Stylized Anime-Like Graphics
The Persona series has always been beautiful to look at, even back in the days of the original PlayStation. As it moved from PS One to PS2 the visuals only improved. The anime-style it utilizes separates it from other JRPGs, giving the world a great cohesion.
The unique graphical style also means that the game can utilize anime cut scenes and other techniques that you typically don’t see in other games. Because of this the series has a style all its own.
As an RPG, Persona focuses a great deal on story. Each new game focuses on a unique group of high schoolers that inevitably become embroiled in some kind of supernatural plot. The main cast of each Persona game is unique to that entry, each with their own problems and issues to work through.
As fun as it is to trek through dungeons and battle grotesque enemies, getting to know each game’s characters is an entirely different kind of fun. Every single character is brilliantly fleshed out. Getting closer to these individuals makes the game itself feel more real, creating a more grounded world.
Social Link System (P3, P4 and P5 Only)
First introduced in Persona 3, the social link system closely ties social interaction and battle abilities. Each character has a set of abilities and benefits tied to them that can only be unlocked by improving your relationship with them. This results in plenty of fun moments.
Going out for steak with Chie or working out with Ryuji in Persona 5, each character has their own interests that make hanging out with them uniquely entertaining. The benefits you reap in battle are priceless, giving you many more options than before. The social link system is what has helped distinguish Persona from the other JRPGs on the market.
Each Persona game centers around a specific mystery that the group of high schoolers work tirelessly to solve. The bizarre other worldly beings and why demons have invaded the human world are always a matter of great concern. Persona 4’s mystery, for example, has the group tracking down a killer who murders via supernatural means.
The stories are compelling, expertly paced and plenty of fun to uncover. An RPG needs a good story to give players a reason to keep progressing through the game and Persona never disappoints.
Traditional Yet Deep Turn-Based Combat
At its very core Persona is a turn-based RPG. You scour dungeons looking for a way to progress, fighting Shadows in the meantime. Each character can carry out standard melee attacks or use devastating physical or magical abilities by harnessing the power of their Personas.
Each Persona unleashes different elemental attacks and has their own weakness and strengths that are passed on to the user. So you need to be able to quickly adapt to any given situation and know what character is needed at any given time.
The Day to Day Structure (P3 and onward)
The Persona games, at least from Persona 3 and onwards, keep their pacing so tight by giving the game a very linear structure. Each title is broken down into a number of months. Each day you’ll go to school and then you’ll be given the choice of entering dungeons or hanging with friends.
Not only do you need to manage your time but also think about how your actions each day will affect the growth of your character. There’s a lot to take into account but it also means that the game never grows stale and you always have something excited to do each day.
The Mature Themes
The Persona series may look like a cartoon but the themes it tackles are anything but. The series looks at loss, love, coming to terms with your sexuality, the challenges of growing up, abuse and much more. The personal growth of the main cast of each game drives the story, so that means a lot of teen drama.
These themes are present in everything, from the dialogue to the game’s aesthetic. It helps set the series apart and makes for a much more thoughtful narrative. It not only helps the characters feel more lifelike but creates a more believable world.
Distractions That Actually Feel Meaningful
On any given day in the game, if a major event isn’t taking place, you can hang out with friends, explore the city, grab a bite to eat, join a sports team, or any number of other distractions. These may be small side activities but they all feel incredibly worthwhile. Your character will have grown in some way and a lighter side to the game is often exposed.
The cities and towns that serve as the settings for the games feel alive and thriving and these activities only make this more apparent. They send you across town, checking out everything the Japanese world has to offer.
Supernatural Elements and Beautifully Designed Creatures
The Persona games may be set in the real world but in each game exists an alternate reality filled with demons and the shadows the real world. These supernatural elements are brilliantly interwoven with the real world.
Inhabiting these supernatural worlds are stunning creature designs that tie into the complex themes that are present in each game. Even better, you can utilize these otherworldly beings as you fight through each narrative.
A game’s soundtrack can elevate the gameplay to a new level. The upbeat, vocalized tracks of the Persona series never fail to perfectly capture the moment, making even routine battles feel like an event.
By the time you’re finished playing through a Persona title the soundtrack is ingrained in your memory. You know exactly when every jazzy note will spring up, taking over the scene. Few games have a soundtrack that is simply as enjoyable as Persona’s, even after dozens of hours.