Persona 5 is a game overflowing with style. From bold black and red menus that leap off the screen to the pop-and-lock of scene transitions that carry the player from one colorful corner of Tokyo to the next, it's a game about youthful exuberance and the power that lies within it. But its beauty isn't just skin deep. Persona 5's gameplay systems evolve and coalesce over its 80+ hours to deliver a confidently executed role-playing experience that is not only satisfying, but worth the almost decade-long wait since Persona 4.
Like its predecessors, it's part social simulator, part dungeon crawler. By day, you're a high school student--busy taking classes, visiting cafes, watching movies, and hanging out with friends. But by night you are the leader of the Phantom Thieves, a ragtag troupe of idealistic teenagers that infiltrate a parallel reality called the Metaverse. Here, the corrupted hearts of adults have manifested as Palaces, and the Phantom Thieves must find and steal Treasures within them to reform their marks, and by extension, society. Think Lupin the Third, but with a socially conscious supernatural twist.
Together with your friends, you infiltrate the Metaverse. Here lie physical representations of people's personalities, called Personas--angels, demons, and monsters of all shapes and sizes that you battle using elemental attacks. Physical moves can be used to chip away at health points incrementally, but exploiting an elemental weakness elevates battles from turn-based slapsies to a flurry of crushing combos. Hit an enemy weak to fire with Agi and it will crumple, giving you an additional turn to exploit another enemy's vulnerability, either by switching Persona to adopt a different elemental alignment or by passing the baton onto a teammate who can pick up where you left off. Once they've all keeled over, you can launch an All-Out Attack and watch as black silhouettes of your team dance across a striking red background, slicing and dicing enemies until they burst into a shower of blood. This triumphant animation calls to mind The Bride's iconic blue room battle against the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill, and even though you'll see it hundreds of times it never stops being cool.
Improvements to the battle system mean that if you've already identified an enemy's weakness, instead of trawling through menus to locate the specific ability, tapping R1 takes you straight to the move you need. When combined with the baton passing, streamline the turn-based fights into pacy experiences that maintain forward momentum with ease. There's nothing more satisfying than firing off Persona spells, tagging in teammates, and wiping out waves of Shadows without them even getting a look in. Persona 5's combat pulls together some of the best elements from previous games--and it's borderline addictive as a result.
Persona 5's combat pulls together some of the best elements from previous games--and it's borderline addictive as a result.
Negotiations from early Shin Megami Tensei and Persona titles also make a return, but the system is much improved. If you knock down a Shadow, you'll surround it with guns drawn and can commence an All-Out Attack or simply talk to them. The conversation becomes a weird Q&A about your character or society a whole, and it often throws up some hilarious dialogue. There's nothing quite like winning over a succubus by playing hard to get or gaining the favour of a giant demon sitting on a toilet by telling him you, too, are a pretty easy going kinda guy.
Whether you're successful or not, negotiating will get you something. You can demand items, money, or a monster's allegiance, but whether your request is granted depends on your gift of the gab. I found negotiation to be a much more useful reward system than the random pickings offered by Shuffle Time in Persona 3 and 4. When filling my Persona compendium or trying to fuse a specific Persona I'd ask them to join my cause. While grinding I'd use an All-Out Attack to earn more XP. In a pinch I'd demand an item. The new system let me reap the benefits I needed at that point in my playthrough.
Palaces are areas given form by the distorted desires of powerful, corrupted individuals, while the process of infiltrating is akin to pulling off a heist. You need to identify your target by conducting investigations in the real world, then enter the Palace to explore it and secure an infiltration route. Once you've located the corrupted heart of the individual--represented as an ethereal Treasure--you send a calling card to the target in the real world. This act of showmanship not only alerts the world to the target's misdeeds but also gives physical form to the Treasure in the Palace so it can be stolen.
And those Palaces are the best dungeons the series has ever had. No longer are you climbing through levels of procedurally generated corridors to reach a boss at the top. Instead, each Palace contains a myriad of puzzles to crack, traps to avoid, and of course, Shadows to defeat. They are intricate, striking locations that unravel as you explore them, each varying in size, scope, and gameplay opportunities. One is a rat maze filled with locked doors and looping hallways, another is a giant safe that you need to crack, and one is a crumbling pyramid filled with walking mummies. They feel almost like different worlds from a Mario game, each uniquely themed and cycling through gameplay ideas like cards in a rolodex.
