The Phantom Thieves are out to steal the hearts and minds of the people of Japan in a attempt to stave off certain ruin. So it is rather unfortunate that the only thing this band of thieves succeed in stealing is your time.
It's hard to talk about Persona 5 as a unified piece of entertainment. Part of this is due to the games length, (I clocked it in at a hundred and seventy hours). It is also due to how deep and varied the multitude of game mechanics are in the game. It really does feel like four separate games mixed into one. We have the traditional turn base RPG, mixed in with a Monster Rancher game, combined with a visual novel, all of which is loosely tied together with a...Time Management Simulator?
Time, it is not on your side in Persona. In fact, it is the most nefarious villain in the entire game. From the minute your feet hit the ground you and your fellow thieves are on the clock and it really debilitates many of the funner aspects of the game. For example, the dungeons, all of which are gorgeously designed and are capped off with some well thought out and challenging bosses. The only problem is that it takes a loooong time to set straight the distorted hearts that comprise the 7 in-game dungeons. At first this doesn't seem to be a problem, as the game seems to encourage you to only ever go so far into the depths at any given time. Typically, till you get to a check point. From there you are free to jump out of the dungeon and back to the “real” world for a much needed break. Unfortunately, Father Time has other plans.
By time you hit hour 50 you realize that peridocailly leaving the dungeons for a quick recess isn't going to work out. There simply isn't enough time for you to take your time (despite the persistent mockingly insistence of the loading screens). This forces the player to start taking the dungeons on all at once, which really hampers the pace and nullifies much of the fun. Instead of leveling up and learning more about your personas you find yourself just decapitating them and stringing them up by the wagon full, in a mad rush to try and combine the right ones in a attempt complete you Compendium. Instead of enjoying the push and pull of the turn base combat (which is actually very well balanced) you find yourself just pounding you and your teammates into the meat mincer at a unrelenting pace, in a seemingly neverending grind. Now the game doesn't implicitly says you have to play this way, but to not would mean you risk not spending enough time with your cohorts in the real world, and thus not being able to learn more about their characters and their problems, which is half the game. For better---and often times for worse.
The characters of Persona have a pretty heavy burden to bear, and I don't mean the task of using mystical powers to invade peoples hearts to battle distorted desires. This game does not shy away from adults themes. From sexual harassment, to parental abuse and abandonment, to asking poignant questions about conforming and confronting societal norms. There is a lot of deep and heavy issues being addressed here, which our goofy band of kids from Shujin Academy are simply not up for carrying. All of the characters in Persona are so broadly and cliche written that it would be comical if it wasn't so hard to get them to shut up. The charterers are constantly talking in circles, as if they think the audience is suffering from crippling amnesia, and rattle off criminally long rants and monologues to little dramatic effect. So it's not without irony that the only thing more infuriating than getting the characters to stop talking is how hard it is to actually get them to start talking to you in the first place.
Many of the characters in Persona have a assortment of problems for you to sort through and solve, the only problem is that many of them will not speak or interact with you till your "social stats" are so high. This leaves you to have to boost your stats by watching your character do a wide arrange of boring and non interactive activities, all of which takes up precious time. Such as, eating dinner, reading books, and even playing videogames. And despite the hours you waste watching your character do things that you yourself could be enjoying in real life, it might still not be enough to win your companions over in time, as that all omnipotent shot clock is forever marching you towards the final curtain. I myself ended the game with many of the characters eight tenths of the way done with their respective character arcs. Which, after clocking in a hundred and seventy hours, I found to be rather rage inducing.
Persona 5 is a game dealing with sever case of split personality disorder. One part of the game is a well thought out and enjoyable RPG, the other is a dull and enraging Time Management Simulator. One half of the game is presented beautifully with a sense of vibrancy and kinetic energy, all to a jamin and slammin soundtrack. While the other half is a drab and static slog, which groans and droans to tunes unworthy of being elevator music. Even the story and themes can't escape the duality and duplicity. One minute the game is talking about the horrors of sexual harassment, and the next it's putting the victim of said of sexual harassment in a S&M cat costume, with a KO pose that has her face down in the dirt and her butt sticking straight up in the air, as if she's asking for intercourse doggy style. Which is rather ironic considering her choice in costume. As it stands, if your a fan of serialized anime you may have an okay time with Persona, but I have a hard time seeing this game stealing anybodies heart. In fact, I can only ever imagine it breaking them.