I’ll preface this hands-on with a suggestion or a prayer that I maybe had a bad controller or there was a glitch with the demo, but I did not like what I saw from Persona 5 here at the Tokyo Game Show. Not at all!
Well, what I saw was fine. This game is loaded with style, the same kind that made the previous two games modern classics, and yet, it’s still different with that excellent thief motif it has going on. The music is great and had a few catchy themes paying in the background. I’m still waiting for a track that elevates it to Persona 4’s level of excellence. My demo did not have anything that compared to “Alone in this World.”
Best of all is the victory pose sequence after a battle wraps up. All of the party members pose while our leader walks like a total badass back into the map screen. I don’t think that will get old over the 80 hours of play time.
It would be safer to say I was totally turned off by how this game felt. Controls for a JRPG should be the least concern of any developer, but for some reason, Persona 5 just feels awful. A push of the analog stick didn’t move my character for a full second, sometimes two, nor did the camera rotate with the same speed of the character. Sharp turns were impossible to see guide through, which is no good when security demons lurk in every hallway.
The circle button barely responded, too. I was looking forward to to piling on the details about the exciting new stealth and security gate mechanics, but they felt sloppy and poorly implemented, like they had no place in this game.
I even pressed it to steal an art piece hanging on the wall, and I didn’t pick it up for three seconds!
Again, I’m praying it was a bum controller or a bug in the demo, but what started off as uncomfortable got slowly worse as my 10 minutes continued. It couldn’t have been the battery because I was plugged in! The input lag became longer, not my patience getting shorter. This felt awful.
Otherwise, the combat feels just as silky smooth as it did in Persona 4, and its new “Gun” mechanic adds a lot of flavor and combat choices. The PlayStation 4 does a lot to bring Persona’s demons into the new age, too. They look fabulous this time around.
Despite distancing itself by dropping Shin Megami Tensei from the title, Atlus brings back the main series’ monster negotiations that take place at the end of battle. Of course, they are just as random as ever. Those familiar with only the Persona games and not its parent series are in for a surprise.
I couldn’t fully enjoy the combat, though, because I wasn’t working with character builds and skills I had customized, a huge problem for a JRPG. But given more input in my characters’ loadout and the ability to read it in English, this will be a brilliant battle system once again.
Atlus deserves the benefit of the doubt, so let’s assume my issues were specific to my demo. Persona 5 releases in Japan today, so we’ll hear cries from the public if it’s this bad universally. If I have a spare hour to wait in line, I might try again. Heh, who has a spare hour at these shows?
Persona 5 comes to North America on Feb. 14 for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.