Merry Christmas/I beat Persona 5!

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20171225

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Merry Christmas/I beat Persona 5!




Copy-pasted from BMGf. I'm pretty unsatisfied with my writing here (then again, when am I not?), but I allowed myself to put down all my walls since the subject is a series I hold very close to my heart: Persona.





First of all, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, public school taught me to also say Happy Kwanzaa whatever that is, not sure if Ramadan is going on right now but if it is then that too, and Pleasant Festivus to everyone. Hopefully it treats you well.

I made a post a few days ago in the "Rate the Last Game You Played" thread, where I rated three games I finished earlier this month (Nier: Automata, Undertale, and Silent Hill 2, all great games). I finished another game last night, but my post is still the most recent in that thread - and I made it out to be my last post for the year, so it would be slightly awkward to spin around and be like "And another thing..." Ergo, this blog post.

I wasn't entirely sure if I would beat Persona 5 this year, but I did last night, and Persona is very near and dear to me so I think it's definitely worth a blog post (+ holiday wishes, but who cares about that right?). I woke up this morning pretty depressed for no reason, too, but Persona motivates me to get out of bed, so I owe it some special attention.

I'm not really interested in doing a plain old review for this game, since the series it's a part of means so much to me. This game's release was the highlight of my year, honestly. So, with this blog entry I'll sorta document my history with the game before release, my experience while playing it, and my thoughts on how it compares to its predecessors. I'm not motivated to do anything else today, so maybe I'll just spend all day sitting here and writing this. I'm always excited to talk about Persona. I'm partly doing this for myself, to preserve my initial thoughts on the complete game, but also in the hopes that my passion for this series rubs off to someone else who needs games like these in their lives.

So Persona 5 is the latest entry in the Persona franchise, which is its own beast entirely these days but at its core is a spin-off of the Megami Tensei series that dates back to the late '80s. I consider Megami Tensei as a whole to be my favorite video game "series", but Persona is definitely my favorite thing to come out of the franchise. I first got into Megami Tensei in 2015, and Persona 5 was first announced in 2013. I played Persona 3 and Persona 4 back-to-back when I was 18-19, and they catapulted to the top of my list of favorite video games, so right off the heels of those games, I had something to look forward to.

The appeal of Persona as a series is that every game has a new cast in a new location. Some of my friends seem to be just bewildered by this; apparently they think that a franchise should be about one cast of characters repeatedly suffering and saving the world over and over again. Yawn. Persona is cool because the same basic themes and game-play formulas are reinterpreted with every game in a new situation, which makes it feel like a living example of the Jungian archetypes that the games talk about so much.

Persona 3 was about urban private school students dealing with mortality in the year 2009, and Persona 4 was about public school kids chasing a serial killer terrorizing their sleepy mountain town in the year 2011. These games had a really, really strong sense of time and place, so I was beyond excited for Persona 5 just by virtue of being a Persona game that would give this same treatment to my teenage years, the mid-2010s (especially in a setting as globally connected as Tokyo this time around). This is a Persona game for my generation!

Actually, Persona 5 was originally scheduled to be released in "Winter 2014" only on PlayStation 3. So, I'm glad it got delayed so that I could get into the series in time. So then the release date was "2015", and it wasn't until late in the year that they gave up on that. Then the Japanese release date was September 15th, 2016, which was met, and us in the West resigned ourselves to a later Western release. Then that was set for Valentine's Day 2017. Then, one last excruciatingly small delay to April 4th, the sacred day. Atlus and Atlus USA delayed the game over and over, knowing the fan backlash that would come, because they cared about delivering a quality product. The core game was delayed by years because P Studio wanted to tell the best story they could (and put it on PS4), and Atlus USA put up with all the Internet venom because they wanted to deliver the best localization they could. It's too bad the localization missed the mark, but... I'll get to that.

Just a couple more paragraphs of pre-release build-up, if I may. Another cool thing about Persona is that each game, while using the same basic structure, touches on different themes. Persona 3 is about death and the passage of time, and Persona 4 is about seeking the truth at all times and THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP. Looking back on it, I'm now realizing that being worried about Persona 5's premise was a little silly because it's really no less adolescent than the themes of the previous two games. The writer/director of those games was Katsura Hashino, and he had the some role in the making on Persona 5, so no matter what, I was bound to have full confidence in his ability to write a worthwhile story on whatever subject he chose to focus on, and I did. He described Persona 5 as being a story about rebellion against society, and that's definitely what it is, and just as expected, he wrote a nuanced and valuable story that blows 99% of other anime-style stories out of the water. Persona 5 is the final game in the "Hashino trilogy" that started ten years ago with my favorite game of all time, Persona 3. Right now Hashino is working with his brand-new internal Atlus team, Studio Zero, and as usual, I'm 100% confident in whatever he's doing. He did the unthinkable with Persona 5: he told a story about rebellious teenagers that is fresh and meaningful.

