An Unpopular Opinion: I Just Don’t Like Persona 5

An Unpopular Opinion: I Just Don’t Like Persona 5

FULL SPOILERS FOR PERSONA 4 AND PERSONA 5

A few months ago, I ended up with a PS Vita and a copy of Persona 4: Golden. What followed was an extended love affair. I could not put my Vita down for weeks. When I wasn’t busy with family, or work, I was hanging out in Inaba.

Living alongside Rise Kujikawa, the J-idol on a break, and Yosuke Hanamura, the troubled son of a large department store owner, was blissful. Walking the streets of the shopping district, or along the flood

plains, there was always some to spend time with, and delve into their fascinating backstories. The Scooby-Doo like whodunnit mystery was the pièce de résistance. It motivated you to keep moving forward, to find the killer before he struck again.

I’d never been much of a JRPG fan but Persona 4 and I bonded. I can’t remember a game in twenty plus years of playing where I was that invested into it. Maybe Pokemon Red in 1997, where the sense of adventure, venturing out boldly into the unknown was mind-blowing for a small child. Spending time with the cast of Persona 4 was always a pleasure – amusing, witty conversation and genuinely likeable personalities.

When it finally wrapped up, and the train whisked me away from my family back to the city, I sat quietly on the sofa for several minutes. Knowing it was over left me following hollow. It sounds borderline psychotic to be so emotionally attached to pixels, but I can’t deny those feelings. As the credits rolled, the mixture of emotions – sadness it was over, joy at having experienced such a wonderful journey, depression that I would never be able to experience it all for the first time again – was overwhelming.

I take solace in the fact that Persona 5 had released just a few weeks prior. After taking a break in order to mull over the odyssey I’d gone through, I bought a copy of P5, and started it up.

20 hours in, and there’s nothing I want to do more than leave Tokyo and get back to Inaba.  I just can’t engage with this game. This is an extremely unpopular opinion, seeing as how lavished with praise it has been. Almost every media outlet has given it a 9 or higher.

Every Persona game has an extremely loyal following – some of my friends believe 3 is the best, others 4, and the rest 5. Each game has such a unique personality, I feel it’s pointless to argue which one is best. Every game will have some meaning to each person, and every one of those people has an entitlement to their opinion.

My opinion is that 5 is not a bad game, and indeed, it is the opposite – it’s a very good game. But, it doesn’t have the innocence, the passion, the naivety and freedom and coming-of-age that 4 has. It doesn’t have the compelling characters, the twisting, bending mystery, or the family ties. It has no soul.

I’m nowhere near finishing the game, which I intend to do, but after 20 hours, I feel I’ve seen enough to give some early game impressions.

1. Yusuke, the artist you recruit while doing the second palace, is a scumbag and no one even bats an eye. This guy tries to blackmail a high school girl into posing as a nude muse. Not only is she in high school, she was a founding member of your gang of thieves. Everyone seems cool with this, even pushing her into doing it as a distraction. Subsequently, he is welcomed into your crew with no questions asked. It is extremely jarring to watch the characters be such assholes.

2. The definition of a bad person is fairly loose. In the first dungeon, you are going after a teacher named Kamoshida who is physically assaulting students, and blackmailing female students in sleeping with him. This is the definition of a shitty person, and going after him completely justified. The second dungeon is an artist who is plagiarising his students work. Ethically wrong, but not exactly sexual and physical assault bad. It’s not until the end of the dungeon it’s revealed the artist allowed shitty guy Yusuke’s mom to die of a seizure. It seems tacked on to prove that Maradame, the copying artist, really is a bad guy and deserved this. I’m fairly sure the developers felt it was a weak palace, so they ham-fistedly shoved this in to make sure you know he’s a bad guy. “LOOK HE LET THAT GUY’S MOM DIE! YOU’RE TOTALLY RIGHT DOING THIS TO HIM”.

3. Morgana, the cat guide that follows your everywhere – literally everywhere – can turn into a bus. You read that sentence right. This cat can, somehow, turn into a bus you can climb into and drive, steering wheel, pedals, and all. In Persona games, lots of weird things happen, way too much to explain in one column. Yet this is the first time I’ve ever looked at my baby son in bemusement playing a Persona game. I can handle a lot of things – but a cat bus that people drive around is just too much. There is no explanation as to how this happens – you just need to accept it. I would much rather just run around a smaller area than have to drive this monstrosity around a large area.

