In a year packed not only with excellent games, but a wide variety of games meeting all genres, we have to acknowledge the true and arbitrary nature of picking just one, any, “game of the year”. There were many games of 2017. Many that stood out and grabbed our hearts, either through the somber truths recounted in something like Nier Automata, the limitless breadth of exploration in The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, or the white-knuckle inducing action of Cuphead.
For us, on Irrational Passions Podcast, the game that left that impact was Persona 5.
It’s a game that, in my eyes, has no competitor in the JRPG space. Few RPGs have as much polish, brilliance, and of course, style as Persona 5 does. It’s a genre that has, in the past, been bogged down by screens listing stats, limitless calculations of numbers, and sometimes a lack of just sheer finesse. Persona 5 has none of these issues. It makes a group of teenage monster-fighters and society-changing vagabonds the most stylish premise games have ever had the grace of seeing.
From its music, to its menus, to its characters, Persona is a flash of color and a flourish of nuance and brilliance. It’s impossible not to marvel at what it throws in front of the player.
But Persona 5 is also the sequel to a beloved franchise, and following up a game that is lauded by many as their favorite title of all time, myself included, is a Herculean task. But Persona 5 approaches the series and its statements on people, society, and the bonds that link all together, in a completely different and relevant way.
Much of Persona 5’s story hinges on social media, and presentation. It is about reflecting yourself out to the public, and how you do so. Many of the most soul-crushing moments in Persona 5 are when the masses, as a form through social media, turn against the player characters and their group just as quickly as they jumped on the bandwagon. It’s something that is horrifically relevant, especially in the year of 2017, when our President’s tweets send folk into fits of rage and have people speculating about the possible manipulation behind it. No game understands this more than Persona 5, and shows how dangerous a tool and a weapon the populace can be when weaponized through things like social media. It also reiterates just how dangerous information can be when your first and last resource for gathering it is social media.
The game puts you in the shoes of society’s outcasts, and does a great job of putting you on a quest to make a difference, to do something that matters. Much like the other games in the franchise, it snuck up on me just how much it mattered, that journey through the underbelly of Shibuya and into the shadow world. It’s an excellent and surely iconic game, RPG, and story that stands as one of the best that 2017 had to offer.
Thank you to Atlus and P•Studios for making such an incredible game. If you haven’t played it already, I’d implore you to check it out. You may fall in love with it, who knows, but either way, it’s got surprises in store for you, some that you’ll never see coming.
-Alex O’Neill, Editor-in-Chief