As Phantom Thieves, you sneak through halls, darting between cover and jumping over obstacles. As you slink into the shadows and ambush an unsuspecting enemy, getting in that crucial first shot, you realize that these Palaces are designed for you to be sneaky. And it feels really satisfying to bounce between coverpoints and ambush an enemy … when it works. Although you're encouraged to take enemies out sneakily, doing so is made difficult by the game's uncooperative camera, which often restricts your view. Similarly, clambering over obstacles doesn't quite feel as good as it should. There are specific spots that you can climb up to access more areas and I often missed these because I wasn't standing in the pixel perfect point to get the prompt needed to jump.
But honestly, this is nitpicking. I loved my time in each of the Palaces, wandering around using my Third Eye Ability to uncover secrets and steal treasures, feeling like Batman on Opposite Day. Its puzzles never became too taxing, even in later dungeons that required backtracking to find a specific item, enemy, or switch using the Third Eye. In these areas the game mercifully opens up shortcuts for you, so you don't feel like you're wasting too much time.
Persona 5 has a hefty run time and while the story remains engaging until its final moments, the gameplay has some pacing issues towards the end.
Balance in such a huge game is tricky. I played on Normal difficulty, and for the vast majority of the game enemies felt well-matched to my level. Persona 5 has a hefty run time and while the story remains engaging until its final moments, the gameplay has some pacing issues towards the end. Instakill attacks, a short supply of elemental power-refuelling SP items, and going long stretches of miniboss after miniboss without a save point mean the latter stages can sometimes feel more frustrating than enjoyable. I've been wiped out half an hour into a fight on multiple occasions, and I'm still a bit bitter.
But Palaces are just one part of the Metaverse. Once you take a Treasure, Palaces collapse, so they're not really the place to grind for levels. For those that enjoy the grind-heavy areas of P3's Tartarus and P4's randomly generated dungeons there's Mementos--society's joint Palace, which takes the form of the depths of Tokyo's subway system. This area is long, with many procedurally generated levels spiralling down towards a mysterious, seemingly unreachable core. It would feel like a monotonous job were it not for the Phansite. One of your Confidants believes so much in the plight of the Phantom Thieves that he sets up a website where members of the public can leave messages of support (or memes).
More importantly, Phansite users can suggest people they think deserve a change of heart. These are figures that aren't quite evil enough to have their own Palace, but who are still misbehaving enough to spawn a demi-boss within Mementos. These side stories of abusive boyfriends, scammers, and thieves are mere tasters--bite size chunks of justice that you can dole out at your leisure while grinding for experience. Infiltrating Palaces can sometimes take hours, so quickly dealing with a few Phansite Requests in one go is a satisfying microcosm of the larger gameplay loop in Persona 5. Plus it made me feel like Judge Dredd, dishing out justice as I saw fit to clean up the city.
Persona 5 creates a rewarding synergy between its social simulator and dungeon crawling by making everyday activities in the former empower you in the latter. With limited time in each day and a constant deadline to steal Treasures by, it's up to the player to prioritize after-school and weekend activities. Attributes such as Knowledge, Charm, Proficiency, and Guts can be improved by studying, working in part-time jobs, crafting tools, or watching DVDs. In turn, these enable you to build deeper bonds with other characters to strengthen yourself and your cause.
Persona games live and die on characterisation as much as they do on the RPG mechanics that underpin the gameplay, and in that respect the latest entry delivers a cast that is loveable, quirky, and nuanced in equal measure. Although the main group neatly fits into classic anime archetypes initially, over time everyone reveals the baggage they carry and, as you solidify your bonds, they start to show their complexities, creating emotional moments where you work through their pain together.
