myGamenerd’s Best Games Of 2017 #2: Persona 5

 At the coveted #2 spot is Persona 5, which is available on the PlayStation 4. Read on to see why we chose it as one of the best for 2017.

At every turn, Persona 5 gives you something to marvel at. Its combat is fluid and satisfying, its menus, UI, and artstyle are beautiful, and its soundtrack is stuffed with jazz-infused earworms. But not content with simply being 2017’s most stylish game, Persona 5 also carries with it a strong message about fighting for what’s right.

By day, you’re a student in Tokyo, balancing your studies with building friendships. But by night, you’re the leader of the Phantom Thieves, an idealistic group of vigilantes who are fed up with the injustice and pressures of modern-day society, determined to reform it by any means necessary. These means involve slipping into an alternate reality known as the Metaverse, where the deepest, darkest desires of the corrupt are given form as dungeon-like Palaces. By stealing the treasure that lies within these, the Phantom Thieves can confront and shine a light on the wrongs of society from within.

Gone are the endless floors of procedurally generated dungeons from previous Persona games, and now infiltrating Persona 5’s bespoke Palaces is akin to plotting a heist. There are puzzles to solve, obstacles to surmount, and Shadows lurking around every corner to fight. The dungeon-crawling requires forethought and preparation, and when you finally pull off that heist, you really feel a huge sense of accomplishment.

Using your Persona, a physical manifestation of your personality, you attack enemies with elemental abilities. Identifying and hitting their weaknesses not only nets you a free turn, but allows you to pass the baton to a party member, greatly increasing their attack rate and recovery. Battles can become a puzzle to solve in their own right; by thinking ahead and identifying these weak points, you can string up a series of increasingly devastating attacks and watch as Shadows crumble before you. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes so satisfying to run rings around your enemies before they can even get a look-in that you’ll be actively searching for random battles.

Not only is the battle system fluid and rewarding, but Persona 5 manages to create an incredible synergy between dungeon-crawling and its social simulator. Some obstacles in the Metaverse require you to solve a puzzle in the real world first, and this bleeding effect between the two worlds gives even the most mundane, everyday tasks purpose. In typical Persona fare, building relationships is also key to success. As your party members’ trust in you grows, new abilities are unlocked in the Metaverse. By the end of Persona 5’s eighty-plus hours, you will feel so attached to these characters because you’ve spent time with them, learned of their fears and hopes, all in service of developing the relationships from mere acquaintances to best friends who would take a bullet for each other. When the game ends, you’ll be genuinely sad to say goodbye to them.

Persona 5 is a game about fighting wrongs; an idealistic, uplifting call to not stand idly by while others suffer.

Persona 5 certainly has the potential to be overwhelming; it’s stuffed to the brim with inward-looking questions about our own moral accountability in a world that feels like it’s ever slipping into darkness. There’s the complex, interconnected gameplay mechanics, and then it throws high-level concepts like Jungian theories of the collective unconscious into the mix. But don’t let any of that put you off: it’s testament to the writing and localisation teams that they’re able to ensure that everyone, from die-hard fans to series newcomers, are on the same page.

Persona 5 is a game about fighting wrongs; an idealistic, uplifting call to not stand idly by while others suffer. It deals with complex, difficult issues, but does so by balancing these with moments of hope and levity. In 2017, it’s a game that isn’t afraid to make a statement. It’s the year’s most stylish game, but its beauty is far from skin-deep.

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