I pre-ordered the game on PS3 and bought it twice on PS4 on release day (the Steelbook and the standard editions), so if you want quantitative proof of how excited I was for Persona 5, there it is. You only get one first play-through, so I also decided with this game that I'd hold an experiment; I played one in-game day every day in real life. That's the only reason it took so long for me to beat the game, and I'm glad I stuck with the program, so now I can give a first-hand account of what it's like to play Persona this way. There is one glowing issue with this play style, and it's that I had a hard time remembering things from early in the main plot and Confidant stories, since something that happened almost a year ago to the cast also happened almost a year ago for me. These games are very, very rich with story and details, and it's incredibly immersive. When a game goes this far in making the player feel like they're truly in another place, playing it in real time almost becomes like living two lives, and it got hard to follow. My brain started blurring early-game events by the time it was over, and for that reason I might not want to do this again with a future Persona game. I will definitely be playing Persona 3 again this way one of these days, though, so I'd easily recommend it as a way to spice up a repeat play-through.

Now, finally... the game. How is the game? I'll put a TL;DR in the middle of this blog post, so that you all have to read at least a few paragraphs of my unedited rambling and can't complain that I didn't provide a TL;DR!

To sum up all of my thoughts about Persona 5, it can be boiled down to this - it doesn't do anything as well as Persona 3 and 4 did, but it's a stellar game all the same.

The beginning of the game immediately establishes this game's cartoonier tone, as it's a cold open, set atop the chandeliers and windowsills of a late-game dungeon, that throws the player immediately into the action for a few minutes before establishing a "how we got here" plot. It's very well-done, and obviously the result of P Studio listening to people who complained that the previous two games were slow to start. Another thing I love about Persona: lots of down-time between monster-fighting segments. Despite the more flashy beginning hours, Persona 5 has no shortage of "chill out" time, which is a great thing. P Studio nailed this game's more episodic structure; whether I was pushing through a dungeon or spending quality time with Confidants, I always looked forward to booting up the game, and I never even skipped the opening animation because it was like sitting down for a new episode of a cartoon series every day.

As usual for Persona games, this one is very, very long. I logged about 150 hours by the end, but the way I played it definitely gave me more incentive to stray from the straightest path to the objective. So, it's probably shorter than Persona 3 and 4, but just as I said about quality, coming up short of those games is not saying much. Make no mistake, Persona 5 is extremely long and feels like a Persona game through and through. Some people will find the massive length undeserved, usually because they dislike either the monster-fighting or social-simming half of the game, but I love both of those as well as how they're intertwined, so I'm that cray guy that wishes these games were longer! Persona has my favorite game-play flow in all of video games, and the fact that it's not new here just means I'm used to it, not that it isn't just as strong and immersive in Persona 5.

Now for presentation. Major spoilers coming up here: this game is stylish as eff. The visuals are low-fi (it is a cross-gen game, keep in mind), with plenty of blurry textures and economical animations to be found, but it's all wrapped up in such a slick comic-book-slash-anime style that it doesn't matter. Persona has always excelled at making a slow-paced, turn-based RPG exciting, and they've done it again here. This game's UI is honestly masterful; so much can be done so quickly that it intimidates people who are used to going through three menus to access the nose-picking button in other JRPGs. Over-all, the game is staggeringly polished, a masterclass in making an RPG that keeps its momentum going.

There is one aspect of the presentation that I'm a little unenamored with, unfortunately, and it seems to be an unpopular pick; the music. It's not bad at all, but I still hold the sound tracks of the previous two games in higher regard. This came as a surprise even to myself, because Persona 3 and 4 have sound tracks that can easily be described as "very anime" - lots of rock and hip-hop elements jumbled together with a focus on melody and harmony. If anything, Persona 5's approach should be more respectable, since the style has been boldly changed to acid jazz/jazz fusion. As much as it pains me to say, though, I don't think the experiment pays off. By virtue of being played on a loop in a very long video game, the back-ground music is going to be repetitive, so it should be designed with repetition in mind - and in case you don't know, "jazz" and "repetition" go together like "oil" and "penguins" (they technically can, but you shouldn't do it). I also feel like composer Shoji Meguro didn't go far enough with the jazz aesthetic; too many tracks, which occur too frequently, feature a washed-out electric guitar or overpowering electronics. Some tracks that I do like are "Last Surprise", "Have a Short Rest", "The Days When My Mother Was There", "Butterfly Kiss", "The Whims of Fate", "Beneath the Mask", and the ending credits song (don't listen to it until you beat the game, it's worth it).

