Ten years ago almost to the day, ATLUS announced Persona 5. The studio revealed it a year after the release of the most recent entry in the series: Persona 4 Golden. It was to be the next installment in the fan-favorite (and at the time, underrated) JRPG franchise. It is now 2023, and I am still astounded at the impact and staying power that Persona 5 has had on the franchise, genre, and gaming industry as a whole.
Persona 5, initially released in 2016, has received several sequels, spin-offs, crossovers, and more over the past seven years. However, with the recent release of Persona 5 Tactica and the imminent release of Persona 3 Reload, a certain question is worth asking: has Persona 5 gotten old? Have ATLUS milked the game for all its worth? Should we just abandon it and its characters in favor of other Persona games or, better yet, a Persona 6?
I believe, that despite valid points being made for both sides, Persona 5 is a franchise in of itself. Further, as a franchise, P5 is filled with numerous flaws, cliches, and odd design choices that make it seem tiresome compared to other entries in the series. However, I also believe that Persona 5 is a game that will always have staying power because of its characters, stories, and gameplay.
Warning: This feature will contain minor spoilers for Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal, Persona Q2, and Persona 5 Strikers.
Retreading Old Ground (Why Persona 5 Doesn’t Have Staying Power)
Unfortunately, if you’ve played Vanilla Persona 5, every other spin-off becomes predictable and repetitive. There’s always a moment where Morgana and Ryuji are at each other’s throat. There’s usually a moment when the former is adamant that he “is not a cat.” A spinoff or sequel will always feature a human main antagonist. Later, they will always be supplanted by an almighty god.
There’s always a moment where Yusuke acts quirky or Makoto says “fist of justice,” or when Ryuji does something dumb. At points, each line would almost feel repetitive and derivative of prior games. It’s not just the story either: even the themes feel repeated. There’s always a message about rebellion and there’s almost never a new layer added to the underlying subject.
On the surface, this may not seem like a problem. However, if Persona 5 has similar story elements to Persona Q2, Persona 5 Strikers, or even Persona 5 Tactica, why would you play the new games? What’s the purpose of all these spin-offs if they have no bearing on the character’s development? Persona 4 Arena Ultimax at least moved the stories of Persona 3 and 4 forward.
Yet, not a single spinoff of Persona 5 has progressed the story or meaningfully developed the characters beyond the original game. This leads to another problem: the inconsistency in developing Persona 5‘s characters and stories.
Inconsistency and Stagnation
The Persona 5 series has a habit of introducing story elements that have massive ramifications for the future. Yet later games never explore these ramifications beyond their first appearances. For example, Persona 5 Strikers introduces several new characters and new elements that are meant to show the long-term impact the Phantom Thieves have had on the world. Despite this, there is never any connection to Persona 5 Royal or even Vanilla Persona 5.
There are fleeting mentions of the events of its predecessors. That said, no characters beyond the main cast and Sojiro ever return. The same goes with Persona 5 Tactica: neither of the characters shown in Royal ever return beyond the game’s $19.99 DLC.
The future of Persona 5 is up in the air, and it’s hard to say if we’ll ever see the return of Kasumi, Akechi, Zenkichi, Sophia, or other beloved characters. For all we know, we could never see any of these characters again. At least with Persona 4, all the characters were given new life in the form of the Arena Ultimax spin-off. That said, Persona 5 has not gotten any such game.
Everything I have just said supports the fact that Persona 5 should just be left alone until we get a new Persona game or more remakes. On the other hand, everything I have mentioned is all the more reason that Persona 5 deserves to get more entries. Even if they take a break from P5, the title should not just be left dormant. The game is deeply personal and important to a lot of people for a variety of reasons. Most chiefly of all is the consistently powerful stories that the Persona 5 series manages to tell.
The Stories of Persona 5 and its Spin-Offs (Why Persona 5 Does Have Staying Power)
The qualities and “stagnation” that make Persona 5 feel repetitive compared to other entries in the series are the same things that make it stick out. Every Persona 5 entry manages to introduce new characters and story elements that all feel satisfying, even if they never go anywhere beyond their respective games.
Persona 5 Tactica reminded me of this idea. I started playing the game a while ago and at first, I was frustrated by the similar story beats to Persona 5 Royal and Strikers. It got to the point that I started to predict every plot point before it happened with surprising accuracy. Until ATLUS pulled the rug out from under me. The way ATLUS handles the new characters, Toshiro and Erina, is astounding. They have amazing chemistry with the rest of the cast. Plus, ATLUS beautifully executes each of their stories.
The same goes for Kasumi and Akechi in Royal, Sophia and Zenkichi in Strikers, and Hikari in Persona Q2. Each of these characters is unique and profound in their own way. Further, they all provide a unique contrast to the main roster of Phantom Thieves. Better yet, they develop their own chemistry with each of the newcomers. Sophia develops a camaraderie with Ryuji, Zenkichi has one with Makoto, and Erina has a fascinating bond with Joker. However, it’s not just the characters that are great. Each spinoff and sequel entry manages to build upon the existing JRPG formula.
New Gameplay Styles in Each New Entry
Each new Persona 5 spinoff or follow-up builds off the game’s original formula in a unique and interesting way. Persona 5 Royal added the grappling hook and will seeds, creating new opportunities for traversal and exploration. Q2 and Tactica added sub-personas, leading players to experiment with different strategies and combinations for each character. Strikers added a more open area design to dungeons, which subsequently created unique possibilities for combat.
It’s not just gimmicks either: each new spinoff plays around with a new genre. While Persona 4 only dipped its toes into the fighting game genre, Persona 5 has experimented with musou and tactics games. It’s even used mechanics from Etrian Odyssey and the Gacha genre.
No two Persona 5 games are alike. Whether it be in the game’s storytelling, gameplay, or characters, each spinoff and follow-up feels separate in its own way. Regardless of what genre you like, you will find enjoyment with at least one of the games in the Persona 5 series. The one thing that remains consistent is the themes, which, despite feeling repetitive at times, are one of many things that make Persona 5 still important today.
Why Persona 5 Will Always Have Staying Power
Despite how undoubtedly tired Persona fans must be of all the different Persona 5 spinoffs, I still believe that there is room for these characters to live on. Ideally, I would prefer if it were a final game that combined all the stories into one complete package. Whether it be a new Arena game that shows what the characters of Persona 5 and its spinoffs are up to after their first appearances or something else entirely, Persona 5 still needs closure, especially in regards to Royal. There are far too many loose ends for the story to just end here.
More to the point, though, Persona 5 has a lot of meaning to a lot of people. Hence why the franchise still continues to sell. Hence why people will still get excited for new entries in the series. There’s a reason that Persona 5 has won so many awards, why new games continue to be made, and why more crossovers continue to sprout up. I’ve met plenty of people who still call Persona 5 their favorite game and cement it as a gateway drug that allowed them to get into the rest of the series and genre.
Whatever comes next for the Persona series, I will watch with eager interest. Yet, I will never forget the impact that Persona 5 had on me, my friends, and the broader JRPG genre. That is why I believe that Persona 5 will always have staying power: because even ten years later, the themes, characters, story, and gameplay still manage to impress and do something completely new.
Persona 5 Tactica is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam. Persona 5 Royal and Strikers may also be played on the aforementioned platforms.