Out of nowhere, Persona 5 was released and was a hit in the United States. Persona 5 is a PlayStation exclusive Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG). The JRPG genre has a niche audience, so it’s a rarity when a JRPG receives mainstream popularity. That being said JRPGs have certain elements that make this so niche, and that becomes some of Persona 5’s downfall. Persona is a solid game, but it has a few problems. Spoiler warning is now in effect. Here are 10 things wrong with Persona 5.
1. A Talking Cat Telling You What to Do 24/7
When navigating the streets of the Shibuya district, Mona hides in your schoolbag. He is the guiding voice throughout the game. Mona is a small, black cat that only you and your teammates can understand. He’s absolutely adorable, and is full of spunk. However, Mona is constantly telling you what to do. For example, if you are able to get a seat on the subway, Mona suggests that you read a book.
The main character that you control in the game doesn’t speak much. He has just a few lines of dialogue in cutscenes, and you can pick dialogue choices at certain points in the game. He doesn’t verbally say them, just makes a gesture to indicate that he is talking. It fills in that gap with him giving you his thoughts on everything. I mean everything. The most part is at night. Mona keeps you from doing anything, and makes you go to sleep after a certain point each day. Could we just have a little bit of silence? I don’t find it necessary to have a cat talking to me throughout the entire game.
2. Endless Cut Scenes
JRPGS are notorious for being heavily story driven. The Persona series isn’t an exception to this concept. You will have to sit through hours of cutscenes to understand the plot. You can easily miss information in a matter of seconds. There is a nice feature where you can speed up cutscenes, but that is mainly for people who have beaten the game already. There isn’t much point in playing Persona 5 if you aren’t paying attention to the story. You can, also, access what is going on in the story at any point in the game. This is a feature if you forget something though, because you are just reading the dialogue that was in the cutscene that you missed or forgot about. It’s equally a waste of time.
3. Mechanics Aren’t Explained Well
Persona 5 does explain the basics very well. However, you have to do a lot of legwork to understand the more advanced game mechanics. For example, when you expose a persona’s weakness you have a chance to do a ‘hold-up’. During a hold-up, you can try and convince the persona to join your side. This is done through a series of questions, and you must provide the correct answer. The only clue as to what the correct answer is is the ‘mood’ the persona is in. So, if the persona is gloomy, you have to pick the answer that fits that mood. However, that’s not really a hint. The answers are vague, and it’s solely based on your perspective on what the correct answer is. There are so many mechanics that are like this in the game.
The menus make it even worse because you are constantly going back and forth to figure out what the persona’s weaknesses and strengths are. There is a button that can help you pick out which of your personas you should use against the opposing persona, but if it’s a new persona, you are out of luck. The same goes for the more advanced menus when fusing personas. You are constantly going back and forth trying to figure out which persona to fuse to get the one you want. It seems like such a dated system, and many games have surpassed this primitive menu navigation.
4. Get Ready For a Steep Learning Curve
No matter if you are a beginner or a seasoned player, Persona 5 is challenging. It’s not as bad as some games that are synonymous with hard difficulty (Dark Souls for instance). However, starting on normal as a beginner is out of the question. Even on easy, you can get destroyed in no time by a boss. If you are just interested in playing the game for its story, you can put the difficulty level at ‘safety’; this way you don’t lose any progress if you die in battle. I had to begrudgingly put the difficulty on ‘easy’ because there was just no way I could get through the game without spending hours upon hours grinding to level up.
Which is another aspect that makes the game even harder. To use your persona’s abilities there is a cost: SP. SP drains fast while you are fighting opposing personas. Once you run out of SP, you are forced to leave the palace. There are very few ways to recover SP, and you can’t get the most useful SP recovering items until much later in the game, and with a hefty price tag at that. The battle system is just so convoluted, and it’s intimidating to new players. SP recovery is such a pain that it makes some palaces just painful to go through.
5. Bosses Are Boring, Long, and Repetitive
Bosses are a huge climax in Persona 5. You have to face the owner of each palace, and there is a lot of build-up to that climactic battle. You have to be strategic when facing the bosses, which isn’t a bad thing. It creates a great, tense atmosphere, and it’s gratifying when you find the weakness and exploiting it. It gets really boring when you spend 30 minutes doing the same action. Most of the boss battles are you chipping away at their health, exploit the weakness, back to chipping away.
On the final boss of the game, it took me over 2 hours to get through. I sat there and chipped away at its health, and managing my team’s health. That’s it. There is no skill to it, and it’s quite mind-numbing. I enjoy the normal persona battles because you get a variety of different personas to face, and you can convince them to join your side.
The most frustrating part are the instant kills. When facing later bosses, there will be times where if you don’t block at the correct moment, it’s game over. When you put in so much time into a boss, just to see that progress disappear, it’s an absolute waste of time. Sometimes it isn’t even the boss battles; normal battles can happen this way too. If you have the wrong combination of party members during the battle, opposing personas can easily wipe you out.
