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There are games about stories with roles with playing. Sometimes stories with games. Often playing with stories. Persona 5 is all in one. It evaluates the cool and dark side of Japanese High Schools, everyday life in a megacity, the Social-Link System and exhibits how the devil is in the details. In this review, we discover how a role playing game Persona 5 makes Social and Political issues relevant and relatable.

Gaming Console Review: Comparsion between PS4 and XBox OS

1. Introduction

Georgia Tech professor and game designer Ian Bogost tweeted (Johnson) in June that this is typical of video games in response to a tweet about how Far Cry 5 avoids dealing with American issues by making villains outsiders. It’s a theme commonly found in many first-person shooters, sure — and perhaps those players aren’t interested in introspection. Only today, Persona 5 is one such game that delves so boldly into topical societal problems without being too conclusive. Persona 5 is a game about existential crises with a gameplay of 150 hours altogether. This game was released in a time where current international politics have never had an impact on a global scale like this.

Persona is a series built on mystical contracts, but it masks the ins and outs of a contract through the socializing aspect of the game. A gorgeous, vibrant world and captivating story make Persona 5 a new gold standard for Japanese RPGs[1]. The stuff that you can do when you do not fight in this game catches anybody’s interest. Although, there has been some drama surrounding the English localization of Persona 5, save that it expects a high degree of Japanese cultural insight from the player (Lee). Meanwhile, Atlus, the production team or the developers of the game, brought back the guns and socializing with shadows which is pretty exciting. Likewise, many people have really liked the old mechanics put into Persona 5, and complaining as to why IGN has given this game a 9.7/10 review.

2. Persona 5 and its Ideological Construct

The battle system is pretty standard for a Persona game, though the addition of guns and in-battle Confidant augmentations do affect strategy meaningfully. Leveraging Tokyo’s sights and sounds, the game is grounded in a way that previous games haven’t been, and really strongly touched off a bout of nostalgia for those who have been there. That is exactly how the formal elements of videogames relate to each other, and how they affect play. Creating an ambiance which is relatable. The genre is marked by a realistic style and by satire, and it’s not unlikely that the game’s developers considered these ties to the real world for that reason. Its Virtual Reality version is the same kind of future we can imagine for games, and, by extension, for culture (Viray).

2.1 Balance of Life in Gameplay

The gameplay is equally fantastic. The idea is to knock over a good chunk of the palace early on, and to return to it regularly to move from save room to save room. You can then take breaks for a couple of days at a time in the real world to progress other important areas of your development. These areas of interest could be like earning money or building relationships, which in turn help you in the palaces. A terrific example of a game telling us what we value the most in our life.

The Shin Megami Tensei[2] (SMT) or Persona formula continues to be polished. There are guns now, which provides a different method of physical attacks. They are limited, but generally stronger than your melee attack. The psychic and nuclear elements make a return from the previous versions, and there are also bless and curse attack skills outside of the Hama or Mudo abilities. This gives a bit more variety to the combat, and now every party member has an element unique to them.

2.2 Regularly Fuse Personas

Persona 5 also borrows demon negotiation from the SMT mainline series. Rather than playing some card mini-game after a battle, you can convince a shadow to join up with you. When you have all enemies downed, you can either do an all-out attack, try to recruit them, or try to ask them for items or money. If you ask to recruit them, you have to negotiate with them the same way you’d do in a SMT game. Each enemy has a personality type, and that effects what kind of answers they want to hear. Negotiate successfully, and you have a new persona. The key here though is that you really want to make the most of the personas you have, and you won’t be able to do this simply by collecting them from battle. You will need to invest some time on a regular basis fusing personas in order to discover the very best personas and to maximize their available skills. This is exactly how a human mind thinks in day to day optimization around tasks in hand.

