Review

Persona 5 Review

  • First Released Apr 4, 2017
    released
  • PS3
  • PS4

Style and substance.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Now Playing: Persona 5 Review

Back To Top
The Good
Streamlined turn-based combat that encompasses the best aspects of previous Persona games
Rewarding interplay between the game's real world and Metaverse
A soundtrack full of earworms
Best-in-series dungeons
An engaging, complex cast of characters
Excellent localization
The Bad
Boss fights can be unfair towards the end
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Lucy spent over 80 hours with Persona 5, romancing the best waifu (Ann) and unlocking the true ending. A complimentary PS4 copy of the game was provided by Atlus.
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deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

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I've put over 80 hours into this and I still can't get over how good it is. It's been a long time since I've played an RPG this amazing. This was hands down my Game of the Year for 2017. I still haven't even beat the game. There's just so much to do. Normally I get bored by this point and start trying to run through it as quickly as I can, but I honestly don't want this game to end. I'm bummed that it will probably be 5+ years until they make Persona 6 (if they even do).

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pedrolopes1313

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@frosty988: O h well took me 240hours to complete the game the way I like

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henrythefifth

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Edited By henrythefifth

This is very dull and offensive game. First of all, the real world components are just hours of dull video clips where you have minimal interaction with the world. And the 'dungeons' are PS2 era stuff that gets really tedious really soon. And the voice actors are very flat, delivering all lines in bored voices...

And then there is the offensiveness; women are treated like trash in the game; raped, forced into prostitution, forced to prance around in mini skirts and so on. And half the personas are topless trollops from the devs' wet dreams... Disgusting. How a female reviewer could stand for such smut is beyond me, but I guess she just wants to be one of the blokes... For shame.

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deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

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@henrythefifth: Wow... what a snowflake. Go change your tampon. Is that offensive enough?

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losfabyos

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@henrythefifth: OK...........................................**** you!!!!

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cyberpunk_2077

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It's interesting to see such good things mentioned about Persona 5, Wasn't sure about the JRPG element but will definitely reconsider this one.

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Fernando_Ribeiro

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Hey guys, I was sorta of a fan of JRPGs by the PsOne glory days but it's been years since I played a JRPG.

The main reason - I think - is because I grew tired of their simmilarities with several animes.

You know, the voice acting is too cartoonish, the plot and sub-plots are over-explained, the characters development are way too simplistic, the vilains have the most unrealistic goals (even for the world they live in it doesn't make any sense most part of the times)...

Anyway, people are saying a lot of good stuff about Persona 5 and I'd like to know if the story, characters and even the voice acting falls to the anime cliches.

If not, well, I'm buying this game right now.

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p1p3dream

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@fernando_ribeiro: JRPG's use to be my favorite genre to play when I was younger, but as I grew older and JRPG's didn't- i became turned off by the immaturity of JRPG storylines and characters. Persona games have always managed to stand head and shoulders above the normal JRPG games, despite being centered around highschoolers. Persona 5 is no exception, and is one of the most mature JRPG's i can recall playing... I'm a 36 year old, and I have to say that I found some of the subject matter that is tackled a bit disturbing and uncomfortable. It takes on subject of abuse, suicide, and many other controversial issues- but its done in an impressive way.

The game does use an Anime style, and so it really helps if you enjoy this type of art and character design- but as someone who has really become turned off by japanese rpg's, including the final fantasies, i found myself really sucked into the story, characters, and world of Persona 5.

I don't think you, or anyone else, who has an interest in RPG's would regret this purchase. It's become one of my most favored games of the year.

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Spartan-1657

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I've never played any of these games before. The review says it's welcoming to new-comers, but is there any continuity between the games? Characters that are the same? This looks like something I'd have fun playing. A lot different than what I normally play.

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Jasurim

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@Spartan-1657: It's a lot like Final Fantasy games, they're all for the most part, self contained. They all have their own story and there is no need to play the past games to be able to understand this one.

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Bahamut50

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Edited By Bahamut50

This is sincerely the best game i have ever played. I have played and loved so many games over the years, from Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger to games like The Witcher 3, but this game in all honesty blew me away. Thinking back on those other games, especially the early ones, a lot of my love for them was due to the ability to see wonder in all things as a child. The fact that i felt that same joy and more from Persona 5 in my late 20's tells me all i need to know.

This game will give you a more satisfying conclusion than any story I've experienced in ages. The gameplay is so slick that despite being turn-based, it feels like an action game. There is no reason not to play this. I know others will name Zelda as game of the year, and they may be right in their own way, but Persona 5 is my game of the year. No questions asked. It may be the best game I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, after all.

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p1p3dream

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@Bahamut50: I agree- I was just talking this over with a friend, and I said the same thing. This has really become one of the best games I've ever played in terms of overall quality and packaging. Everything just really comes together, there is an attention to detail in this game that other games just lack. Long after most games set into a predictable rhythm, this game still reveals new plot elements, characters, and gameplay to keep everything fresh.

