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Hopes for Persona 5

Trent Seely

After a six year wait, a new, core entry in the Persona series is on track to arrive in Japan before the end of the year. It will run on a new engine, for a slightly newer platform, and will feature life-sized character models to impress a more realistic feeling. Katsura Hashino, Shigenori Soejima, and Shoji Meguro will be returning to direct, illustrate, and compose respectively. Outside of that, we really don't have too many details on what the game will look like and how it will play. Rather than waiting patiently to see, I'd like to detail some of the things I would love to see in Persona 5. My hope is that a few of them will grace the finished product.

Beginning with theme, we already know that the story of Persona 5 will tackle the hardships of modern society and will feature characters that are restrained by the rules set by this society. The quote shown in the North American teaser trailer states, "You are a slave. Want emancipation?" As such, players will be confronted with chains that they must break. According to Hashino, the freedom that will be sought in Persona 5 will differ from that of other games in the Persona series and is meant to liberate those who "are bored and discontent with their lives." To that point, you may have already assumed that the game will revolve around angst-ridden teenagers again. You would be right, but while Persona 5 will be set in a high school, the mood and tone is purportedly much different than we have seen before. Again, the theme of this game is emancipation. That's a pretty heavy concept to deal with. My hope is that the game takes the same approach as Persona 4, in that the themes of the game (understanding yourself, accepting your faults, being selfless for others, etc.) remain thoughtful and introspective while the tone itself remains lighthearted and fun. Also, I'm hopeful that emancipation as a theme will be so integral to gameplay that the imagery of these chains will hold as much significance to fans of the series as evokers and television sets do now.

Part of the reason why I'm in favor of a lighter tone is that it can lend itself better to human interaction. Like Persona 4, Persona 3 also dealt with heavier concepts of the human experience, but I feel as though the character development and engagement in that game suffered as a result of being in the face of an apocalypse. The social side of things took a backseat to the darker tone of the main narrative. That isn't to say that Persona 3 was made worse by its tone, but rather that the cast of the game could have been on better display if you didn't feel guilty spending time with them instead of sharpening your weapons and buffing your armor. I also find that the darker tones of the first two games in particular contributed to them feeling like more of a slog to complete. If the tone is light and fresh, Persona 5 might feel easier to pick up and play.

We were spoiled with the cast of Persona 4. Complex, interesting, and unique, each of these characters brought something different to the table. The only downside of the game they were featured in was that I never felt as though I had enough free time to spend with each of them. I guess you could say they left me wanting more. That's what I want to see in Persona 5. I know it's a big ask, but our engagement with the characters goes a long way in determining how important we see the main plot. If we don't care too much about the people involved, why would we care about failing to resolve their conflicts?

To take things a step further with the cast, I would like to see at least one homosexual romance occur in the game. That isn't to say that I want a homosexual romancing option, a la Mass Effect. What I mean to say is that the modern Persona games are one part dating sim, and so far we've only seen heterosexual romances between cast members. I'd prefer if we had a cast member who is completely aware and alright with being homosexual, as opposed to someone who questions their sexuality as we've seen in the past. That could be a nice change of pace and a good step forward in terms of representation. Also, the theme of Persona 5 is emancipation and I honestly don't know of any other group that is fighting harder than the LGBT community to be free and accepted in modern-day society.

Staying on the topic of social interactions, I feel as though I'd prefer a better in-game meter to indicate Social Link progress. That isn't to say that I'm asking for a percentage bar which clearly indicates how eating ramen with a friend is more effective in getting close to them than taking them to the movies. It's just that I'm never quite sure how far away I am from attaining a new level, and that ultimately affects where and how you spend your extremely valuable time.

There are a few other minor alterations I'd like to see occur to the game's mechanics. To begin, I think it is about time that we were given an interim save opinion. One of the best things about P4G was that I could turn my PS Vita's sleep mode on whenever I had enough of playing, but was still in a dungeon. I can't pull the same thing off on a console. I would like to not have to plow through a dungeon in order to walk away from the game. I would also be interested in seeing a new way to obtain and perhaps fuse Personas — maybe something that fits in with the theme of emancipation. For instance, you might be able to "free" a Persona from an adversary or dungeon for your own use. That being said, my only hope is that the skill selection mechanic present in P4G would still be around for the fusion of Personas in this game.

I've already stated that modern Persona titles are one part dating sim, but it could also be argued that they are also one part dungeon crawler. Persona 4, I felt, really nailed the look of many of the dungeons and the experience was made better for it. However, it still sort of felt like everything was on a grid. The corridors were all very straight, boasting the same dimensions and right angle turns. If we were to ask for greater diversity in dungeon design, I would recommend corridors that change in width as well as numerous circular twists and turns. I want to feel like I'm actually in a dungeon, as opposed to an office complex that was designed by Apple.

The last couple of things I would enjoy seeing ultimately tie into Persona 5's story. For instance, I would love to see a cameo of a character from Persona 4 — preferably a slightly older Nanako. I'd understand if the game's creators opted to use a whole new cast for a fresh feel instead, but I would like a little nod to previous games to tie it into the series. I'd also like for your decisions to have more impact. The current model of important decision making in Persona titles is to present you with a choice during the narrative's climax. That's all well and good, but realistically speaking you're making choices throughout the Persona games (who to hang out with, how to answer in-class questions, whether to read a book, which character stats to max out, etc.). What if choosing not to be around certain people led to negative consequences for them? What if not having a high enough charm stopped you from talking someone off a ledge? I'd like for these elements of gameplay to have a greater tug on the narrative.

At the end of the day, I'm sure I'll be happy with whatever Persona Studio creates. After all, I haven't been let down yet. That said, just because you love something doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. I have high hopes for Persona 5, and even higher hopes for how the game raises the bar. If a few things are included and/or tweaked I think we'll have another classic RPG.

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