2.3 Persona 5 and a Loss of Intimacy

Persona 5 deals with a kid under probation towing the line between being a supernatural “Phantom Thief” and laying low in the real world. You gather friends who consider themselves outcasts or other social predicaments and you steal people’s hearts to change their perspective or mind on an incoming danger to the group. This is truly in line with Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction by Erving Goffman. The game play relates to work, and strongly relates to capitalism this way exhibiting who we are as human beings after all. Every palace has a series of safe rooms where you can save your game, chat with your party, or quick-travel to places you’ve unlocked. Your best line of defense against an unexpected party wipe is to save often. And if your characters are low on SP – the precious fuel of most Persona abilities – remember to fast-travel to the dungeon’s entrance to swap-in fresh, fully powered teammates (Kuah). The sooner you complete the dungeons in front of you, the more time blocks you’ll have in the evening for friends, personal growth, and the things that matter most for you. If you procrastinate, even if you open up those evening blocks, they’ll be clouded by the shadows of un-slain monsters.

Realted: Old PC Games: Disney 16-Bit Classics Are Back!

3. How Role-Playing Games Can Help Solve Social Problems

The game does do quite a few things worth noting. Persona 5 has a way of making you feel as if you are the world’s greatest talent manager for the world’s most pedestrian mega-celebrity. As the protagonist’s handler, you handpick jobs to do, perform PR tasks like select what to say for the cameras, and even advise the protagonist on their romantic life. Persona 5 allows you to strike up relationships with a few vendors — spending time with them opens up new items and lower prices. It also explicitly explains the type of women who get cheated on beyond the context of gameplay.


3.1 Social Stimulation

Social dilemmas present in Persona 5 allow for deep learning curves. They also make you crave exploration and diverse progression. In Persona 5, a lot of the side characters you interact with have the caveat of helping you learn how to be a better Phantom Thief. Even your close friends are merely tools for you to gain new things from. Perhaps the most unique feature in the Persona games is the social link system. Each of the social links is represented by a major arcana card from the tarot deck. The arcana is symbolic of the nature of the relationship. For instance, the hierophant link is mature and spiritual wisdom, while the chariot is represented by a friendship rooted in youth and physical endurance.

The beauty of the social links in these games is their variety and complexity. As a high school student, we are not merely expected to hang out with people in our usual social circles. Rather, we find ourselves befriending a variety of different people who teach us unique skills to help us become well-rounded individuals. This strengthens our heart and makes the personas of matching arcana stronger as well. In addition to being a great way to restore SP, your coffee-brewing skills will act as something of a social lubricant with other characters later on in the game.

3.2 This is also a time management game

The more deeply we become entrenched in these friendships, the more we learn about the individuals we are befriending. As we do so, our social stats naturally improve as well. The social statistics system is time budgeting down to a science which is affected if players refuse to play according to rules generate. We only have so much time in each day to upgrade our stats, and we have to choose wisely in order to have the right amount of knowledge to ace the exams, or enough guts to progress the story with our social links. Every day, we choose how we want to spend our time after school, on the train, or during the evening. Allocating time improperly can find you hitting a wall with gear upgrades and confidant storyline progression. This also depicts the finitude the game has to offer.

3.3 In-game Consequences

At it’s core Persona 5’s is quintessentially a JRPG, Japanese Role Playing Game. The most notable examples are the Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and the Shin Megami Tensei series, which incidentally is where Persona’s humble beginnings are. The main characteristic of JRPG’s are lengthy stories with turn based battle systems that employ the use of several menus. So if you need to launch a devastating fireball, at your turn you need to wade to the magic submenu, select “Black Magic” from there and then select “Fire” or the more powerful “Fireaga”. Thus select attacks for all your party members, usually three of them.

It’s like the vitality of youth have infused the menus with a lazy pulsing energy. All bathed in crimson, the style stays true to the central theme about hearts. With accents of black and white symbolizing the characters as prisoners, as the Protagonist and his friends are constantly portrayed in prison garb with ball and chain. Essentially trapped in their own lives by their circumstances. Part-time jobs don’t create Social Links anymore but offer other benefits — they earn money, can raise your character’s attributes, which you will need for other Social Links, and can help you to find targets in the Mementos dungeon.

4. Unique Aesthetics

Persona 5 also does some odd, but expected (and unexpected) things. At a cursory glance, the plot is an amalgam of Death Note (a tool that can manipulate other human beings is discovered and utilized, its ethics are questioned, and there is an ace detective on your trail) and Inception (thieves stealing from people’s subconscious). It does the Symphony of the Night thing, where the reward of progression is made sweeter by the presentation of new and comfortable music.

