Because Emma has poached Watch This! from me with the Persona 5 anime, I figured I could take up the mantle of one of her long-running blog series “X Thoughts in X Hours” with Persona 5 the game! I know what you’re thinking, and yes, we basically only write about two games on this blog. Maybe this summer the two of us will branch out a little. I heard through the grapevine that Emma finally got God of War! But for now, it’s Persona 5 all the time.
I’ve played fifteen hours of Persona 5 at this point, which normally would feel like a lot, but I guess this is the Longest Game Known to Man, and I have something like 3,000 hours left to go, right? My crew has made it through the first castle, and we’re celebrating Golden Week before we have to return to school (Thought 0.5: Does Japan really have school on Saturdays?). Folks, I have done a lot of thinking these past fifteen hours. Fifteen whole thinks, actually!
(Curious how my thoughts compare to Emma’s? Check out her 10 Thoughts in 10 Hours on Persona 5 from last April).
1. Naming things is stressful
It took me fully ten minutes to come up with a name for my character. It always takes me about that long in video games. It’s a big commitment! God help me if I ever have a pet or a kid, because it will probably take me several years to name it definitively. As a kid, all of my Pokemon trainers were always just named Madelyn (or whatever version of Madelyn would fit into the allowed number of characters), and most of my Pokemon were nicknamed after some element of the Pokemon. As I’ve grown older, I seem to have developed a few creative bones in my body, which mostly manifest themselves as existisitential paralysis when I name silent video game protagonists. It’s a gift, kids.
2. I have no regrets in choosing “Champ McDude”
After all my agonizing, I settled on the perfect name. If you’ve been listening to our past few sidequests, you’ve heard all about the adventures of Champ McDude. Emma and Clickbait Boyfriend were both there for the christening, and they both thought it was an incredibly stupid name, but I knew it was meant to be. When you hear the name Champ McDude, you think of a witty guy, a guy you want to hang out with. Heck, my friends have even nicknamed me “dude.” As a bonus, it is hilarious whenever my teachers call me McDude-kun. Not that cheap laughs were my motivation for the name, obviously. My only disappointment is that I will never hear my chosen moniker spoken aloud.
Inevitably this name will ruin some kind of very dramatic moment eventually, but I’m willing to take the risk.
3. Managing someone else’s schedule is also kind of stressful
I spend a lot of my own life updating my own calendar, and I avoided Persona 5 for a few months after I started it over the holidays because I didn’t think I could also manage Champ’s life. I wasn’t totally wrong. In the latest edition of Clickbait Boyfriend, we mused about how time must be incredibly relative in the Kingdom Hearts universe because Sora and friends (thought 3.5: Are Donald and Goofy just Sora’s confidants?) can spend as much time running around and doing silly mermaid dances as they want with no consequences.
As unrealistic as it may be, that kind of gaming experience is generally my go-to, because I have no awareness of the sands in the hourglass of my life slowly slipping away as I stare at the screen. If Sora can run around forever, so can I, gosh darn it! But for Champ McDude et al., time is finite. You can’t go back to that day where you couldn’t find the box to climb up and move on through the castle and ended your Phantom Thievery early. Normally, this I would have immediately forgotten this piece of stupidity, but I’m still kicking myself about it, because it’s a day I could have spent jogging and eating ramen with my boy Ryuji!
4. I need to be leveling up my real-life confidants
Speaking of jogging and eating ramen with my buds, my birthday is in less than a month, people. Who is going to take me to the fancy buffet or meet me at the arcade?
Persona 5 has inspired me to work a little harder to cultivate friendships here in NYC. While I do wish that I got little encouraging music notes during my real-life conversations, I think building these relationships is something that I need to get better at. Champ McDude, as I mentioned, is a witty guy, but he’s also a good friend (have I mentioned lately that I am incapable of being a jerk in video games?) who listens when his buddies are sharing something important. He’s also willing to do dumb things with them like go for a jog, even when it doesn’t trigger one of those Important Conversation Events.
I’ve always been lucky to be thrown into programs and groups where the participants had to spend a lot of time together by necessity. As a theatrical type, I don’t think this is uncommon for drama students. But now that a year in New York has gone by, I’ve realized I haven’t been putting in the work to see people and level up my confidants. So I’m going to try to take a page from Champ’s book and hang out with folks more outside of work settings. Who ever said that video games can’t have a positive impact on players?
5. Friends are cool.
I realize there are a million blogs out there already that say this (including Emma’s blog on the same game?), but wow it is cool to have friends that just randomly text you and say nice things. I did just say that Champ is putting in the work to hang out with his friends, but in many ways, that’s not strictly true. They are constantly inviting him to stuff and initiating conversations. These are the friendships I dream of having and that I feel are probably a myth perpetuated by high school shows and games like this. Or maybe I’m just antisocial, one of the two.
I have a few friends who will text me out of the blue, but they are mostly Clickbait Boyfriend and Talk This Emma, who are already level 10 confidants, ya know?