The music of the previous two games was cheesier, no doubt about it, but I also thought they were more fitting, and possessed a sort of "listened-to" quality. The music in those games sounded like music that the main casts might be listening to in their spare time. In Persona 5, the music is just sorta disconnected because it doesn't have this same quality, on top of the issues I mentioned earlier. Cowboy Bebop it is not. Despite all of this, though, I get the distinct feeling that I will warm up to this game's sound track in due time. Expect me to make similar statements later on as well. As I said, at the end of the day it's still good. I only pick these games to pieces because I love them to pieces.

Now, the combat. I already talked about the structure (it's brilliant), but now I'll talk about the monster-fighting and social-simming parts on their own, starting with the former. The combat in this game is the most complex yet, but it's also too easy. So many aspects of combat are skewed in the player's favor that the occasional boss or miniboss that actually reaches the previous games' level of challenge is exciting, not intimidating as it is in those games. To be fair, those games occasionally veered into frustratingly cheap territory, but Persona 5's lack of difficulty works against it, since I don't feel the tension that should come with every boss fight. It breaks immersion.

Now to talk about the social sim part of the game, which will lean closer into story territory. Social Links this time around are called Confidants, and from a game-play perspective they're more complex than they've ever been. Each Confidant has unique game-play benefits, and it's very well-done, but I have an illogical hang-up about this. The perks these Confidants offer can sometimes make the player think about these characters in a detached, video-gamey way, since the benefits of one Confidant may be seen as preferable to those of another (extra time to do things during the day vs. more skills involving the guns I never use? Hmm...). I mean, much like the music, Persona 5 makes a big leap in its handling of Social Links, but there's just some little things for me to be a curmudgeon about. It also doesn't help that a bothersome percentage of the Confidants are either automatic (they progress at predetermined points in the story so you just have to wait for the rank-ups) or unengaging. Once these characters' story lines get going, they can be interesting, but the only reason I hung out with a shady doctor giving me untested medication or a fortune teller scam artist was because this is a video game so there has to be an advantage to it. How immersion-breaking is a thought like that? Now, the previous games had plenty of Social Link characters with abrasive personalities, but in those games it served to make the settings feel populated by a diverse range of people; Persona 5, in contrast, presents the player with characters that don't really give a reason to spend time with them. I hope that makes sense.

Speaking of uninteresting characters, this unfortunately extends into the main cast as well. Persona 3 and 4 pride themselves on main casts who have great characters and tangible chemistry. I did not feel the same way about 5's cast. In fact, for the first time, I straight-up disliked some members of the team. Namely, I didn't particularly care for any member of the team that wasn't named Ann, Ryuji, or Morgana. That is a damn shame in a story that lives and dies by its characters. You could even make the argument that Persona's extremely slow-paced and dialog-heavy structure necessitates good characters, so saying that Persona 5 has a shortage of those hurts me. Ann, Ryuji, and Morgana were the only Phantom Thieves that I thought had multi-faceted and realistic personalities. The other characters rarely said anything that had an effect on me.

This brings me to my biggest issue with this game. Up until now, I would consider all of my complaints to be nit-picks, the kind expected of someone with a deep attachment to the series. There is one aspect of the game, however, that seriously bothers me and sours the entire experience in my eyes.

It seems an unpopular opinion, but my big problem with the game is the localization. People in this game talk like effing robots. It saddens me to see so many people on the Internet assert that this is somehow "expected", or admissible because the game is so long. The script of Persona 5 is longer than 3 or 4, yes, but those games, indeed, are still very long, and about ten years older. So why is it that those games have higher-quality translations than a game that came out this year and had many years of work put into it?

I wish I didn't have to be the bad guy here. I feel so dirty criticizing the work of a bunch of people who are undoubtedly more talented and qualified than me, and clearly care about good video games. I just can't shake the fact that Persona 5's stiff, inflexible localization cheapened every moment in which I would have been wholeheartedly invested were I not being distracted by a translation that reads like a fansub. I don't say this with any intent of downplaying the sincere and dedicated effort that Atlus USA put into this localization. The final delay this game had, from February to April, was explicitly stated to be so that the localization could be brushed up one last time and voice lines rerecorded. I have nothing but respect for everyone working at Atlus USA, so it really sucks for me to be unsatisfied with the result, but I'm just being honest. I wish I had some professional experience so that I could be more able to describe my issue with Persona 5's English script, but the best way I can put it for you is that the translation is too literal.