6. No Side Missions
This game is unique, and it’s weirdly compelling. However, it misses a lot of marks when it comes to content. The foundation of the game is made up of two things: daily activities and completing palaces. You have a time limit on completing each palace, so when you finish a palace early you have plenty of time to kill. There are various things you can do in Persona 5, but they are shallow. For example, you can go to eat and study at a diner in Shibuya. For this activity, you get a choice of food, then you see a cutscene of the main character eating and studying. After that, your social stats go up.
There are two things wrong here: you do nothing to obtain points towards your social stats, and that’s your only reward. Social stats are a ‘leveling up’ system that go towards building relationships with different confidants in the game. These so-called ‘activities’ are nothing more than a cutscene. There is no ‘mini-game’ or any skill involved. You simply have to manage how you spend your time. This aspect could have been improved on. We see a couple of mini-games that require skill: like the batting cages. You have to hold and swing your bat at the correct time in order to hit the ball. This gave you a sense of satisfaction because you actually use some skill.
7. Persona 5’s Story Is a Mess
You have to give Persona 5 some credit when it comes to originality. The story starts out simple enough: you are a high-school student that recently transferred due to being found guilty of a crime that you didn’t commit. Then it builds on you finding the ‘metaverse’, which is a reflection of people’s true selves. Palaces pop up for a vague reason, and you must obtain the treasure from the palace. The palace is a fabricated version of a real place. For example, the first palace is a castle because the owner of the palace sees the school as his castle.
That’s not even close to explaining the entire story. There are many loose ends, especially towards the end of the game. At the end, you essentially are fighting a giant robot that is the symbol of the ‘prison’ humanity has put itself in…? Then you get a giant robot that symbolizes rebellion…? I think…? This is the gift and curse of most JRPGs. The story starts out gloriously, but the end is in shambles. It’s like the developers take too much on, and don’t realize until they get to the end. So, they make up their own logic to explain what’s going on. It’s a terrible way to tell a story.
8. Have To Play Again To Be a Completionist
If you are really concerned with getting a platinum trophy for Persona 5, be prepared to sink over 100 hours. My first play-through was around 95 hours. Even if you skip all the cutscenes, you could easily play an extra 50 hours to get all the books read, the confidants maxed out, all the locations found, etc. It’s really intense for a game that is mostly cut-scenes and battles. That’s what so mind-boggling about Persona 5; there isn’t a lot there, but you are suckered into spending hours watching cutscenes and going through repetitive gameplay. I couldn’t imagine going through this game again just to get a trophy. It is nice that you get to keep all your items when you start new game+, but there really isn’t a lot of incentive to go back through it.
9. Let’s Talk About Ryuji
Character development is a huge element in Persona 5. You really feel close to your confidants once you beat the game. You have this connection with them, and that is rare to find in video games these days. Good stories have characters that you are supposed to love or hate. This brings me to Ryuji; your first party member who is a loud-mouthed, annoying, hateful delinquent. When you start to learn more about Ryuji, you understand why he is the way he is. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is the lack of change. Ryuji is a horribly selfish person to the end. All the other characters in the game go through epiphanies and grow in a positive way. Not Ryuji. Ryuji is just as miserable from beginning to end.
I can see it from the perspective that he is meant as the comedy relief. He is constantly bickering with Mona, and gets into trouble due to his lack of tact. His character doesn’t have any redeeming quality except loyalty. This trait never develops; he’s loyal to you from the beginning because he considers you an outcast like himself. He does have one shining moment where he runs as fast as he can to save the other party members. When everyone is safe, Ryuji is nowhere to be found. They assume he is dead, but he pops up a minute later. He acts like nothing happened. He reverts back to being a foul human being. I wish I could just mute Ryuji’s character somehow.
10. The Palaces Have Poor Design
Some of the palaces in the game are awesome. Some of them are a metaphoric masterpiece that lets you see the adversary you are about to face. It’s a clever way to develop a character indirectly. You don’t interact with them, you are simply uncovering their secrets and true selves. The problem is design. Some palaces take hours to finish, and in those spans of hours, you can only save so many times. One palace only had three safe rooms where I could save my game. Another palace was focused all around unlocking four big doors. Each time, you had to go through a section that included terrible puzzle design and endure backtracking. What makes the palaces so challenging is the lack of direction. I understand you are supposed to explore your surroundings to figure out the solution, but when given no direction, it becomes frustrating for the player.
I groaned every time I had to solve a puzzle. It’s not that they are insanely hard; they are just inconvenient and kill the pacing of the game. For example, the final palace has several sections where you turn into a mouse in certain rooms. As a mouse, you can’t do much, and you have to find a way to turn off the statues that are turning you into a mouse in order to open the door to the next area. I spent hours going back and forth, trying to find the correct path in order to move on.
Persona 5 was a game that was in development for many years, and deserves a lot of praise. There are so many good elements that make this game one of the best of 2017. However, there are also some elements that are dated or seem rushed. There are a lot of moving story components that make it unnecessarily complicated. There are some questionable palace designs, and the puzzles are unsatisfying. Persona 5 has a lot right, but there is, also, a lot that is wrong.