Last night (for most of us) at the Persona Super Live 2015 event, Atlus finally showed the world what Persona 5 is going to look like. Most of the online places I frequent - Twitter, Reddit, NeoGAF - exploded this morning with excitement not unlike a praise break in a Baptist church: dancin', hootin', hollerin', and some random people rocking back-and-forth and sobbing. Atlus has a fervent fanbase.
The original teaser trailer back in September gave us hints about the game's content showing us a silent, milquetoast protagonist in the midst of Tokyo transit. That teaser was a dirty liar. Persona 3 and Persona 4 involved high school students who also fought otherworldly beings in their spare time. In Persona 5, the protagonist and his crew are high school students and fabulous cat burglars in their spare time. Seriously, they are the most fabulous.
"I don't think it's a stretch to say in this day and age that there are a lot of people out there who feel like they aren't moving forward, that they have no future, and carry a lot of weight on their shoulders every day," explained Persona 5 director Katsura Hashino in an interview with Weekly Famitsu (translated by the fine folks at Gematsu). "They're stuck between a rock and a hard place, emotionally speaking; on the one hand, they might not be keen on living by the same rules and values that defined previous generations, while still lacking the will to go out and actually break those barriers down themselves. That dark side of society is a central pillar to the game we want to make with Persona 5."
"In the midst of all that, though, you got these high school punks who are trying to bite back at a world that's trying to pin them down. If our game can give people a little courage to keep going in their day to day lives, to face things head on and do something with themselves, then we'll have done our jobs here."
Hashino goes on to say that the game is trying to evoke the feeling feeling of a picaresque novel, a specific genre where a low-class protagonist navigates and succeeds in a corrupt society by wits and guile alone.
"The protagonists of Persona 5 themselves are on the run for doing what they think is right after something happens completely out of the blue," adds Hashino in an additional message to fans. "That mixture of thrills and not-so-larger-than-life cast of characters is what composes the idea of 'academy juveniles' for us. We think that these characters that are going to be a little rougher around the edges than those who have come before them in the series, coupled with the strides we've made in visual and sound design we can pull off something really special here."
Persona 3 and Persona 4 are an RPG highmark for a lot of players, myself included. The team at Atlus just infuses the game's with a clear focus and sense of style. The style defined in Persona 4 and carried into its spin-off titles continues here, with bold, bright colors and jazzy soundtrack to match.
The in-game appears to owe a great deal to Atlus' work on Catherine, with character designer Shigenori Soejima's work being translated over to 3D in a similar manner. The environments look expansive and gorgeous, and the main character seems to have improved movement options, including the ability to snap from cover-to-cover. It looks like combat is remaining largely the same: the enemies are on the battlefield and you're still taking foes on with a team of four.
Let's see what else we can tease out of the trailer and official website, shall we? The main character is simply known as The Phantom, which seems to be his masked alter-ego. The blonde lady is Anzu Takamaki, the goofy young man is Ryuuji Sakamoto, and the cat is named Morgana (though the trailer marks it as Persona Luxeria). By day, you're high school students, by night you're thieves in the visual motif of Fantomas, A. J. Raffles, and Arsene Lupin. All this before you even get to the series staple Personas; the main character seemingly turns into his Persona at the end of the trailer.
The brief menus shown point to the idea that Social Links are still around in some form, under the new name "Cooperation". Players can now equip a weapon, gun, protector, accessory, and clothes on each character. There's also an equally fabulous school doctor and a weapon dealer.
All in all, it looks very much like newer, prettier Persona. I'm all for it. I play the Persona series for how it deals with its themes and amazing cast of characters, not for a complete overhaul of JRPG staples. How does the future of Persona look to you?