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Persona 5
Scheduled release date: TBA 2016
Number Of Players:

If you’re familiar with the esteemed role-playing series Persona, you’re likely on the edge of your seat anticipating the fifth entry. And you also know about what to expect: The heart and soul of this franchise has typically centered on a group of teenagers who band together to learn more about their hidden powers; i.e., their “personas.” Throughout the course of the franchise, Atlus has gotten very creative, offering players artistic spins and compelling narratives that includes anime, music concerts and even stage plays. The other “self” that lurks beneath the surface grants otherwise normal characters great power but unsurprisingly, that power leads to trials and tribulations. And that, of course, is the crux of every Persona adventure.

Atlus has been a little stingy with the details but we’ve scraped up enough information to produce a passable  preview for franchise followers. It’s too bad that we didn’t get this entry last year; after the delay, it’s now slated to launch during the summer of 2016. But at least the team was nice enough to deliver a very hot new trailer at the Tokyo Game Show, which gave us our best look yet at the quirky yet undeniably deep and dynamic RPG. Check it out below; it’s a jazzy and upbeat presentation with wicked slick anime-style graphics, and we even get a peek at some stealth gameplay. It’s clear that we’ll get yet another highly diverse campaign that includes everything from demon-slaying to the more lighthearted “life sim” elements that fans have come to adore.

Hey, when the focal point is a group of young high school students, there’s bound to be a healthy helping of drama and angst. And beneath the little squabbles and flirtations is their inner power that ties them together: They can actually hop into paintings and explore bizarre fantasy realms. On top of which, when outside those trying regions, the characters can explore a large, bustling city outside the school. This is in contrast to the last series entry, which had a quieter, small town setting. In fact, based on what I’ve seen of Shibuya, it reminds me a lot of the environments in the Yakuza games; not entirely interactive and not overly huge, but still very atmospheric. Plus, we’ll have the option of extra fun activities like batting cages (yep, these were in Yakuza as well), so we’ll get a mix of simple activities and in-depth RPG combat.

The students in question are actually thieves at night, and it appears they have to steal something back that they’ve lost. You will control a colorful cast of characters and the protagonist is Arsene, who always wears red, white and black. Oh yeah, and he has black wings, too. What should be of the utmost interest to long-time fans is that this new effort features the first all-new cast in nearly eight years, so while you’ll have to wave goodbye to familiar faces, you should enjoy getting to know the new blood. As for Arsene, he’s 16 years old and lives in a café run by a friend of the family. Arsene is a cultured and well-mannered kid but when his persona erupts at night, he becomes the leader of the Phantom Thieves. And that opens up a whole new part of his personality, as you might expect.

If you’re wondering, this is a take on the famous fictional gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin, featured in Maurice Leblanc’s novels that eventually turned into Sherlock Holmes. Joining the main character are Ryuji Sakamoto, a 16-year-old wild child with a boisterous attitude, Ann Takamaki, a quarter-American girl who’s also a bit of a loner due to her strange appearance, and the mysterious Morgana. The latter appears to be a black cat but that’s not her true form; in truth, nobody knows what she is, so Morgana will probably be a wild card in the story. These aren’t the only characters in the game, of course, but it’s nice to be introduced to the primary players. What will be most intriguing is how they all come together in that classic, dynamic Persona-style fighting system. For more on the characters, click here.

We haven’t gotten a great look at the combat yet; even the so-called “gameplay trailers” we’ve seen so far don’t have much actual gameplay. It’s all highly stylized and occasionally absurd footage – which is standard fare with this IP – but we haven’t been able to dive deep with the mechanics. No worries, though, because Atlus almost always delivers the goods when it comes to engaging combat that satisfies the RPG lover. There’s enough micromanagement and strategy to please, and that’s combined with a fantastic and unique sense of style and ambiance. This is indeed the singular charm that is Persona and the fifth installment could be the biggest, most diverse, and most fulfilling entry yet. Stay tuned for the finalized release date and for more, check out the game's official website.

2/3/2016   Ben Dutka