal yet. It’s on my to-do list, okay?