4. This criticism is a deeper one and has two facets – the first being you come to Tokyo with baggage and a history, and secondly, the whole game so far has been a flashback from a police interview room.

I call this the Fallout 4 Conundrum. In that game, you are a man with a family, whose son has been kidnapped. Having this baggage means you can’t effectively role play in a role playing game. As the father of a baby son, if he was kidnapped, I would not rest until I had found him.

Yet, you can spend fifty hours building your settlement and farming for garbage. These two paths cannot realistically coexist – which father wouldn’t track down his child immediately? If you were truly roleplaying, you’d would have to go after your child. Contrast this to New Vegas – your backstory is you got shot in the head and you want revenge. It means you are free to do however you wish because you have no anchor around your character.

This is similar in P5 – you start the game as a police captive. This subsequently means every choice you make until that investigation scene is void. Inevitably, you will end up in that room, unless I’ve yet to reach some plot twist that means the whole police aspect isn’t real. In that sense, I’ve come to Tokyo because I’ve been found guilty of a crime – all my classmates consider me some kind of psycho ne’er-do-well. Both of these points mean I can’t role play my character like I want to. In P4, I was a blank slate, tabula rasa, and I could do anything I wanted. My future was my own to seize. In Persona 4, I had to decide carefully what I wanted to do, as I didn’t know what the consequences would be. In P5, it seems likely I’m going to end up in custody. No point being invested in the future if I know what’s going to happen!

5. LET

ME GO OUT AT NIGHT, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. The damn cat is always in my room telling me I’m tired and that I should sleep. Just fuck off and stop being such a damn buzzkill, Morgana. I want to go out at night and hang out with people like I did in P4. I whiled away so many pleasant summer evenings with Rise and Yukiko and Chie and Marie and Yosuke. Now, i’m being caged in like a damn animal by, ironically, an animal.

When I Realized I Could No Longer Judge People For Falling in Love With Video Game Characters.

Although this sounds like an extremely negative review of the game thus far, I really don’t hate it, or even dislike it. I think the style and the visuals ooze cool, like Steve McQueen wearing a Submariner. The palaces are aesthetically pleasing, and well designed. The enemies are bizarre as always, and the combat has so many improvements over P4. Being able to ‘Baton Pass’- passing your turn over to an ally – always looks wonderful. Being able to immediately scan an enemy for a weakness, and having the game choose a Persona you control to take advantage of that frailty is extremely convenient. But herein lies the issue – I am apathetic to this game.

Apathy is never something you should feel toward something, which is my major conflict with this game. I loved Persona 4, and it ranks near the top of my all time favorite experiences in any form of media. I had such high expectations of Persona 5, that may be affecting my judgement. From a gameplay standpoint, there is nothing wrong with 5, but from a storytelling  and character view, it pales in comparison to 4.

Scottish gamer based in South Korea. I play all sorts of games, but I enjoy a good story more than anything.

  • victimblue

    who cares for your opinion…just dont play it ! Idiot.

  • Timothy Classified

    Lawrance:

    You were 100% correct in your assessment of P5 thus far. The known future greatly increased the sense of futility & decreased immersion through a reduced sense of a unique experience/path. This reduced my analytical investment to the following: Spend potentially 100+ hours beating “X” dungeons (by grinding for “Y” hours between each) in order to reach a DEFINED RESULT. If lucky, then I would be rewarded with a few equally artificial “choices” to finish the final portion of the game.

    Also share your opinion of Yusuke; but chalked it up as typical cultural depravity. Couldn’t connect to any of the characters…Ungrateful “badboy” main, unwise “jocky” sidekick, spoiled “diva” & then congratulations…Perverted “artist”.

    • J.j. Barrington

      Stop. You’re as bad as the author. And as ill-informed on the game.

      • reallydude?

        And how are they ill-informed?

        • J.j. Barrington

          1. Read article.
          2. Read comments.
          3. Find the answer to your question.

  • J.j. Barrington

    There are many things wrong with this article, but I’ll just point out a few of them.

    “1. Yusuke, the artist you recruit while doing the second palace,”

    No, just no. There’s NEVER any blackmail. Nothing that even comes close. Yusuke is taken with her as far as her being a model, to the point where he’s not even seeing her gender. He’s welcomed into the group because he- and all of them- see what his mentor has been doing to other apprentices. Reading this, I struggle to believe you’ve even played this game.

    “2. The definition of a bad person is fairly loose.”

