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My conflicted feelings on Persona 5

It's been on my mind for a while and I think now I've decided to drop Persona 5. I can't remember playing a game before that frustrated me so much not in a way where everything about it is bad, but that there's so much in it that I do love, but just as much that annoys me. I started the game expecting to enjoy it, and even after acknowledging some of my issues with it I really wanted to eventually move past them and love the game, but that's just been too difficult to bother anymore.

The vast majority of posts here about this game are praising it and I'm not gonna rant just to have a hot take; I'm curious for the fans of the game if the issues that I'll talk about are things that you view as flat out positives, parts of the game you don't like but can look past, things that lessen if you pushed yourself further through the game than I did, do you just have a different mindset going into the parts of the game I disliked, or whatever. Because I knew about the constant praise for the game before playing and obviously that made the issues I came across more frustrating.

So to first lay out what I played and what I liked, I grabbed the regular version of the game on PS4 a few months ago because I'd heard good things, I like anime, I like JRPGs, and it was cheap. Since then I have played on and off totaling about 13 hours and ending up a little bit after finishing the first palace. In that time the obvious aspects I'd praise along with everyone else is the music, presentation, art, style, and just the general energy of the game. The only opening cinematic that comes to mind as on par with this game's is Smash Bros Melee and I'd still say I prefer Persona 5's over it. Everything from that starting animation to the character designs to even just the menu; I think they all look great. From the bit of the story I played I was fairly fond of the few main characters we had met by then too, in Ryuji, Ann, and Morgana, and the whole idea of the Phantom Thieves and their sort of Goonies energy of these kids seizing the moment against adults; though it seems to get into some heavier subject matter while also having the more fantastical concepts with the palaces and stuff, parts of it touch on some things I like in coming of age stories, which I'm usually a sucker for, so I'm very positive on that.

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There's a messy ramble on most of what I appreciate about it. The negatives can maybe be summed up as while I liked a lot about the game, I often don't enjoy playing the game, partially because it feels like the game pointlessly drags its feet when it comes to letting me play.

A lot of the design choices surrounding Joker I feel connect to this. I think the game got itself stuck in a weird situation by having a mute protagonist in one of the talkiest games I've ever played. People complain about dialogue options in basically every game that has them, but for me out of the games I've played this is easily the weakest and laziest example of dialogue options being an illusion of choice. The vast majority of them that I came across were either obviously pointless (choose "we should start" or "let's go!") or even if the choices do seem a little varied, the response you get from a character afterwards was so vague that it was obviously designed to function as a response to any of the choices you had. With other games people usually make fun of the predictable "nice choice, mean choice, or sarcastic choice" options, but this is a step way further down and there were better ways around it.

Whenever these choices come up it feels like they were added in so that you do something that counts as "playing" to ever so slightly break up the 30 minutes straight of just pressing X while other characters talk to each other, and that being the case just makes me wonder why Joker is even basically a silent protagonist. I guess if people want to self insert and that helps with choosing their waifu later, that's 1 reason, but as a whole it feels contradictory to what the game is doing a lot of the time. There's so much dialogue in the game and maybe it would be more engaging if when Joker was involved it could be an actual back and forth interaction and feel less stilted rather than the characters having to talk around him, and maybe that speeds it up too. Plus obviously that lets you flesh him out more as an actual character in a game where one of its major strengths is its characters. I just don't see what good it brought.

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I don't hate every instance of long stretches of cutscenes and reading dialogue because I like a lot of the characters and when voice acting shows up it's good, but it being so common wore on me over time, especially when it kept happening after finishing the first palace. After I finished that storyline I thought it would lessen because obviously I have a grip on the game by then and could handle the pace picking up, but nah. Still after that I would go to bed in game and then press X for 15 minutes until I'm back in my room and can save. It's not fun to me, and the rewards I get for doing it don't feel earned. When I spam the button for a whole day apparently my knowledge stat went up a little and my relationship with Igor grew stronger!… I don't care. I didn't do anything. And the game couldn't make me care about these millions stat concepts they threw at me in the first place.

As for the palace section, that was generally enjoyable, though it wasn't anything amazing. Battling was fine, and obviously stuff like the music and aesthetic is on display at that time, and also having the ~14 day timer to finish Kamashida's palace is neat. Not sure if that's present with every palace. So that aspect of the game is a positive for me, but there being an actual section of the game where you play that I enjoy makes me further frustrated when I'm sitting through the 3rd day in a row of speech bubbles, text messages, and fake dialogue options.

I played this not long after trying out Final Fantasy XIII for a similar amount of time and the levels of linearity to both games in that time felt comparable. I do trust that in P5's case, it eventually does open up more with more options available to do in your free time so you can pick and choose more so what stats you're boosting and what bonds your focusing on, etc. so you feel more agency in what you're doing and add more variety to your actions. However, this stuff isn't gonna disappear from the game, and even if it gets better to some extent later I've decided I'm not gonna push myself more to play 20 hours so the game can settle in when I could be playing plenty of other games that are more immediately enjoyable to me. The 13 hours I played maybe isn't a lot to some people, but during all of it I was trying really hard to like something that I simply didn't enjoy, so I'm giving up at least for a while.

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So that was very rambly and ranty and probably sounds less conflicted than it does outright negatives, but the positives were just easier to mention and had already been talked about to death. I really am mixed on the game and there's always gonna be part of me tempted to give it another shot. But again for the countless diehard fans of it here I wanna know how you viewed the parts that frustrated me when you were playing it.


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