The Persona Aftermath

It’s been almost two weeks after I finished Persona 5, settling down to do so a couple of days after the last post. There’s been a huge amount I wanted to say, and I was still fully intending on doing a proper review for it on GameSkinny or for here, but ultimately I just haven’t been up to writing much lately. I will hopefully have it written up in a couple of days, by which point the window will likely be closed for getting any real attention or readership for it, but no matter.

I really don’t know how to quantify how much I liked Persona 5 though. I feel like I could call it my favourite game ever, yet part of me suspects that isn’t the case and I could probably argue it with a few others. I feel like I could call it the perfect JRPG, but I know for a fact that there are flaws and issues with it, even if most don’t surface unless I really start nitpicking. I suppose I’d liken it as similar to Gigguk’s Perfect Anime, which is a thought provoking take on how we absorb entertainment as a whole. Persona 5 is my Perfect Game, just about, and I don’t expect another game to come along and topple it in my eyes anytime soon.

At least not until Trails of Cold Steel III, anyway. Fingers crossed on that one.

The other games that I’d call my favourite games are things like Baldur’s Gate 2, Morrowind, Chrono Trigger — games that I played more in my formative years that have stayed with me since, but it’s hard to know if I’d feel the same way if I was introduced to them today. At the same time, they have shaped my tastes in games so much that even if they may not “hold up” if first played today, they have been so influential that I would be loathe to call them not as good. Besides, they’re all games I can (and have) replayed even in more recent years and found plenty of enjoyment.

By contrast, the games of the recent couple of years that have truly stuck out for me are more like modern updates and advances in those earlier genres. The first two Trails of Cold Steel games, for example, gained similar responses from me as Persona 5 by basically being exactly what I wanted out of a JRPG in terms of gameplay systems and story.

Now Persona 5 has come along and set the bar higher, yet at the same time I don’t consider the overall feel of the characters and party members in P5 to reach the level that Cold Steel did. I liked most if not all of the Persona 5 characters both major and minor, protagonist and antagonist, but they weren’t written as cohesively and emotively (nor were they as numerous) as the overall cast of the Cold Steel games. Everything else is a step above in Persona’s favour, but if such an important aspect is lower, could the game be called perfect? These are the things I think about, even if that in itself is nitpicking.

That said, it’s been nearly two weeks and these thoughts have not ever left my mind for too long. Persona 5 may be over as an experience, but it has remained with me so profoundly ever since that it’s coloured my gaming habits and related moods. There’s a very real chance I’ll fight off my urge to pick up new games and work on completing them and instead go replay the game on a harder difficulty, not even a month after its release. That’s the kind of appeal the game has presented for me.

Since I haven’t done that, instead I went looking for gaming experiences like Persona 5’s. I thought I’d swear off JRPGs for a while because others can’t compete, but instead I picked up Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse once more, set on beating that after putting it down for P5. And beat it I did — that became my new obsession, forcing every other game out for a while as I struggled to fill the hole Persona left in my heart.

Thankfully there were quite a few key systems and narrative points in SMT4 that helped ease off the Persona come-down enough, and it itself was a very good game overall. Great themes, enjoyable story, likeable characters, solid battle system… and the worst final dungeon in a JRPG that I can think of. Seriously that last dungeon was atrociously badly designed in all ways and it was almost enough to kill off all my positive feelings of the game had it lasted even a few minutes longer (and it lasted HOURS). Thankfully, the final boss fights more than made up for that and left me with a satisfying conclusion. I’ll share more thoughts on that fully soon, with luck.

Nonetheless, ever since I finished with that game, I’ve been bouncing from title to title trying to find something to captivate me as it did, and nothing has succeeded. I’ve played a huge amount of Heroes of the Storm following that big update, I’ve rummaged through my 3DS collection for titles I never finished and flicked through about half a dozen of those, and I’ve started playing the Skyrim mod Enderal (which is quite good) among other games, and I’ve continued to drop some time into FF14. But nothing is quite having that same effect.

I suppose I should elaborate and say that it’s quite uncommon for me to stick to a game from start to finish in one go from the launch onwards. Normally I multitask profusely and put games aside for variety the moment I get bored or frustrated with them. It’s only more recently that I’ve found the patience and persistence to get through more titles from start to finish, and even that has started to vanish. Persona just did it better, and now other games aren’t captivating me enough, regardless of their genre.

It’s actually frustrating to feel this way, but there you have it I suppose. Persona 5 — so good that it’s ruined all other gaming enjoyment for me since. I did say that I realised halfway through that choosing not to judge it fully until I’d reached the end felt meaningless when I was growing despondent at the mere thought that it would eventually end, and I didn’t truly expect to seriously feel that once the credits had rolled. But I do.