Sometimes their goals will align with yours and sometimes they won't, so the group can be a little rowdier than previous Persona teams--but that only adds to the experience. I loved that you really had to invest time and effort into each character to crack their personality and unlock how they truly felt. Morgana the amnesic talking cat (it is a Japanese game, after all) is shrouded in mystery, determined to learn about his forgotten past. The quirky Futaba, despite suffering from extreme social anxiety, is the strategic genius behind the group's Metaverse adventures. Ryuji's boisterousness is both the energy the team needs to push forward and the powder keg that could be its undoing. And Ann deals with issues of self-doubt in the competitive field of modelling. These characters grow and change as you spend more time with them: They go from being mechanical tools that you engage with to strengthen their Personas, to real people you can identify and sympathize with. By the time the credits rolled, I felt like I was leaving behind friends I had known for years.
Building these relationships with teammates is key to success in the Metaverse. Increasing Confidant Ranks (a rebrand of the Social Link system from Persona 4) by spending time with each of your friends not only affords you deeper insight into their personalities, but also provides bonuses and special moves in battle. A teammate who initially was closed off and distant in the real world can end up literally taking a bullet for you in the Metaverse. Similarly, by improving your personal traits through daily activities you can meet a variety of side-characters that teach you new abilities or offer bonuses that feed back into the battle system.
More than any entry in the series before it, Persona 5 manages to make the mundane not only fit into its gameplay loop but be essential to it. Atlus has perfected the back and forth investment and reward dynamic between the game's two parts to point where even doing laundry is gratifying--and how many games can you say that about?
While there are moments of levity in Persona 5, the actions of the Phantom Thieves are important and often have much bigger implications than even they intended. Persona 5 deals with complex subject matter and really doesn't shy away from dark, even uncomfortable, story beats. A constant theme of the game is oppression and injustice, specifically how people can be suffering them in silence. It uses personal hardships and the pressures of modern day society to explore how the actions of the older generation affect the future of the youth. But there's also an optimism to it all. Its cast approaches complex issues and takes on overwhelming odds with a clarity and gusto that can only be born from teenage naivety, and there's a refreshing, cathartic quality to being part of that. But of course, just like in the real world, things aren't always black and white, and the game does an excellent job of showing how even well-meaning actions can have adverse consequences.
Narratively and thematically, Persona 5 has the potential to overwhelm--particularly once it starts digging into Jungian theories of psychology. Thankfully, however, the writing does a fantastic job of eliminating unnecessary exposition, which ensures the important storylines are clear and everyone--especially series newcomers--is on the same page. It means the first ten hours are a little slow, and may make a lot of surface level observations, but not to the detriment of the story or its characters. Even with the heavy subject matter, it doesn't become overbearing and in fact is filled with little jokes and easter eggs to lighten the mood where appropriate. The localisation team has done a superb job of translating the comedy for a Western audience, too. I'm a big fan of the DVDs you can rent--spoofs of popular Western media like 'The X-Folders' or 'Bubbly Hills, 90210.'
Within Persona 5 is a complex set of interconnected gameplay mechanics, and in almost every aspect Atlus has executed on its vision exceptionally, barring the pacing issues towards the end. At every turn, it presents something to marvel at, whether it's the fluid combat, vibrant world, or the many memorable characters. It's a game I could talk about for hours; I haven't mentioned the ability to connect to the Thieves Guild, which lets you see how other players spent their day or ask them for help answering questions at school. Or the thumping acid-jazz-infused soundtrack that I've not been able to get out of my head. Or even just the joy of seeing how it stylishly transitions between menus. But that encapsulates why Persona 5 is a game that shouldn't be missed. It's stuffed to bursting point with gameplay ideas and presentation flourishes--there's an overwhelming level of artistry in every part of Persona 5, making it a truly standout entry in the series. It's a refined, effortlessly stylish RPG that will be talked about for years to come.
Warner Interactive has released a new trailer for the Lego City Undercover remaster, which focuses on the various vehicles you'll use to fly, drive, and steer around (and above) Lego City.
Chase McCain and the rest of his crew have to get around somehow, and their little minifig legs can only move so quickly. Fortunately, there are more than 100 different vehicles to control, from motorcycles to helicopters – and plenty in between. Take a look at the trailer below to get a sample.
(Please visit the site to view this media)
The clip doesn't show off any of the game's new split-screen action, but you can see that in our earlier preview.
Lego City Undercover is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on April 4.
Kate Walker last appeared in 2004's Syberia 2, but she's back in a brand new title, scheduled for release in April.
