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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Persona 5 is the latest installment in the action role-playing game (RPG) series. The Persona series remains fascinated with teenage drama, mysterious crimes (especially murders), and young protagonists having to grow up too fast. While the game focuses on fighting monsters with a variety of weapons, and there are occasional geysers of blood, combat is cartoonishly presented, which limits the impact of battle. There's a lot of lewd commentary about rape, women, and sex, as well as frequent use of every kind of profanity imaginable in the dialogue. Characters meet a doctor who sells drugs to kids and tries to get them to participate in experimental drug trials. Needless to say, the content is not for young audiences.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
Trying to effectively recount the story of PERSONA 5 is hard. You play as a high schooler who, after trying to place an attempted rapist under civilian's arrest, is sent to live with your uncle. Rumors about what really happened spread around the school and marginalize you, leading you to form a tightly knit group of friends of other outcasts and people similarly dogged by exaggerated rumors. You all band together as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts vigilante group to engage in battle in the cognitive realm -- an alternate dimension where the twisted desires and tormented wishes of others manifest physically. As time goes on, you discover a massive conspiracy that you have to stop before it destroys the world.
Is it any good?
There's a lot going into this complex RPG that can absorb your time completely, but some missteps lightly tarnish this mature game experience. In reality, Persona 5 is a dungeon-crawler, social simulator, and time-management headache all wrapped up in one package. This is what the Persona series always has been, and part of what makes this latest entry excel and shine so much more are, curiously, very tiny touches. For example, the game's user interface has a funky '70s aesthetic (including the soundtrack), adding a much-needed splash of style and grace to the simple act of level grinding, managing items, and even buying weapons. The game always plays with your screen's real estate -- borders swirl and sway, picture-in-picture events occur suddenly, and so on. It's a game that is truly fun to play and watch.
Though appropriate to its being a teenage drama, the game takes itself very, very seriously. It thinks its story is far more interesting and complicated than it is: Large sections grind to a crawl when cut scene after cut scene occurs in succession, hammering on a plot point that occurred only a moment before. This may be the biggest strike against the game, when everything else has such an eye toward presentation and mindfulness of the player. The combat is fun, the open-ended nature of the world when it finally does open up is fun to poke around in, and the sheer variety of playing in the Persona realm and out in the real world is fun. The cut scenes are always optional, but you will be lost without them. If you can take the bad with the good, Persona 5 is a funky good time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Talk about the act of playing a video game that takes place in a virtual high school. Why would playing a game set in a familiar location be interesting or exciting to players?
Families can talk about sex and gender in video games. Why do you think some characters make comments about sex, women, and rape? How do these comments make you feel? Does this add to or detract from the gameplay?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Atlus
- Release date: February 13, 2017
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, High School
- ESRB rating: M for Sexual Themes, Violence, Strong Language, Drug References, Blood, Partial Nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.