Wake up, get up, get out there!
Persona 5, the Atlus-produced JRPG that has stolen the hearts of gamers around the world, just wrapped up its “Take the Treasure” livestream on NicoNico (hosted at the Tokyo National Museum) where it showcased both general gameplay elements of the title and the first eighteen minutes of the game proper, among other surprises. Spoilers ahead for various aspects of the game’s story and gameplay.
Many of the gameplay videos (recorded from the stream courtesy of Giuseppe’s Gaming) demonstrate the slice of life elements that Persona is known for alongside the dungeon-crawling. We see the protagonist ride the train, practice martial arts, fish, play video games, hang out with his friends, and even do…crossword puzzles? Huh. That’s going to be an interesting one. The videos also demonstrate the return of Social Links from the previous games under a new name, the Cooperation System, which gives battle bonuses depending on the level of “cooperation” you have with the different characters you interact with. All of these different elements look like they’ll have a fair amount of variety to them, but whether or not there will be more to them is yet to be seen.
The videos then delve into the battle system, showcasing the different main Personas of each party member and their abilities. We also get a look at the “negotiation” system, appearing for the first time in the Persona franchise but returning from its mother series, Shin Megami Tensei. By answering questions or satisfying different conditions for your foes, you can turn them into Personas for future use in battle. The videos cap off by showing the series’ signature “all-out attacks,” special team attacks that end with a stylish cut-in of the party member that instigated the attack. The battle system looks extremely revamped and a lot more in-depth compared to past Persona titles, offering elements of all the different games under the SMT umbrella that have come out since Persona 4.
The real surprise came during the second day of the stream, when Atlus let loose (and even let patrons of the Tokyo National Museum play) the prologue of the game. As it turns out, the casino locale seen in a number of the game’s trailers is where the game starts off, with the protagonist (referred to by his gang as “Joker”) facing off against both regular casino enforcers and a monstrous bull-like creature. Unfortunately for the thief, a police ambush awaits outside and he’s arrested on the spot. He then appears to get drugged and beaten by some members of the police force before a single officer arrives to interrogate him.
As Joker sits battered and bruised, however, a butterfly appears to him as a haunting melody plays. Fans of the Persona franchise will recognize both the butterfly and the song (Aria/Etude of the Soul) as being symbolic of the Velvet Room, a space between the conscious and unconscious mind that all of the franchise’s protagonists visit throughout their games. After a short bit of dialogue from the butterfly to Joker, the young man suddenly wakes up on a train headed to Shibuya, Tokyo, presumably some time in the past. The events from the game’s second teaser trailer (which was released almost two years ago) play out with more clarity, and the video ends with the title card’s fade-in.
This opening sequence is one hell of a start to the game, dropping players right into the middle of the action and giving a solid grasp on the different elements of dungeon crawler gameplay that they will come to learn in greater detail over the course of the story. We also get a sense that Joker is more of a character than a blank slate like previous Persona protagonists, leaving room for character development for more than just the supporting cast this time around.
These videos are far from the only thing to come out of the stream, however; a staff interview with the director and composer of the game, the final version of the opening sequence, a video detailing the game’s “free-roam” dungeon, a trailer for the animated special “The Day Breakers,” and product tie-ins were among the stream’s big announcements.
Persona 5 breaks into game stores in Japan on September 15, 2016 and in North America on Valentine’s Day, 2017.