Syberia 3 is written by series creator Benoît Sokal, and the series is aiming to return without missing a beat, bringing the gameplay up to date with modern adventure standards while preserving the unique charm and storytelling sensibilities which made the original games special to so many players.
The latest trailer shows off the scale of Walker's newest adventure, and hints at the return of Oscar the automaton, one of the most memorable characters from the original title.
(Please visit the site to view this media)
Syberia 3 comes out on April 25 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and later in 2017 for Nintendo Switch.
Arkane and Bethesda have released a new trailer showcasing the many weapons and powers of Prey. The game puts you in control of how you want to approach each situation, and this latest video shows some very effective routes you can take.
You can see the full video below.
(Please visit the site to view this media)
Bethesda is also promising more looks at Prey over the next couple of days. Prey launches May 5 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. For more on the game and its development, check out our exclusive online coverage hub.
Following the success of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered last year, Sega is bringing the latest entry in the cult tactical action-RPG series to the West.
Valkyria Revolution isn't a sequel to the main Valkyria Chronicles storyline; though Sega is describing the title as a spinoff, with a new timeline and setting, though the series mythology, of ragnite ore and all-powerful Valkyria, remains in the new title. Bits of the story, as well as the new, faster-paced battle system, are on full display in a new trailer:
(Please visit the site to view this media)
The new Valkyria title is getting physical and digital releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, while the Vita version is only receiving a digital release.
Valkyria Revolution comes out on June 27. For more on the game, check out an earlier trailer. If you haven't played the original Valkyria Chronicles yet, perhaps this bizarre hour-long unboxing video of the 2016 remaster will convince you... Or check out Joe Juba's passion over the original PS3 release.
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition got a bombastic launch trailer today, showcasing several improvements over the original release, as well as some stylish mayhem.
The remaster of the 2011 arcade shooter, Full Clip Edition comes with a wide variety of improvements, including 4K support, 60 FPS gameplay on all platforms, and all previously released DLC content. Developer People Can Fly is also adding new content, including additional challenge modes, and the ability to play as Duke Dukem throughout the main campaign, complete with full voice over. You can take a look at the trailer down below.
(Please visit the site to view this media)
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition launches April 7 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. For a look at the game's previously released story trailer, you can head right here.
NetherRealm studios continued their Injustice 2 info drop today with a closer look at Supergirl's role in the fighting game's highly anticipated story mode. The third in a series of Shattered Alliances trailers gives fans their first look at Black Adam's gameplay and super move, as well as a good deal of Supergirl's origins, including the destruction of her home planet and a baby Superman.
(Please visit the site to view this media)
The biggest takeaway from the trailer is our first look at Supergirl's side of the story. While we've seen her in action in various trailers and in Injustice 2's closed beta, this is the first time we know much about her motivations, or her relationship with her cousin. Based on appearances, it would seem that Kara's first interactions with Superman happen at the beginning of the game, as she is seen fighting alongside him and Wonder Woman.
At some point in the story, she probably realizes how twisted he's become, and will go over to Batman's side of things. In several comics, Supergirl is actually more powerful than Superman, despite being less familiar with how to control her powers on Earth. With that in mind, I put good money on Kara Zor-El being the one who takes Superman down for good, but that's just speculation.
Black Adam is also a great reveal, and easily has one of the coolest supermoves we've seen in the game so far, if that is indeed what is shown in the trailer. The footage doesn't give a lot to speculate on in regards to his moveset, but if the recent trailer releases have been anything to go by, he should have his own personal trailer sometime soon.
For a look at the previous Shattered Alliances trailer, you can head right here. Earlier this week we saw Cheetah get her own trailer, highlighting her gameplay, which you can get a look at here.
Id Software (Doom) and Saber Interactive (Timeshift) are hard at work on Quake Champions, the latest entry in the venerable FPS franchise. The game is currently preparing for its upcoming closed beta test, but publisher Bethesda isn't done building hype for the title, releasing a new trailer for the Burial Chamber arena.
(Please visit the site to view this media)
The map offers ample opportunity for Quake's signature brand of bloody murder, with wide-open spaces for rocket-jumping and circle strafing, as well as some tighter corridors, perfect for point-blank shotgun battles.
