Persona 5 without a doubt is a fantastic game. As a man who has a love for story heavy turn based RPGs it is a wonder that I haven’t played any of the Persona series until this point. But instead of continuing to heap on the praise for this game like every other article and video about this game, I instead want look at a few of the silly things I found sticking in my craw about this brilliant yet bonkers game. Yep, I’m here to nitpick (I mean, I put that in the title, so this should hardly come as a surprise).
Fair warning, while I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, there is no way to talk about things without giving some things away. You have been warned.
5. Morgana is a Girl’s Name
The deal with Morgana’s name is just baffling to me. Morgana, for anyone who doesn’t know, is male. This causes some brief confusion in the game for our characters as they are briefly unsure of Morgana’s gender early in the game. This might have been interesting if more had been done with this, for example if Morgana was anatomically male but identified as female, but nothing ever comes of it making the whole thing rather pointless. Adding confusing yet pointless things to a tale is not a hallmark of good storytelling.
Even his code name, Mona, is a traditionally female name. I don’t give a crap that his name isn’t masculine, his name could be potato for all I care, I just want this name choice to make sense from a character or storytelling perspective, and for the life of me, I can’t find a way that it does. Look, the subject of gender identity is crazy complicated and I’m am far from an authority on the subject, but this just is a swerve without meaning when it could have been something poignant.
4. Sae Niijima’s Character is Inconsistant
Sae’s story and character is one of the most essential to the plot, too bad the game is pretty wishy-washy on her character. I get that she isn’t to be seen as the same as other antagonists in the game, her role as a prosecutor in charge of investigating the Phantom Thieves as well being the older sister of Makoto means we see her in a more sympathetic light then the team’s other adversaries. Sae’s palace is a distortion of the courthouse, turning it into a casino where the games are all rigged. As a general rule of gambling, the odds are always in the house’s favor, cheating to win on top of that eliminates all chance of any one ever beating the house. This is not the way anybody should view the criminal justice system especially not a government prosecutor.
Her palace seems to indicate gross misconduct on Sae’s part, implying possible tampering and fabrication of evidence to help score convictions. They never truly do anything with these implications and she becomes a trusted ally after they defeat her palace. I’m sorry, if a change of heart is supposed to compel them to confess their crimes then Sae should have turned herself in on the spot, or at least of had to be convinced that aiding the Phantom Thieves would be an important part of her redemption before surrendering to the authorities. This all could have been greatly explored in her exchanges with both Makoto and Akechi, to see just how bad her struggles with the system have twisted her, but outside of some brief flashes in a few scenes that never happens. It seems that in an effort to make Sae likeable the writers have created a character whose words and actions are in severe conflict with each other. Everything points to Sae being a way worse person then she is being portrayed as the deeper you look the more irreconcilable these differences become.
3. Haru, Just Haru
With any large cast of characters you are going to those you find less interesting or even possibly annoying. Yusuke’s pretentiousness about art reminded me too much of my college days and Akechi’s bad Columbo act wanted me to see Peter Falk rise from the grave and slap him silly, but the one that bugged me the most was Haru. To clarify, it isn’t that I hate Haru, I am just utterly bumfuzzled by her. She keeps this flat, doe-eyed sereneness about everything. She blindly accepts what the Phantom Thieves are telling her even after what happens with her father! Is it too much to ask for her to ditch the deer in headlights look and react to things like an actual person?! Even her one “freak-out” moment is underwhelming, I had more rage and fire in my belly the last time I came home to find I accidentally left the light on!
This proves even more problematic as without these emotional moments there is next to nothing to Haru’s character. She’s incredibly boring despite all the big life-changing things happening to and around her. Haru should be one of the standout characters in this story, but she’s not. She’s one of the least interesting characters in the game and that’s a damn shame.
2. Secret Identities, What Are Those?!
Do I even have to explain this one? For a group of vigilantes whose identities need to remain secret they sure do little to nothing to protect said identities. They would be less conspicuous marching down the street in full costume and one man band rigs with a banner that said ‘Phantom Thieves’. Half the team consists of people who figured out their identities with the most basic of surveillance and reasoning for crying out loud! And these dummies are somehow evading the authorities? Did the game designers think if they developed code words so that they could speak in public without giving thngs away that the player would lose track of the plot?
Even with a world-class hacker at their disposal, their cyber-security is laughable. Mishima isn’t some super genius, he’s just some dude with basic coding skills that built a website that the Phantom Thieves seem to follow with great interest. How is it not possible to track him down and then dump his phone records (including chat history) and see who he’s talking to. This would lead them to the team and once they dump their phones (because they just won’t shut up about being the Phantom Thieves on them) it’s game over. The authorities already suspect the Thieves are students at Shujin Academy, how are they not caught! A lot of this could be techno-babbled away once Futaba joins the group but the writers don’t even bother to try.
1. What’s Love Got To Do With It?
I found the romantic relationship options to be interesting and fun to explore with a truly diverse set of personalities and stories for all the protagonist’s potential main squeezes. Once you lock yourself into whatever relationships(s) you want it is easy to max out that character’s confidant ranking. The problem is that once you do that there is no reason to continue to hang out with that person. It is actually better to ignore your girlfriend and go hang out with other people once their highest confidant ranking is hit. Now I’m far from a relationship expert, but I think actively ignoring your significant other to pal around with other people, several of which show signs of potential romantic feelings for you is a great way to stop being in a romantic relationship with that person. I don’t think I need to page Dr. Nerdlove on that one.
There should have been more to explore with these romantic options, a long list of things and potential bonuses available to the player once they enter into a relationship. Eventually the player would get through these as well, but at least by then they would feel like they put the time in. At the very least they could have had your ladyfriend get pissed at you for ignoring her! I chose to be with Ann, I was super sad to put my time into building that romantic relationship only to have so few options to explore it. I soon had to swallow the bitter pill that hanging out with my girlfriend was no longer in my best interest in advancing my character. I know this is only a game and none of these characters are real, but I still felt shitty and like a bad boyfriend.