I have played video games pretty much my entire life. My dad used to play them, and we played with him, but it was my brother who really got me into them when my parents bought us the Nintendo 64. I love getting to spend time on a game and playing through the story, as long as it’s a story based game, meaning me and open world games don’t mesh. (I personally get too distracted with playing open-world games, unless they are a MMORPG, or Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Like Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft.)
Some of my favorite games tend to be RPGs, which if you don’t know what that stands for it is a role-playing game. An RPG is a game where you play as a character already established in a fictional world meaning you control the actions of the character, rather than making up your own character. To be more specific I tend to really gravitate toward JRPGs, which are Japanese Role playing games, which have distinct features that differ from western rpgs, they mostly are developed by Japanese companies, but not specifically.
One of my Favorite JRPGs is the Persona series. I will admit that the game is better for a more mature audience, I would suggest at least being in your teens to play it, mostly later teens, as there may be some situations in the game that someone younger may not be suitable for. (Persona 5 has a mature rating by the ESRB, or Entertainment Software Rating Board. A Mature rating is suggested for 17+.) I started playing these games when I was 17 and it was about the age that the characters are in the game, but the series as a whole has some more mature themes.
I will specifically be talking about Persona 5 Royal. This series has been around for 25 years now, and Royal is technically the 20th game in the series, if you include the spin-offs and the “complete” versions of Persona 3, 4, and 5. The way that Atlus, the developer of Persona, does things is they tend to put out the base game, and then a few years later they put out the “complete” version of the game. At least that’s how they have done it since Persona 3.
Although this is the 5th installment of the series, Persona 5 is its own game, and set in the Persona universe. Same with the original Persona, 2, 3, and 4, they are all their own games and not sequels of each other. I will be talking about Persona 5/Royal in this blog as it’s the only game in the series that we have available for loan in the Community Information Network.
Starting in Persona 3 every game you play as the male protagonist (you can fill out their name with whatever, but usually the “canon” name comes from their manga/anime). In Persona 5 you play as Ren Amamiya (his given name from the anime), a second year high school student who is sent to Tokyo by his parents after being framed for assault and being put on probation. He goes to live with Sojiro Sakura, who owns and runs a curry and coffee restaurant. On Ren’s first day at Shujin Academy he runs into a blond girl, who you come to find out her name is Ann Takamaki, she is waiting under a roof for the rain to stop and an older male pulls up in his car to give her a ride to school. Then you run into Ryuji Sakamoto who seems very angry with the older male and even goes as far as calling him names. As you talk to Ryuji an app on your phone starts reacting to certain words that Ryuji says and suddenly both Ren and Ryuji get headaches, but decide you better follow him to school anyway. However, when they arrive instead of school they find a castle. You go inside and soon come across the same older man in the car, but he looks quite different. This man’s name is Suguru Kamoshida and he calls himself the king of this “castle.”
Ren and Ryuji get locked up in the dungeon and while trying to save Ryuji, Ren’s Persona “awakens.” A Persona is a manifestation of your inner person, and the Persona helps you out throughout the game. Ren and Ryuji escape with the help of a talking cat monster named Morgana, but the group also comes across members of the school’s volleyball team being beat up. They make their way out of the castle and return to the real world where Ren meets the real Kamoshida. Kamoshida is the school’s P.E. teacher and volleyball coach. He is a former gold medalist in the Olympics and the school’s pride, because he has made their volleyball team champions as well. However, as shown in his castle, it seems his methods are not quite right and after a student of his gets into an accident; Ren, Ryuji, Morgana, and Ann all decide to go into his castle and “steal his treasure” so that they can change his desires. The rest of the game essentially follows this format where the group finds someone they have to “steal their treasures” and go into their palaces to do so. Throughout the rest of the game you get more friends and party members.
One of the elements that I like about all the Persona games is you feel like a person in this world, because you actually have to go to school and pay attention and take tests. (Usually it’s like one question that is talked about in the lectures on some days. It’s not a day to day school system.) You also have to rank up your friends “social links,” and for most levels that you rank up your stats with them you get rewards and skills to help you out in game. You also have to rank up certain parts of your own skills like charm, knowledge and so on, and usually to do that you have to read, do eating challenges, visit other places, fish, and so many other activities. The game makes you feel like you’re actually in it versus just playing a dungeon crawler.
Each Persona game has a central “theme” that drives the characters, in 3 the theme was death as all characters were motivated by deaths of their loved ones. In 4, the theme was about justice or truth, the overall game is about finding a serial killer in a small town in Japan, and each character fights with their inner selves to find their own truths. In 5, the theme is rebellion. Each character fights against the evils of their society. Such as the main character has to deal with being falsely accused of assault and then deals with the stigma of being a “criminal,” even though he did absolutely nothing wrong. Each character deals with their need for rebellion to awaken their personas.
My personal story of playing these games starts with my brother telling me to play Persona3. I started it and I enjoyed the story, but the dungeon was a grind, and I am not a huge fan of just grinding out levels in one dungeon, it became monotonous and boring, so I ended up not finishing it. Then a couple of years later, Persona4 came out and I had a much better time with that game. It quickly became one of my favorite games and when Golden came out I didn’t mind having to buy the game again so I could play the extra hours and meet the new characters. Persona 4 and Golden is a more lighthearted feel to the Persona series, even though it really isn’t. I went back and finished Persona 3 after, this time playing the portable version, and being able to play through the female version. (Persona 3 Portable is the only game in the series that you are able to play as both the male and female protagonist.) Then after waiting for 8 years; we were finally blessed with Persona 5, and it took me about 100 hours to complete it. Then 2 years later we got the “complete” version with Persona 5 Royal. Which with everything added took me about 120 hours to complete. This past year (2021), Atlus also put out the sequel to Persona 5, with Persona 5 Strikers. I have yet to complete it as my life has changed and I just don’t have as much time as I once did, but I can’t wait to finish it.
We have both Persona 5 and Persona 5 Strikers available for loan in our community of libraries. Persona 5 is available for PS4 and Strikers is available for the Nintendo Switch.
(If you are interested in playing the other games mentioned in this blog, Persona 4 Golden is available on PC and PS Vita. The original version is on PS2. Persona 3 is available on PS2 and Persona 3 Portable is available on PSP.)