Imagine taking a philosophy class where a brilliant, engaging, charismatic professor opens your mind and helps you see the world like you never have before who also pauses every few minutes to play a Frank Zappa album. That should give you a rough idea of what it's like to play Everything. It's a game that manages to convey profound beauty and a sense of one's place in the universe that's periodically undercut by a compulsive need to interject a sense of twee and abstract randomness. It's hard to tell how seriously you're supposed to take it all.
Everything is an interactive art project that allows you to transform into nearly any object you find, from planets all the way down to microbes. There are no traditional goals, and except for one particular area, Everything has no hard-and-fast boundaries. It's just you and the universe, with nothing standing in your way.
The dissonance starts from the very beginning. At the outset, you're a bear in a vast woodland full of creatures living out their lives. They move around by tumbling end over end, stiff as boards, like they're auditioning to be new Tetris blocks. After spending some time learning the basic controls, you can roam around freely, “sing” to other creatures and things, learn how to hear their thoughts, and figure out how to talk to them to gain their trust and move in groups. It's the game at its most playful: rocks, animals, and houses will grouse about a friend who's a jerk or cheerily go on about what a nice day it is all while doing perpetual faceplants to get around.
Eventually, one of the plants, animals, or objects you encounter tells you that you can explore things on a smaller scale--and thus, you learn the Descend ability, which allows you to embody a different creature on a lower plane of existence. That’s neat by itself, but the real magic occurs when you realize that you don't have to stop there. Embodying something like an insect is step one. Step two is inhabiting miniscule things like pollen or hair. You can then continue downward to atomic structures, and finally subatomic particles. The trick goes the other direction as well. A bear can Ascend and become a sequoia tree, which can become an entire continent. A continent can Ascend to become a planet, which can become a sun, which can become a galaxy.
The ease with which you can become one of a diverse set of objects across multiple planes of existence feels like a technical marvel. Everything's long-term memory is impressive as well. You can spend a solid hour exploring atoms in a blade of grass. When you eventually ascend, the game will remember the group of ants you corralled into service nearby, no matter how far you go.
If your greatest gaming dream is to assemble a street gang made up of two teapots, an eyeball, a saxophone, and a banana that misses its sister, Everything is the game for you.
Everything is at its most powerful when it provides humbling, awe-inspiring moments of scale, held even further aloft by sound bytes of the late British philosopher Alan Watts that arise along the way. Watts' ongoing narration may be the game's strongest core component, as it provides a sense of neo-spiritualist context to everything you see and experience. Exploring the very building blocks of reality is powerful on its own, but Everything achieves something deeper with the gentle, playful reminder that this, too, is us.
How, then, do you marry that with the ability to hop down the street as an refinery's smokestack, or talking with a monkey about how dumb his friends are? The answer: You don't. There’s an element of wacky, dadaist humor to Everything that, at its most absurd, brings back memories of Katamari Damacy's endless amusement; being able to roll the most random things up in a ball and watching them squirm around, making noises until the ball is big enough to swallow planets whole. You can't roll things up here, but if your greatest gaming dream is to assemble a street gang made up of two teapots, an eyeball, a saxophone, and a banana that misses its sister, Everything is the game for you.
Therein lies the fundamental issue: there is no unifying theory of Everything. If the point is to invoke a sense of existentialist zen, it accomplishes that, but it subsequently undercuts the accomplishment with a sense of lame, abstract humor. If the point is to invent a wild playground where everything that exists has a self-centered consciousness all its own, it’s that as well--in which case, it's almost taking Alan Watts' ideas to Looney Tunes levels of ridiculousness. When those two elements are at odds, the game seems to lose all meaning.
That's a grave disservice, too. More than a few games are able to deliver this brand of random crazy on a far more enjoyable, technically polished scale than this--the very “ending” of the game feeling like an inadvertent homage to the intro of every LittleBigPlanet game just solidifies that fact. But the number of games able to so effectively recontextualize how you think about your place in the universe in an interactive medium is paltry. That crazy game of playing as random stuff is disposable. That game of realizing we are all one is vital. A combination of the two thrown together, Everything becomes staggering in its ambition--and yet deeply disappointing.