So much like large quantities of the rest of the gaming world, I’ve gotten myself sucked into Persona 5. Being a huge fan of P4, and at least passingly familiar with P3, it stands to reason that I’d be right on top of this when it came out. Truth be told, I didn’t do any research into the game at all. I didn’t focus on it, I didn’t know anything about it, I had no initial intention of buying it.
Why, I can’t really say. It could be a number of reasons. My guess (because I really don’t know) is that it’s the same reason why it takes me so long to grow accustomed to new Doctors on Doctor Who. I don’t like change. These are the characters I know and love, and trying to get to know new characters is hard.
(I don’t know how I survive as a writer. I truly don’t.)
But I picked it up (mainly because I had several friends all talking about it and they made it sound interesting) and promptly lost hours, days at a time, wandering through Mementos and the other Palaces the Phantom Thieves find themselves in. (I’m madly in love with Yusuke. This should come as a surprise to no one. Also, I’m only two Palaces in, so if you’ve got spoilers, take them far away from me.)
And as I was explaining the game to my utterly baffled mother (who is a saint for dealing with such an obsessive child all these years) it occurred to me that I knew exactly why I loved the Persona games as much as I do.
It’s all about character development.
A person’s Shadow is that which they don’t want to face about themselves, the pieces that they’re not proud of. In Persona 4, each member of your party has to come face to face with their Shadow, and accept that it is in fact a part of them, no matter how much they wish it wasn’t. In doing such, you gain a higher understanding of who you are yourself, and you gain the ability to access your Persona. (Or, if you’re the protagonist, you get about four billion. Cause you’re special.)
In Persona 5, we see much more the concept of a Persona being that which we adopt for ourselves to house our true selves. Each character in the Metaverse wears a mask until they realize that it’s there, essentially, and in ripping off the mask they gain their true self, their Persona. (It’s a nasty look, too. Like, I’m not joking about the “ripping” it off. It’s kinda disconcerting, especially since a few of them have to struggle to get it off. Makes my face hurt just thinking about it.)
But what it boils down to, is that everything about these characters, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes…it all boils down to how we strengthen their Persona, and how our protagonist strengthens his bonds with his friends. (Each person the main character becomes close to earns a special “rank” with him, named for tarot cards. In P4 these were Social Links, in P5 they’re Confidants.) His Personas gain strength through his bonds with others.
It’s the making of a character’s personality that drives everything else they do throughout the rest of the game–more so than any other method in storytelling that I can think of off the top of my head. And I love every minute of it.
In Persona 5, we’re playing most of the game as flashbacks, as the protagonist is questioned by the authorities. We know what kind of person he is, and where he ends up. And then we get to figure out how he got there. It’s really a fascinating device, and I’m enjoying it immensely. And as I get to know each of these characters more, through both their Confidant levels and their Personas, I will be reminded at every turn why I believe character development is so important.
I should look into the other Persona games. Maybe I’m really missing out here.