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deactivated-59e0c3e2b083b

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Does Negotiation system work like the Contact system found in Persona 2 (Innocent Sin & Eternal Punishment)?

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sonicchill

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Edited By sonicchill

This game is easily one of the best games ever made. Everything about this game is perfect: Story, graphic, acting (Japanese), music, sound, etc down to menus exude quality. It's easy to see why there had been so much hype about this game and the game deserves it. Way to go Atlus!!

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Berserk8989

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Edited By Berserk8989

Persona 4 Golden was awesome, can't wait for 5. Just one more day :P

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tsquared44

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Horizon, Nier, and now this. My ps4 needs a breather because hes smoking from my 21/7 gameplay.

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twztid13

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@tsquared44: get on that zelda, son!

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swimbearuk

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The review seemed to make a big deal out of the latter parts of the game being frustrating and long. I like to finish the games I play, so was wondering if this would frustrate me to the point of giving up? I've never played a persona game before, but liked the paper mario and the ds turn based mario games, and loved Ni No Kuni. Not sure whether to get this, or wait for Ni No Kuni 2. I have a large back catalogue to get through before then anyway.

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Bahamut50

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Edited By Bahamut50

@swimbearuk: The story is so worth it that i would have smashed my face against difficulty walls for weeks if i had to xD.

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Blackdog1

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Edited By Blackdog1

@swimbearuk: Get it for the combat. Love it for everything else.

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ranzikiel

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I forgot this was gonna be released in a few more days.
Just finished Nioh 2 weeks ago.
and currently finishing my Horizon Zero Dawn.
Was planning to get Nier Automata but I guess I'll buy this first.

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JEF8484

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@ranzikiel: Congrats on finishing Nioh, that game is no joke especially if you solo- you a Souls vet?

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Bahamut50

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Edited By Bahamut50

@JEF8484: Funny part is that i soloed nioh and did what i considered some very difficult things (like that double battle with the two samurai) and i was surprised at myself because in many battles in the souls series I would give up and find help. I think the combat system was just more to my liking, or perhaps i should say the fluidity.

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ranzikiel

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@JEF8484: Yeah. loved the Souls series(including demon souls) and Bloodborne!. I like torturing myself.

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IJONOI

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Sigh, now to add to my backlog of PS4 60+ hour games. Horizon, Nioh, Neir and now this.

So glad my life only allows me about 5 hours a week gaming.....

If Sony keep this up I may even sell my PC... Unlikely though.

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jflkdjs

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@IJONOI: I hear ya :( I have a busy schedule too and only have the weekends to do all the other stuff. I wish I could go back to when I used to play video games all the time :)

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Scorch_22

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@jflkdjs: I'll jump in that boat with you guys too. My backlog is sadly large due spending all my time having to do non-gaming things like filing taxes and work. Adulting sucks!

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naomha1

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Definitely an insta-buy Day 1. I'd really love to see Shin make a return to the Digital Devil Saga once again. All in glorious 4k, too. Oh, my my my. Let's hope his next game doesn't take another 10 years now. I'm getting too old for this waiting game...

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cetaepsilon

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The Japanese are raging this year. Nioh, Nier, Zelda, this with some of them are reaching for GOAT and it's not even April.

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jflkdjs

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@cetaepsilon: Don't forget Yakuza 0

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JEF8484

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@cetaepsilon: Their finally back from a long slumber. There the original kings of video games, lets not forget.

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Edited By p1p3dream

Looking forward to playing this, the persona series is such a great example of how a series can evolve. These games always just burst with style, creativity, and attention to detail.

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Externalpower43

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A social simulator where you sit in classrooms. Sounds super fun. Lol.

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killersushi  Online

@timmyp1982: Wait, you had sex? How was it?

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Schwacko77

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Edited By Schwacko77

@externalpower43: I said the same exact thing before playing persona 4 golden. over 100 hours later, I was too busy humming the catchy j pop songs

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Externalpower43

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@schwacko77: I have 4 for the PSP and I cant say I ever sat humming. I was just wondering what the hell I was doing playing a sitting in class simulator.

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@externalpower43: You can't even get Persona 4 on a PSP lol

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kiloman_74

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@externalpower43: it is! It's bloody brilliant! Only been into the series since persona 4 golden! Thanks Externalpower43. ??

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LiveDreamPlay

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@externalpower43: Did you look at the whole review?

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jbonczyk

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one of the main reasons i bought a PS4. cant wait to play it.

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Killerious

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@jbonczyk: you should reconsider your priorities dear friend.

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kiloman_74

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@killerious: get a grip dude. And a better machine it sounds like.....

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Lembu90

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Persona 5 > FFXV

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Taylor_Sparks

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@lembu90: *Persona 5>>>>>> FF15

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Persona 5 More Info

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  • First Released Apr 4, 2017
    released
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    Persona 5 is the fifth entry in the Persona series.
    9.3
    Average Rating191 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Persona 5
    Developed by:
    ATLUS
    Published by:
    ATLUS, Deep Silver
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Drug Reference, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence