Content of the article: "Something that bugs me about the Persona series, that I haven’t really seen discussed much"
(I've played P4 a bit, P4G part way through, and completed P5. I started P5R but didn't get to play it much before life circumstances conspired to take my PS4 away from me. So using the word "series" might not be 100% accurate but we'll go with it for now.)
The thing that bugs me is the calendar system. I don't see it as well-designed and I've tried looking for nuanced discussions about it and haven't found any, so here I am to try to raise one.
My problem with it is that there definitely exist correct and incorrect choices, but if you only have the game itself to go by, there is not nearly enough information for a clever/'skilled' player to be able to chart their own way through the calendar system and arrive at optimal choices. There is far too much information that is kept from the player: when you might need a certain social stat (such as Knowledge) to be at a particular level to pass a particular check, for example, or when the game is going to wrest control away from you because of plot related reasons (like midterms). There's also the minor annoyance of the random distribution of social stat-ups from activities designed to increase them (like studying at your desk – sometimes you might randomly only get one stat up, sometimes two).
Choosing poorly doesn't result in branching paths, either, it just results in being shut out of content, and possibly getting worse endings. It'd be one thing if you could chart your own course through the game and that resulted in seeing things play out slightly differently based on your choices. But instead you're just cut out of significant character development for social links, and possible endings. It's not really a system that encourages "role-playing," in that sense, it's a reward/punishment system that's pretty opaque in my view, and one that the games themselves don't really give you enough information to figure out on your own (without excessive trial and error, and judicious use of save points and loading to see how certain choices pan out, etc).
The fact that there exists an optimal path that people have created and written in guides that you can follow to max everything out in a first play through and see all content speaks to this weird design quirk. I would be very skeptical if I heard someone claimed they 100%'d social links their first time on a blind playthrough of a Persona game.
I am left scratching my head and wondering how many die-hard fans of the series play it blind and accept that they are going to be locked out of seeing everything on a first playthrough due to a relatively obtuse/arbitrary/capricious time-management system. Or perhaps part of their enjoyment is puzzling it out for themselves? – I don't discount that's a possibility, perhaps there's a thrill to the trial/error aspect of it and people enjoy that, I honestly don't know. But for me, I find it a hard pill to swallow that I'm going to miss out on content based on an arbitrary series of choices that I have no real way of figuring out on my own on a first playthrough. (My own solve to enjoy the games is to just follow a spoiler free guide that tells you how to spend your time each day – a compromise that still slightly reduces enjoyment due to the frequency with which I take myself out of the game to check it to make sure I am making the right choices, etc.)
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