2017 was an amazing year, of that there can be no doubt. Alongside some stunning debuts it was also a year of incredible sequels, whether that be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, or Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, so in that sense it's hard for a niche Japanese title to stand out. However, we still find ourselves going back to the experience we had over the course of several weeks in April, where we were completely entranced by Atlus's mesmerising Persona 5.
Explaining why Persona 5 is so great is actually a surprisingly challenging task, as it's the kind of game you need to experience for yourself to really get it. Of course, separating the various systems and aspects of the gameplay is easy, as is pointing out its vast strategic depth it offers, the unique visual personality that enhances the experience so much, and exposition-heavy but well-rounded narrative with fantastic personalities and engaging life-sim elements, but even so, doing this still does it a disservice. Persona 5 is about the combination of systems, how they play together and interlink to create a cohesive whole, and that needs to be seen to be believed.
Make no mistake - Persona 5 is a very systemic experience. More so than being a turn-based JRPG, like many perhaps would like to reduce it to, Persona 5 is about management. You manage your social life, your combat abilities, your resources and, most importantly, your time. While this may sound intrusive, it works nicely, as you become attached to the passage of time spent, and what you ultimately decide to do with it. In a way, there's a great contrast to be found within Persona 5, because as restrictive as it is during the first 10 hours or so, there's much freedom and responsibility bestowed upon the player once the game opens up. As tightly-wound as the narrative is, you have the freedom to create your own, which is achieved by selecting the experiences you make time for.
It doesn't hurt then, that the game underneath the time management is brilliantly designed and expertly balanced. Combat is deep, strategic, and varied, and you're given plenty of tools to modify your personas, which fight for you like Pokémon in battle. The various Palaces are brilliantly realised as well, with smart details dotted through, each area simply dripping with visual style. And then, through Mementos, you can even find new, procedurally-generated challenges waiting for you.
We haven't even mentioned the fact that, through colouring, animation, and music, Persona 5 is one of the prettiest, most elegantly designed games of the year. In terms of the overall product, it's up there with the very best that 2017 has to offer.
All in all, it's a stylish victory. It's what you might call a flawed masterpiece, but it's one that is easy to recommend to everyone and anyone who enjoys games with a systemic core. In a year with not only lots of strong games but also lots of amazing RPGs, this one carved out its own unique identity and made its mark when it landed earlier this year, giving us hours upon hours of content. Whether we were hanging out with school friends or battling it out in fantastical arenas, we loved our time with Persona 5, making it a worthy entry on this list.
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