After multiple delays over the past two years, Persona 5 will finally arrive on PS3 and PS4 on April 4. Contrary to its title, the game is the sixth installment in the Persona series, which is part of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise that has been around since the late '80s. If you're planning to get a copy of Persona 5 come April, here are 5 things you need to know first before buying it.
1. A standalone
Set in modern day Tokyo, Persona 5 takes place in the same universe as previous Persona games and centers on the silent protagonist whom you can freely name after yourself, your neighbor, or your dog. His name is Akira Kurusu in the manga, in case you want things to be official. But despite sharing the same universe, Persona 5 isn't directly connected to any of the previous Persona games. Meaning, it's not necessary that you go through Persona 4 first to make sense of the story. It features an all-new cast and is neither a sequel nor a spin-off. So don't worry if Persona 5 marks the first time that you'll touch a Persona game. You'll be fine even with zero knowledge of the entire series.
2. Darker than Persona 4
Persona 4 is perhaps the most lighthearted game in the series, with a cast that is arguably the funniest among the dozens of Persona characters. Remember that school trip in Tatsumi Port Island (Persona 3's setting) where the gang had a round of supposedly non-alcoholic drinks in Club Escapade? Rise drunkenly saying "Ish true!" followed by "Personaaaa!" still gets me to this day. There's also Yukiko randomly bursting into laughter at Teddy's puns.
Persona 5 is none of those things. The premise goes like this: The main character (you) defends a woman from a sexual assault by a powerful politician who has connections to the right people behind the scenes. Mr. Perverted Politician didn't like that you interfered with his business, so he has you charged with assault. This expels you from your school and causes you to transfer to another school while on probation. By contrast, the main character in Persona 4 transferred to a school in the countryside and lived with his uncle simply because his parents went to work abroad.
Though it's less dark than Persona 3, which featured a theme surrounding death, Persona 5 is darker than Persona 4. Not just story-wise, but also in visuals. Persona games always had distinct anime-like visuals. But Persona 5 is no doubt the most gorgeous-looking installment in the entire Shin Megami Tensei franchise yet. Expect to see lots of black and red colors while playing the game.
3. Social Links get an upgrade
Introduced in Persona 3, "Social Links," which are now called "Confidants" in Persona 5, once again play a big part in the gameplay. Actually, half of the gameplay is centered on building your Confidants by forging relationships with unique characters in the game. Confidants are essentially Social Links, renamed to better fit the game's theme (you're part of a group of vigilantes called "Phantom Thieves of Hearts" in the game). But aside from granting bonus EXP when fusing Personas in the Velvet Room, developing your Confidants also give you other non-Persona-related bonuses. Like the ability to recover SP outside of battle or after-battle bonuses such as double money.
If you have played the previous two Persona games, then you know how important these character relationships are. Maxing them out gives you access to the Ultimate Personas in each arcana. Getting them to max level is an entirely different story, though. It requires you to carefully manage your time in-game, choosing which characters to spend time with in favor of others. Combine that with other time-consuming tasks in the game, like taking part-time jobs, and you'll have your hands full most of the time. However, thanks to the enhanced, sometimes game-breaking benefits that Confidants provide, it can be argued that they take priority above anything else.
4. Negotiations make a return
After being absent in the previous two games, "Negotiation" makes a comeback in Persona 5. Adapted from other Shin Megami Tensei games, the feature was last seen in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment before getting the boot in Persona 3. The Negotiation feature allows you to ask a Shadow to A) join your party as a Persona, B) give you items or C) hand over money. In short, it's similar to the "Shuffle Time" feature introduced in Persona 3 and carried over to Persona 4.
The annoying part is when asking Shadows to join you, as it requires that you correctly answer their questions first; otherwise, they will either attack you again or summon back-up, which is definitely not cool. The good news is, if you beat up on a Shadow enough, it may cause it to beg for mercy and ask you to take them in. It's like in the Pokemon games where your chances of capturing a monster go up as you whittle down its HP.
5. Dungeons also get an overhaul (sort of)
Concluding this list is dungeons. If you're never one to enjoy crawling inside randomly-generated dungeons in RPGs, then taking a trip inside Tartarus and the Midnight Channel in Persona 3 and Persona 4, respectively, most likely annoyed you endlessly. Thankfully, Atlus removed them in Persona 5, though not completely.
There are two types of dungeons in the game: Palaces and Memento dungeons. The former is story-related and features unique designs that will make your journey through them more enjoyable. Because nobody likes seeing the same hallways and corridors over and over again, no matter how good the background music is (see: Void Quest in Persona 4). The latter type of dungeons is your generic randomly-generated variety, which caters to those who actually enjoy grinding in RPGs. These Memento dungeons are where NPC-requested requests take place.
Employing stealth inside dungeons is more pronounced in Persona 5. Making too much of a ruckus inside Palaces results in the security being tightened. Get the security level to its extreme and it will result in your party getting kicked off the Palace, restarting your progress. Fortunately, the so-called "Alertness Meter" can be lowered by defeating enemies.
Persona 5 arrives on PS3 and PS4 on April 4. It was developed by Atlus. If you're still not sold on buying the game, check out the gameplay video below.