People on the Internet seem to think that a "more accurate" translation is one that sticks to the most dry, exacting word choice when compared to the original text. That isn't even what an "accurate translation" is, by definition! An accurate translation is one that gets the original meaning across in a way that sounds natural in the new language. So, an accurate translation isn't afraid of using slang, contractions, informal speech, and other such things. An accurate translation doesn't make people sound like robots - unless the character speaking is literally a robot - and it doesn't make everyone speak the same way. Again, I really wish I were better studied in English language jargon, but I'm a lazy college dropout who would never in a million years be hired by Atlus USA, so you'll have to put up with my awful run-on sentences.

Think of it this way: if a Japanese person came over to America and somehow learned English entirely from Persona 5, they would be under the impression that there's just one way of vocalizing any thought they have. Nobody in Persona 5 has a unique speaking voice that isn't contrived from the blandest of anime archetypes, as much as some characters pretend to be unique by having poorly-emulated "dialects", like the teenage delinquent Ryuji always, always, always leaving the G out of "-ing". That's exactly the type of thing I'm talking about; not even people with a propensity for this vocal quirk will do it 100% of the time. Likewise, I don't speak out loud the way I write - with a thesaurus in front of me with hours to go over my words and pick the frilliest ones. People in fiction definitely should not speak exactly how they do in real life; writing dialog that's profound but still natural-sounding is the challenge here, not writing 100% realistically. However, the solution is not to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and write dialog that reads like a legal document.

I'm really unsatisfied with how I'm describing my issues with the localization, but fortunately, someone more talented and qualified than I has made a Web site that triggers Persona fans everywhere. Check out How Atlus fails fans of Persona 5 for a site that I think is a great read. I've seen a lot of people accusing this site of cherry-picking particularly bad lines that are out of the ordinary, but personally, the entire game, all the way through, felt just about as awkward and stilted as the lucky few pieces on display there.

I really get the impression that Atlus was scared of how the public would receive the localization that they'd put so much time and money into, so they "played it safe" by being overly literal to the source material. It's ironic, but having a large number of editors and translators can actually work against a localization, and wouldn't you know it, Persona 5 had the most of each Atlus USA has ever put on a project. Too many cooks spoiled the meal. They translated the words, but not the spirit of the original text.

I don't blame Atlus for making the move they felt would satisfy the most people, and by all intents and purposes, they did make the right move because I'm in the minority here. So, I'll move on from this topic, since I've said enough, I want to get back to celebrating this excellent game, and this blog post has been in the making all day now and in just a few hours it won't be Christmas any more.

Honestly, I think most of the reason I have so much tough love for this game is because it's now my third Persona game. I've been spoiled on greatness thanks to the Megami Tensei franchise, and the opinions on this game that I like reading or hearing the most aren't from old stalwarts like me, but people who are being introduced to Persona through this game. I'm certain that if I step away from it and start up another play-through later on down the road (at a normal pace, too), I'll be kinder to it. Even if Persona 5 is more flawed than I'm used to from this series, it is still, of course, a great game, and I'm very grateful that I could be a part of this release.

Merry Christmas, I hope you liked my present cuz you can't return it, and I can't get back all those hours I spent writing this trash. This whole post is super stream-of-consciousness and unedited, I figured I would allow myself to abandon my inhibitions and make a shameless, sophomoric wallpost about my favorite video game series. I'd like to sincerely thank anyone who's read any portion of it, since I don't even remember what's at the top of this thing. Like I said, this is for posterity more than anything. I really care about improving my writing, so if you have suggestions for me, make them! I want nothing more than to give people something interesting to read.


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Cap'n Jack

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Merry Christmas/I beat Persona 5! :: Comments

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Post on 26th December 2017, 1:03 am by Princess

You seem able to articulate exactly what it is you dislike and like about the game which to me makes it a great review. I don't know if I agree with your conclusions or not because I haven't played the Persona games yet (lol I know, don't roast me), but I definitely agree with and have expressed the same opinion to other people regarding the section about what makes a good translation.

Merry Christmas, Jack! I enjoy long reviews of any form of media since I also tend to need a lot of space to express my complete thoughts on any particular subject. Thank you for sharing your opinions with us.

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Post on 26th December 2017, 1:23 am by Cap'n Jack

Merry Christmas to you, too! I'm glad you got something out of this, it means a lot to me. I don't think I've ever seen you write up a big ol' essay about a game, I'd be super interested in that. I wholeheartedly recommend Persona if you're looking for a very long RPG with lots of character interaction.

