Confidants and Striking Visual Novel Aesthetics (Persona 5)

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There are two basic halves of gameplay in Persona 5. Palace exploring and turned-based fighting are the first half, something I touched upon a couple days ago. The other half is visual novel; the act of reading along and making dialogue choices that’ll affect you positively or negatively in regards to your growing strength needed to progress though the main plotline. Of course, there are minigames and the like sprinkled throughout the game, but for the most part when you’re not stealing hearts in the metaverse, you’re conversing with your friends.

What sets Persona 5 apart from most visual novels is that it relies on the player to utilize a significant degree of time management. Aside from the linear plotline, most everything else can be done in any order you choose, but you won’t be able to choose everything because of the deadline narrative structure. Being particular about how you spend your time is a surprisingly enjoyable game mechanic that makes you think in ways similar to how you’d plan a day in real life.

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Most importantly, time management is a stark reminder that, well…that time EXISTS, and that it keeps on moving whether or not you want it to. I’ve written about the essence of time before in my piece about Your Name. and Makoto Shinkai [feel free to check it out:P], and that theme rings ever clear in this game as well. Nothing great lasts forever after all, and Persona 5 always wants you to remember that your days are number—quite literally when you look at your deadline on the Heads-Up Display. There are many different ways Persona 5 could’ve conveyed time, and it feels as though Atlus decided to use all of them. Straightforward reminders like day counters and clock, indications through dialogue and story, and what’s probably Makoto Shinkai’s favorite—if I am to assume: Movement.

Time is conveyed through movement, and there is a helluva lot of it in Persona 5. Be it the trains following their schedules, cars traveling on the streets, and crowds of people filling everything between: the flow of time is ever present, and moments where time stops have more impact because we were first able to visually identify time existing in the first place. Time even exists within the visual designs of the HUD and menus. There’s always pieces of it bouncing, expanding, and contracting, especially on the spaces signifying your cursor.

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Movement like this also exists in every VN segment with a bumping triangle thing at the end of each dialogue. The talking heads of the characters actually have moving mouths, and every so often a tear-in of their heated eyes comes in so you know thing are “on”. Character models move a lot more too, plus the imaginary camera of the game seems to have a sway to it as well, though I wouldn’t know if that’s something you’d find in every single frame of the entire game. Light particle effects, trees being blown by the breeze, and etcera: They’re all excellent touches to make every moment in the game feel more visually dynamic and captivating. It certainly made the world, and my time spent in it, feel more real.

Onto the confidants, I’d first like to point out that I like the title “confidant”. It plays well with the general theme of the game, and just sounds a lot cooler than “social links”. Confidants are cool for a lot of reasons, both aesthetically and mechanically. The rewards earned from them range from great to absolutely astonishing, and a lot of them can be earned at night too! What’s even more awesome is that you can actually earn skill points while you leveling up certain relationships, because who doesn’t love multitasking when it comes to romance?

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One last thing I love about confidants is the aesthetic—and I feel like I talk way too much about how much I love the aesthetics of this game—of breaking the chains that bind you. Super fitting for a game about rebellious spirit, making it look, sound, and feel fucking cool whenever you max out a confidant. As for something I didn’t care for, after a confidant has ended there’s really no incentive to keep spending time with them, which really sucks because I just want to spend alone time, all the time, with best girl Makoto.

So, what do you think about Persona 5? Have you been playing it, and do you find me writing about it interesting? I probably have one more post in me and then I’ll go back to writing about anime like I normally do, but I just wanted to take the time to share my thoughts and experience from a game I believe is truly, tremendously special. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this.

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