If we study Games Telling Stories – A Brief note on Games and Narratives by Jesper Juul very closely, in Persona 5, we will find the narrative is modeled on the picaresque novel[3], adventure stories about rogues. Indeed, it overtly references those characters, including Carmen, Arsene Lupin, and Zorro among others. The main characters of Persona 5 assert their individualism by “stealing” the hearts of their victims. They do so by entering a shadow version of the real-world and finding treasure locked in the hearts of their targets. Ultimately, the stakes encompass the battle between order and anarchy, which is manifested in the disparity between the main character’s real-life persona as a mousey high school student and his secret identity as the brash leader of the games heroes, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. These themes are represented by red throughout the game (Khan).

Persona 5 has a highly asymmetric yet uniform design language that is not only artistic but also thoroughly consistent, but most importantly, it works. The protagonists throughout the Persona series have always had the unique ability to switch between personas. This ability is a reflection of the open-minded nature of the friends and confidants that we make along the way. Why not take this mentality with us into our daily lives, and truly befriend acquaintances from many walks of life that we interact with? In doing so, we might strengthen our own hearts as well. This is why gamer culture is often violently sexist.

5. Persona 5 and Capitalist Power Relationships

As Capitalism has been engaged in a power struggle with Labor, so too have they been fighting on another front against consumers (Marx). This point is bolstered by the monopoly outlined above. To reiterate, with a monopoly, there is only one offering of Persona 5, the one by Atlus. Therefore, they are in a position to place demands of how their product is to be consumed, especially as the line between good and service has blurred in recent decades. This how these two relationships work together to absolve corporations of having to address ethical labor practices and instead push that burden on to consumers.

Nicole Aschoff outlines how corporations abdicate from social responsibility by shifting the burden on to consumers at the point of consumption and away from the point of production (Aschoff). In our Persona 5 example, if the game’s sales are negatively impacted due to the localization and streaming issues outlined above, Atlus will likely respond by reducing their labor force to compensate for reduced revenue and keep profits up.

6. Conclusion

This game is the greatest farewell present the PlayStation 3 had to offer at the end of its life cycle, truly magnificent. The analogies and symbolism are used carefully to create a game that teaches us how to be well-rounded human beings. There’s just so much to love about this game: from the interesting, twist-filled story to the jazzy, groovy, catchy music that puts you in the mood whether you’re slumming it out in the streets of Japan or about to take down another corrupt individual in society. Then there are the surprisingly deep relationships that you wind up making with the most unlikely of people. Everything is polished off with an explosion of style that seeps into stuff as minor as menu navigation. A true masterpiece that takes your heart and makes you fall in love with.


Aschoff, Nicole. The New Prophets of Capital . Verso, 2015.

Johnson, Leif. “‘Far Cry 5’ can’t ignore the real darkness lurking in rural America.” n.d. Micj.

Khan, Ridwan. “The UI and UX of Persona 5.” 25 April 2017. Ridwan Khan. Web. 28 Oct 2017.

Kuah, Kaylee. “10 Things To Know Before Playing Persona 5.” 05 April 2017. Unpause Asia. Web. 28 10 2017.

Lee, Molly. “Persona 5 deserved better: a translator’s take on a subpar script.” 20 April 2017. Polygon. Web. 28 10 2017.

Marx, Karl. “The Communist Manifesto.” Manifest der kommunistischen. Bishopsgate: The Workers’ Educational Association, 21 Feb 1848. Pamphlet.

Viray, Aileen. “I’ve been playing Persona 5 in VR and it’s awesome on a virtual screen.” 09 May 2017. Bigscreen. Web. 28 10 2017.


[1] A STRONG STORY AND TREMENDOUS SENSE OF STYLE, Visit: http://in.ign.com/shin-megami-tensei-persona-5/106371/review/persona-5-review

[2] Wikipedia Page, Visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shin_Megami_Tensei

[3] Definition, Visit: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Picaresque_novel

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Author Hassan Al Nasser

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