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Post on 27th December 2017, 6:38 pm by Lief Katano

Wow, I never noticed just how bad the localization was. I mean, clearly it's not that bad if I didn't notice it, or maybe I'm not as good at the English language I like to think I am, but... Daaahck?

I would say that I'd generally agree. I liked the...oddness, I suppose, of the Greed dungeon theme the first loop or two, but after a while it just became grating. Most of the difficulty in battle seems to be not running your SP dry while knocking down all of the enemies, which isn't even a problem for boss battles since they're now their own day (P3 at least had some light dungeon crawling on boss battle days), though admittedly that's most Persona games (at least from my perspective). Maybe I should just start playing on Hard. :V

I do sort of like tying gameplay boons to social links, though problems do arise for some of them being things that should be unlocked by default not be (like switching party members. It's great that's finally a mechanic, sure, but it's not great that I have to go through a decent chunk of the game to unlock it...especially since I also need to raise my Charm to actually get it! And then in order to do it on anyone's  turn besides the MC's...I have to max it. TMS#FE did this way better! CURSE YOU!!! )

All in all, very interesting read. Clap, Clap For You!

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Post on 28th December 2017, 8:57 am by Guest

I was so happy when I saw that they had Japanese Audio DLC for Persona 5 when I got it. Knew immediately I'd be playing with that on, but I was curious about the English Audio, so I searched for a quick comparison of the two. I only got a few seconds into the video I found before seeing how bad the English translation was (voice acting wasn't great either tbh). I stopped before I saw anymore because there were spoilers in the video, but it pretty much confirmed what I originally thought: Japanese dub > English dub. Unfortunately, I don't think it'll fix the "dry" translation for the text boxes, but at least it'll sound better.

If I remember right, I wasn't too happy with the Persona 4 English voice cast either, but it didn't bother me as much, and the translation didn't seem too bad to me, but I still wish they had Japanese audio for 4. I remember finding a video comparing the two when I first got 4. I definitely liked Chie's Japanese voice actress more than her English one.

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Post on 2nd January 2018, 7:29 pm by Cap'n Jack

Happy New Year, guys! So sorry I couldn't respond sooner.

Lief wrote:Wow, I never noticed just how bad the localization was. I mean, clearly it's not that bad if I didn't notice it, or maybe I'm not as good at the English language I like to think I am, but... :Daaahck?:

Oh, no, it's not the worst by a long shot. For all I know, Atlus is better off not satisfying pretentious idiots like me.

Jo wrote:If I remember right, I wasn't too happy with the Persona 4 English voice cast either, but it didn't bother me as much, and the translation didn't seem too bad to me, but I still wish they had Japanese audio for 4. I remember finding a video comparing the two when I first got 4. I definitely liked Chie's Japanese voice actress more than her English one.

Persona 4's localization was handled by a smaller team, and chief among them was Nich Maragos, who is very good. I think the retention of Japanese honorifics is goofy, but otherwise I love the localization of it and Persona 3.

Personally, I think a lot of the voice actors do well with what they're given, particularly I'd single out Erika Harlacher as Ann, Cassandra Morris as Morgana, and the dream daddy of voice actors, Jamieson Price as Sojiro. I think part of the reason you didn't like the voice acting is because they have such weird lines to work with. They all get an A for effort in my book.

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Post on 2nd January 2018, 7:58 pm by Lief Katano

@Cap'n Jack wrote:Happy New Year, guys! So sorry I couldn't respond sooner.

Lief wrote:Wow, I never noticed just how bad the localization was. I mean, clearly it's not that bad if I didn't notice it, or maybe I'm not as good at the English language I like to think I am, but... :Daaahck?:

Oh, no, it's not the worst by a long shot. For all I know, Atlus is better off not satisfying pretentious idiots like me.
Man, I looked at the website you mentioned. Some of those lines were just seriously affronts to the human language. I swear to whatever. It's not a consistent, god-awful trainwreck like some other games (Dragon Fang Z for the Nintendo Switch comes to mind as a recent example), but I think that it being not noticeable if you aren't quite paying attention makes it even worse, oddly enough. Maybe I'm just a weird guy like that.

re: honorifics, since it's a game that takes place in Japan and stars Japanese characters, I'd say it would make sense to include them, even in a localization, so long as it's consistent (something which Raidou Kuzunoha failed in, orz). I personally think it's way weirder that they kept in all references to the English language as, well, the English language. Odd to hear an idol complain, in perfect English, that English is hard and dumb. Localization accuracy and all, but...

Man, maybe I am just a weird dude.

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