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Persona 5: Do’s and Don’ts
When Atlus announced that Persona 5 would be coming to PlayStation 4 alongside its previously announced PlayStation 3 release, I was shocked. Even though the Persona series has enjoyed a solid amount of success recently, both critically and commercially, it still is a niche franchise. It is a classic JRPG in every sense of the word, and although they have settled in comfortably to their role in the video game landscape, Persona is a different monster. To many JRPG fans, Persona is the title that gets the red carpet treatment of hype and anticipation. Much akin to franchises such as The Elder Scrolls and Grand Theft Auto, the release of Persona 5 will carry a lot of weight behind it because of the wait we’ve had to endure. By the time Persona 5 is released next year, it will have been seven years since Persona 4, the last core Persona game, was released. It’s easy to lose track of time because the franchise has become a nauseating assembly line of spin-offs and re-releases, but that’s a huge gap between releases.
With the long development cycle behind it and the upgrade to the current generation in tow, whether Atlus likes it or not, Persona 5 is going to be an important title. It will help forecast the future of JRPGs in this generation, especially in the West, and will help to determine the fate of many JRPGs to come. In order to build upon its success, Persona 5 needs to continue building upon the solid foundation it has created from the last couple generations (mainly Persona 3 and 4) and take major steps in evolving the franchise. Here are some things Atlus should (and should not) do to help the franchise achieve the crossover success it deserves.
Do: Deeper Social Link System
The importance of social links to the Persona series cannot be overstated. With heavy dungeon-crawling segments taking the brunt of the gameplay load, social links are the perfect ingredient to add enough variety to your journey to save it from becoming stale. They are a great way to build story, character relationships, all while grinding statistics for you main character. What I’m asking for from Persona 5 isn’t any more or less from a quantitative perspective; what I’m asking for is depth. As interesting and entertaining as the social links are from a character and dialogue perspective, they don’t offer much customization to the overall gameplay experience. All we really have are basic question-and-answer segments that end in either a pass or fail. Persona 5 would do well to borrow from Bioware’s bag of tricks and add some customization behind social links. Give me some consequences behind my actions. Force me to choose my words carefully, and show me the cause and effect of my actions as I juggle all these relationships.
Don’t: Artificial Length
This should be a given, but it’s not. Artificial length has been an infirmity for JRPGs that has, inexplicably, become more of a bane on the genre as time has gone by. I don’t care if I’ve gotten 70 hours out of your game if only 50 hours have been enjoyable. A lot of the hardcore JRPG audience will argue that this is just how it is and we have to deal with the grind, but I call that a lazy excuse. Genres have innovated and gotten over there shortcomings so much over the years, yet JRPGs continue to dig themselves deeper into a solitary hole where niche-ridden franchises go to die. If you want me to grind a dungeon for hours on end, that’s fine with me, but have a purpose behind it. Don’t make it as cut-and-dry as leveling up. Incentivize the grind.
Do: Give the Weapon and Armor System an Overhaul
Weapons, armor, and accessories have had their place in the Persona games, but have always taken a backseat to the Personas themselves, so much so that towards the end of the game, you really couldn’t care less what you have on. There’s two ways Persona 5 could go with this: either redo the whole thing and make weapons and armor matter; or completely get rid of it altogether. Whatever Atlus decides to do, I’m hoping they don’t continue with the same half-assed system.
Don’t: Complicate the Battle System
Keep it turn-based, keep it simple. The charm behind Persona‘s battle system has always been its simplistic presentation. Behind this veil of simplicity is a deep, often mathematical game of cat-and-mouse. The turn you’re on is just as important as the turn you’re about to take, and your enemies are trying just as hard to back you into a wall before you can take them down. If Persona 5 were to try to complicate things and mess with the roots of what makes the battle system so accessible, it would tear down everything about Persona‘s grind thatoffers so much satisfaction. The “easy to learn, difficult to master” formula is a staple of most JRPGs, and Persona has always prided itself as being at the top of its game in this regard. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Do: Add More Personas
Do you know how many Pokémon there are now? Over 700! I understand that Persona pulls much of their source material from different religious and mythological figures, but let’s step it up a bit. Most Shin Megami Tensei games in general have always sucked from the same pool of demons, gods, idols, and whatever weird gross things they could find. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy sending out a demon sitting on a toilet to do my bidding as much as the next guy, but let’s switch it up and see what new gross amalgamations the game designer’s minds can come up with.
Don’t: Give Me Story In Huge Chunks
This is a huge one for me, and my biggest gripe with Persona 4 in particular. As entertaining as a story may be, and as charming as characters are, I’m still playing a video game here. Vomiting a buffet of exposition all over my gameplay experience is okay for a short amount of time, but after a while it just becomes frustrating and redundant. Give me the story in smaller installments throughout without having to subject me to a war between myself and the X button. Nobody should be subjected to an hour of story before the first battle begins. I don’t care how good your story is. Get more creative with the story-telling, cut the fat, and find ways to keep the momentum going between dungeons, story, and social links.
Do: Release the Game On Vita
Persona 5 Vita version. Cross-save compatible. Take my money.