All the way throughout, Persona 5 managed to keep my attention rapt. 98 hours total play time, and it only had the most minor of fumbles in terms of pacing and focus. It never wore out its welcome or felt like it dragged on. Some might say it’s a bit slow to start and I can see that, but I was quick to be pulled into its world and want to experience more. As the plot progressed and the dungeons continued, I always wanted to see and know more. I wanted answers for the questions the game was presenting to me, and I was rarely if ever left disappointed. If I did feel that way, it wasn’t because the game failed to deliver, but simply because I was hoping the game might push or explore a couple of concepts further yet chose not to do so. It’s not necessarily a defect or a flaw in the game; it’s merely how I wanted more narrative elements to chew and digest on.

By the time the credits had rolled, the story was told from start to finish in a completely satisfying manner. All the major plot points were resolved and all the characters had their moment to shine in some way. The narrative smarted small and ramped up constantly until it capped in a truly grandiose Shin Megami Tensei fashion. The final boss wasn’t particularly challenging for my setup, but it was epic enough to feel fitting. Start to finish, all of it a great game that I truly adored.

I’m happy to call Persona 5 the best Persona game. I’m even happy to call it the best game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise as well as the best game of 2017 so far. But I’m even happier to go further than that: I’m happy to call Persona 5 my favourite JRPG ever. I firmly believe it sets the new benchmark to beat and will be talked about in the years to come in the same manner as games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 7, and yes, Persona 4 are now. As said above, I’d just about call it my Perfect Game. It’s hit me so hard that it is skewing how I play and enjoy games afterwards.

So that’s that. Now I need to find a way out of this funk and to keep moving forward with the games progression. Things I need to write soon: proper in-depth review for Persona 5’s game elements, more discussion about SMT4:A (especially compared to SMT4 and other SMT games), a discussion about character narratives using P5 and Trails of Cold Steel as comparisons, coverage of Enderal, and also chatting a little about my random dabblings in Elder Scrolls Online. And all while writing this, I need to find a new game that’ll keep my attention that can be chalked off the Backlog, because Heroes of the Storm cannot qualify for such a thing.

Look forward to all of that soon… hopefully.

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Transistor, checking in

I’m typing this from a brand new PC that I only just properly got plugged in and running no more than half an hour ago, biding my time while the slew of standard programs is downloading and installing. Mostly just a small status update rather than any of my usual video game related ramblings.

First off: new PC. It’s been five years since I’ve had a fresh rig, though naturally the computer that I just stashed in the corner a few minutes ago has had numerous upgrades and replacements in those years. Still, the motherboard was effectively fried and I was getting constant black screens as the display drivers died on a regular basis, and multiple attempts to fix it or isolate other parts showed that it was unlikely to be anything else. I could probably have repaired or rebuilt it for cheaper than what I got this new machine for, but after dealing with this problem for literal months, I just wanted peace of mind and for this tech support nightmare to end.

So, the machine that I named Bastion is no more. Moment of silence.

Now, this isn’t an absolutely massive upgrade due to all my tweaks over the years, but this new machine should definitely keep me from having to push or upgrade in order to get newer games running comfortably. I’m probably going to shame the 60 FPS enforcing PC Master Race, but it should be pretty clear that I play games for gameplay and story more than graphics and can usually deal with a few hiccups. Regardless, the specs should get me decently far.

Naturally, I shall name this machine Transistor, since it’s the successor to Bastion even if the systems are slightly different. I’d consider calling it Pyre, but any name that’s fire related for a PC is just asking for trouble.

So with the PC back, I’ll be reinstalling FF14 and then picking and choosing my games as I go from there. Torment will be first up on the list since I didn’t get all that far in it and really need to put some more time and devotion into it. Cosmic Star Heroine just dropped a couple of days ago after a lengthy development cycle, and I’m quite keen to sink my teeth into that. However, I’m not about to start a new JRPG until the big one is finished: Persona 5, which has been both my obsession and my sanity-preserver during this time of technical troubles.

Everything I said about Persona 5 in the previous post still holds true, and I’m now 90 hours in and pushing the final stages of the game at long last. After such a long marathon journey over a comparatively short timeframe, I am now looking forward to the ending and seeing how it all wraps up nicely (if it does), but I will definitely be sad to see it gone. It’s without a doubt the best Persona game to date, and I still think we’ll be talking about in years from now in the same way we do some of the JRPG greats.

That’s assuming the ending doesn’t let me down horribly… but at present that doesn’t seem quite likely. Currently I’m intending to a full and formal review of the game (probably for GameSkinny), and then do a more in-depth analysis about a few points in the narrative. I also want to talk about the soundtrack and compare it with that of NieR: Automata, plus I want to do a big pros and cons comparison of P5 vs. the Trails of Cold Steel games, which are my other favourite and recent JRPG series. That last one in particular I could talk a great deal about, so please look forward to it I guess.

Time to set up a few downloads over night and crash.