Nicole Smith ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It’s been roughly six years since the last major installment of the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series was released. After five years of tight-lipped development and vague teasers, we’ve finally caught the first glimpse of what director Katsura Hashino’s newest RPG project looks like. On February 5th, the first official gameplay trailer for Persona 5 was released to the public, and with how much time and effort has been poured into the game’s creation, the trailer certainly presented a lot for avid fans to digest.
The best way to break down all this new information—both what was presented in the first trailer and what was subsequently revealed through almost immediate interviews with Hashino—is to see how it holds up against previous installments of the title. So, without further ado:
The most immediately apparent change is the fundamentals of how the game looks. The last major Persona title was released for the PlayStation 2, and while Persona 5 will be supported on the PlayStation 3, it feels as though the development team is pushing to have it played on the PlayStation 4. The graphics, understandably, have advanced leaps and bounds since then, and are actually rather reminiscent of another title under Hashino’s belt. If you remember the PS3 half puzzle platformer, half social-simulator Catherine, then Persona 5 will look very familiar to you. While Catherine was built using a third-party engine and Persona 5 is being developed on a highly specialized in-house engine, the games are very aesthetically similar. Persona 5, as far as looks go, is much closer to Catherine than it is to its predecessor, Persona 4.
Persona 5 will also be focusing on a story that is more morally gray, with the protagonist being less of a hero than the protagonists of the previous two games. In fact, he’s a straight-up criminal – the gameplay trailer all but revealed that he’s a thief, and a very theatrical one at that. Hashino stated that he wants the game to be reminiscent of Spanish picaresque novels, which focused on dashing rogues, to tie in with the protagonist’s “phantom thief” aesthetic. But this Robin Hood doesn’t come without his own problems. During an interview with Famitsu, Hashino revealed that the main character has some sort of “problem,” or baggage that is tying him down and must be dealt with throughout the course of the game. He also pretends to be sweet and demure to hide a much more devious true personality. So we already know that our new protagonist is significantly more sociopathic than our older ones.
What’s Staying the Same?
Pretty much everything that’s crucial to making this game feel like a true Persona game – the developers are highly intent on creating a new and exciting experience for players, but also making Persona 3 and Persona 4 fans feel right at home. In relation to the game’s combat system, dungeon crawls are essentially staying the same save for a few minor details. Whereas in previous games, dungeons were almost entirely randomly generated with only a few set floors, this title will feature more certainty in the dungeon’s various floors and levels, with more interactivity and puzzles than previous titles. Otherwise, there aren’t that many big changes.
In battle, Hashino wants to keep the classic turn-based system that Persona fans have become used to, but tweak it so that the player feels they have more freedom than in past titles. Finally, one of Persona’s most iconic mechanics, the Social Link, where the protagonist can make friends and strengthen bonds with other characters, is returning in some form that has not been fully disclosed yet. The system will have more of a focus on making the individual characters stronger through the power of friendship (which is a recurring theme, as many longtime fans are aware) and socializing will offer distinct benefits to the player.
And One More Thing…
There’s also some miscellaneous information we know about the game to hype everyone up. Unlike in previous games, each individual party member appears to have a primary short-range weapon and a secondary long-range weapon, to diversify the dynamics of the new battle system. And speaking of those party members, we actually already have names! Aside from the nameless protagonist, the game features a male party member by the name of Ryuji Sakamoto, a girl named Anzu Takamaki, and a “mysterious shapeshifting cat,” whatever that means for the story, named Morgana. Finally, the protagonist’s main Persona, who he’ll without a doubt use to fight against all those baddies crawling around in those dungeons, has been dubbed Arséne. Though nothing’s official yet, speculation suggests he’s dubbed after Arséne Lupin, a famous fictional gentleman rogue created by French author Maurice Leblanc.
All in all, the trailer looks super solid and offers a really exciting view of a game that fans have been waiting a very long time for. Hashino has said several times that he wants Persona 5 to leave players with a sense of catharsis and optimism, like they can go out and change something about their lives, and whether he achieves that or not, Persona 5 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome game.