Video Game developer Atlus’ Persona RPG series straddles the line between hardcore Japanese RPG, and a social simulator. Previous entries into the series allowed the player’s protagonist to live life as a Japanese high schooler, hanging out with friends and joining after school clubs. The newest entry into the series, Persona 5, takes the player away from the isolated locales of the previous games and directly into the heart of Tokyo. Now, players have the opportunity to role-play as a teenager in one of the most vast cities in the world.
Tokyo is arguably the most modern city on Earth. Everything from its facilities to urban transportation looks and feels like something you’d imagine occurring in the near-future. Naturally this creates unique experiences in regards to social interaction, fashion, and youth culture. These differences highlight the differences in the urban experience, and Persona 5 is looking to create an in-depth look into the metropolitan culture of Tokyo. And Atlus is creating an experience that relies more on the “feel” of urban Tokyo, than creating a one-to-one reenactment of Tokyo life.
Atlus explained how the developers took great measures to accurately recreate the fast life of Tokyo. Not only does the game replicate buildings and locales from the real-life Tokyo, but the overall design works to capture a certain aesthetic. Bright striking colors, graffiti-like text, and stylish poses and character introductions are plenty abound in Persona 5. It’s to the point that the game can serve as a sort of design bible for a visual aesthetics that is decidedly “Tokyo”.
Players take control of the new protagonist as they guide him through a typical Tokyo high school experience. He can hang out with friends, take on a part-time job at a popular store, or study for exams at a trendy cafe or restaurant. His life, for the most part, is that of an average teenager in one of the world’s most interesting cities.
Atlus is fascinated with the daily lives of its characters. It’s why the game features so prominently the concept of making new friends and getting out into the world. Persona 5 actively rewards players with levels and experience points for partaking in the mundane activities of daily life, encouraging players to experience the full “Tokyo Youth” experience. These social aspects stand in stark contrast with the game’s other signature gameplay element: the “traditional” RPG aspects of the game.
When you’re not doing your best navigating the social pitfalls of being a teenager in Tokyo, you and your friends are traveling to alternate dimensions to fight demons. The reason for this doesn’t matter necessarily, but these in-turn work as a foil for the social aspects of the game, creating a point of compare-and-contrast between the two realities. Isn’t combating the jerk homeroom teacher kind of like fighting an unholy demon spawn? Atlus certainly thinks so.
The Persona series has always been an escapist series. Fans of Japanese culture and anime in particular will find a lot to love here, but even normal gamers will find something fascinating here. Persona 5, and really all the other Persona games use anime as a jumping off point to recreate everyday life that is unique to Japan. It might not appeal to every player, but it’s certainly a refined experience that avoids the excess of the more showier aspects of Japanese culture.