Let me tell you fine ladies and gentlemen about the most stylish video game of all time, a game by the name of Persona 5:
Now, full disclosure here, I haven't finished Persona 5. It's a 100 hour JRPG even when the player isn't studying his or her way past a language barrier, and of course I decided to play it in Japanese, so it might end up taking me years to finish. But I do think I've played far enough into the juicy meat to give my expert opinion of what kind of game it is, and how every little bit of it is just oozing with unique, inimitable style. It's a game where any time I reach a new area I have to pause for a minute or two to properly appreciate the new smooth jazzpop bop that my ears are treated to, where every character portrait makes me feel like even more of a boorish lout with their impossibly stylish outfits, and even the MENUS look so cool I can't stand it:
(I recommend this absolute tune for best results while reading my big thing here, btw. The developers just drop this cool customer on you when they introduce you to the place where you buy healing items, the utter madmen.)
Persona 5 is the story of a young kiddo with the kind of unruly hair that any male model would kill for, convicted of a minor misdemeanour in his home town and sent to stay with an irascible friend of the family in Tokyo to serve out his probationary period. You'll experience the hardship of transferring to a new school full of cool kids in Shibuya, make friends with a crowd of misfits of varying social circles, stick your nose in all of their business and probably eventually kiss at least one of them, oh and every now and then you'll use a mysterious smartphone app to enter an alternate world born of the unrequited desires of certain unscrupulous individuals, where you'll fight demons in a very Japanese-video-game-esque depiction of young people coming of age and dealing with their internal struggles. Oh, and by the way, this time you're all Phantom Thieves, and the whole game is themed around the idea of you being a team of daring cat burglars pulling off impossible heists. It's like Ocean's Eleven, only with impossibly trendy Japanese teens. And demons.
It's awesome, is what I'm saying. While the game doesn't exactly turn the JRPG paradigm on its head, it is at least a perfectly-well-executed one of those with a sense of style that's just second to none. I mean, it seems reductive to boil the whole game down to 'style', but oh man what a style it is! Every moment of the game just looks so beautiful, and sounds even better. It really can't be overstated just what a singular experience it is. All the things you think of when someone describes a game as 'very Japanese'; take that, turn the volume knob up as high as it will go, combine it with a spicy bassline that you just can't help tap your foot to, and you have Persona 5. There's nothing out there that will make you feel more like a cool Japanese teenager who has it all worked out, and I know you might think that sounds dorky when I say it, but what I'm saying is that when you play Persona 5 you won't. This game is a "What It's Like to Be One of the Cool Kids" Simulator.
It's an amazingly well-written game, too. Despite all the fanciful whimsy, they manage to ground the world with surprisingly believable characters. Right at the start of the game, when you're registering at your new school, the game focuses briefly on one of your new teachers who's been saddled with showing you around the place. She's a young woman, presumably fairly new to the teaching gig, without much life experience, and she seems so unsure of herself and anxious about being saddled with this new kid. A transfer out of nowhere, surrounded by rumours of some kind of police record; why did it have to be her class? I found myself feeling sorry for the poor woman even after just a few lines of internal monologue; someone who's ultimately nothing more than a NPC, really. So, if they write their minor characters with such care, you can imagine how well-fleshed out the major players are. It's good stuff. The game taps into that latent trauma we all share just by virtue of having gone to school as young people, and as such feels so much more relatable than your average save-the-world story, but the excellent writing lends it a certain extra effectiveness. You have to give a game credit for making you feel that particular desire to crawl into a hole and die that comes with being reminded of something embarrassing you did in High School that you'll never be able to forget as long as you live.
One day I fully intend to finish Persona 5, but until then I'll keep plugging away at it in chunks and enjoying every moment. This game took so long to make that it all but skipped the entire PS3/360 generation, so I'm OK with taking my time finishing it
- Rune Walsh likes this