    Again, wrong. The entire game is about people abusing the power they have over others. That douchebag teacher didn’t blackmail anybody(you just seem obsessed with this), but he did try to pressure two different girls into going through with it. Yusuke’s mentor didn’t just steal his students’ works; he used them up, and ruined their lives if they dare spoke out. There’s at least a few people you meet in town who are homeless thanks to him. Letting Yusuke’s mother die so he could claim her masterpiece as his own was the icing on the cake. The Phantom Thieves were going to take him down before they even learned of that, so it had already been established that he “really is a bad guy and deserved this.” Your assertion of that being forced just isn’t supported by anything.

    “3. Morgana, the cat guide that follows your everywhere…”

    At this point, you’re nitpicking… and also being incredibly disingenuous… well, you were doing that from the start. Mona is a bundle of mystery, not all of which is unraveled. Except the whole part where he was created to HELP YOU EXPLORE THE METAVERSE. He also winds up being instrumental in escaping collapsing palaces, so while it might seem weird to you- and at this point, I don’t know who would even care about that- it’s perfectly functional.

    “4. This criticism is a deeper one and has two facets…”

    You haven’t played this game. You just haven’t. At the least, you haven’t beaten the game, which means your criticisms are pointless, at best. I won’t spoil it for you(more than the little bit from “point” 3), but you should maybe finish the game first before writing crap like this.

    • Danny Lawrance

      You’re perfectly welcome to your opinion!

      I feel your entire riposte was undermined by your comments about Yusuke and the blackmail. He clearly says, and I’m not paraphrasing here, in a direct quote:

      “I’m reporting you to the police … I won’t report you, but only under one condition … I want you to continue being my model, Takamaki-san … I will put my heart and soul into creating the best nude painting ever!” followed by protests by Ann et al.

      You’re telling me that threatening them with a police report as long as she poses nude isn’t blackmail?

      Roger.

      The rest of your critique I’m sure is equally well constructed!

      Have a good evening!

      • J.j. Barrington

        Well, to begin with, there’s no stipulation that she HAD to pose nude there, so that’s one thing. For another, weren’t they caught doing something illegal? “Help me with my art and I won’t call the cops” isn’t nearly as sinister as you want it to be.

        So what you’re saying is that you DIDN’T read the rest, even though you say early on “I feel your entire riposte was undermined by your comments about Yusuke…” Well, did you read, or didn’t you? Sounds like you didn’t. Similarly, it still sounds like you didn’t play the game.

    • Michael Lee

      I would like to add on to this comment about Morgana’s ability to turn into a bus:

      When I first saw this in the game, I immediately made a connection with the catbus in the Studio Ghibli film “My Neighbor Totoro”. Since Studio Ghibli and the film itself are major cultural icons of Japan, the game’s explanation that cats are viewed cognitively with buses may be a reference to the catbus. As a result, it would make sense that Morgana’s ability to transform is possible due to the public’s cognition of the popular character.

      • J.j. Barrington

        That’s a good thought. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen Totoro. Always wanted to get around to it, but I just never have.

        In that respect, I imagine we could find some lore in Japanese culture older than Totoro that probably influenced even that work.

    • HYPERTiZ

      he does blackmail to call you out of madarame if seen again but the gang is forcibly decided to do it (due to also investigating madarame)

  • Kaze88

    Quite fair points indeed, some tho are alleviated when you progress in the game. Yusuke is a douche at first indeed, but hes not actually that bad when you get to know him. He even realises himself that he has been quite a douche. Madarame ending feels tact on indeed, but its definitely not the worst palace in the game.

    Morgana turning into a car doesn’t make sense to me either, mementos got quite boring to me during the end. randomly generated dungeons in any game sucks imo. The baggage etc. + flashbacks are told right on the end mile. Its kinda confusing first, but when you piece all the stuff together in the ending just makes the ending even better.

    Yeah I totally hated that you couldn’t do shit at night, but eventually you get to go out at night when you have got Sojiros trust. In the end it felt that I got way too much spare time, I think they could’ve balanced it better overall. Same goes for the combat imo, many of the palaces had the same 3-4 enemies + time sink puzzles that really started to weigh me down in the end. They could’ve honed some palaces and things out from the game and save me some 20h at least. Still happy that I completed the game. Not so godlike as some say, but still a good game indeed.

  • HYPERTiZ

    With Night time issue.

    The Temperance Confidant at around what rank it is to get a massage allows daytime + evening travel) will allow the ability to do things at night even switch the palaces and mementos around if you wish to.

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