Words About Video Games

41 Games: Persona 5

I think the very first hours of Persona 5 are easily in the top five games I played all year. A group of misfit kids is gifted with magical abilities that they use to take on a serial abuser who has the protection of school authorities. It's a powerfully resonant story, in this the year of people stepping forward and speaking out against their abusers and in some cases finally being listened to.

The rest of the game falters, remixing this same set of premises and themes less successfully, and becoming bloated with so many characters it's difficult to connect to any of them.

I wrote earlier in the year that I feel strongly that Persona 5 is best treated as an episodic game. The overarching plot takes a back seat to each individual case-of-the-month for most of the game.

When it does finally take front and center, it serves mainly as a bait-and-switch for a reverse Deus ex machina, undermining the game's careful observations about the flaws of modern Japanese society and the way people are prone to loving the wrong things at the expense of everything else, with a literal "the devil made me do it."

Even so, you can't fault its style or its ambition. I only wish it had been more cohesive, and about 20 hours shorter.