6. I wish I had a job that I could just go to whenever I feel like it.
Most of my employment is relatively flexible, and I still get grumpy about having to go to the tutoring session that I scheduled myself. What a lucky McDude.
7. Is this what high school was like for people who didn’t do twenty extra-curriculars?
My first impulse was that Persona 5‘s friendships are entirely unrealistic, but when I think back to my actual high school experience, I start to wonder. I did used to have friends that I would chat with on Facebook every single night and text during the day, even though our hangout sessions were at rehearsals and Boston Market, not the streets of Japan. Did people who weren’t busy 24/7 actually hang out with friends all the time like Champ and co.? Please let me know in the comments. Then again, if we consider Phantom Thievery to be an extracurricular (good luck writing your college essay on being a vigilante, (Mc)dude), maybe Champ and I weren’t so different.
And yes, I hear you in the back saying “Madelyn, why are you so obsessed with Champ McDude’s social life?” We’ll move along now, but the answer boils down to “I wish I was more like Champ McDude.” Got get all McDudely with my buds.
8. This buttton-masher approves of the turn-based combat
Let’s talk battle. The combat system is challenging enough to be fun, but also takes strategy. Despite my status as reigning button-mashing queen, I can appreciate that. I dig classic Fire Emblem and Pokemon, and that’s what Persona 5 reminds me of the most. Granted, it’s a lot more complicated. Maybe I spaced out through the tutorial, but I do wish someone had explained to me that SP doesn’t regenerate. I blew through a ton of it on my first day because I wanted to try my cool Persona powers. I just assumed that when my characters leveled up, it would all come back! Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Now, even when I desperately need to stun all the monsters with a particular skill, I still feel nervous about using that many points at once.
Something that has deeply affected my combat style and castle navigation in general is Emma’s advice on a sidequest last month that “when you think you can’t go any further, you can probably make it to one more safe room.” This has haunted me every time I go thieving, and even when I go running in real life. I could probably go one block further, Emma, I could.
The lack of tutorial and explanation actually makes the combat feel much more intense than in games where everything is spelled out. While my team was fighting Shadow!Kamoshida at the end of his castle, I was full-on panicking about keeping him distracted from Morgana sneaking up to knock him out. Did I have to do a certain amount of damage? Hit him a certain amount of times each round. It was stressful. Fortunately, we prevailed, but for the first time maybe ever, I made a back-up save file before going into the castle, just in case my characters weren’t powered up enough. That’s a sure sign I’m invested.
9. I identify strongly with the incredibly difficult experience of figuring out where things are.
How do I navigate the subway station? Where is the doctor’s house? How do I get around the school? I have experienced all of these things in New York. They are much more stressful when you don’t have a loading screen reminding you to “take your time.” I don’t have time! I’m already fifteen minutes late to my internship!
10. This is not a game that you can sit down and play for like twenty minutes and then go do something else.
This, combined with the perceived stress of having to manage Champ’s schedule while mine requires approximately 26 hours a day of work, is why it has taken me five months to play fifteen hours of the game. I’m sure I’m not the first person to suggest that you literally play one day per day, and that would be a ridiculous silly experiment. However, when I’m playing video games, I sometimes like to delude myself that it’ll just be a brief distraction.
I do the same thing with half hour TV comedies. I’m reluctant to sit down for a movie, or even an hour-long drama, because I feel like it’s too much of a time commitment. However, I then end up watching multiple episodes and spending the same amount of time on TV anyway. In the video game world, I almost never play only one level of Fire Emblem or one day of Stardew Valley, but I feel like I could, if I had to. All this to say, I need to force myself to sit down and play Persona 5 more often, or maybe this will take a full year.
11. What the heck is the deal with the whole jail thing?
And the confidant execution thing. Like, what the HECK. Who came up with this?
12. Morgana is a boy????
Here are my texts with Emma on the matter (also featuring the unrealistically punctual train system):
13. A successful anime version would require some clever adaptation
As I mentioned at the top, Emma is doing a Watch This series on the Persona 5 anime. I get how this could be a good show, but for me, most of the satisfaction is in the choices. I get to pick whether to hit the bathhouse or study with friends or do weird pull-ups in the attic. It is fun for me to watch Champ McDude do these things, because I told him to. I’m not sure it would be fun to watch random anime protagonist (Ren? What a lame canon name.) do his high school stuff. As you can tell, I find the relationship building elements and the strategy of the combat some of the most compelling aspects of the game. The story is interesting, and the design is pretty darn incredible, but what makes it a good video game is, surprise surprise, the game play.
If you think too hard about the story, it’s depressing AF, and this is only the first castle. Maybe I’ll have to watch some of the anime, but what I can imagine as a semi-faithful adaptation of the game would be one third monster battles, one third incredibly dark exploration of corruption in educational leadership, and one third…idyllic high school soap opera? It works in the context of a video game, because it all feeds into each other. The relationships you develop with your classmates drinking coffee and studying raise your confidant levels and make your battle powers stronger (in much the same way as in the Fire Emblem support system, which Emma broke down in a hilarious Play This). However, without the player control, I wonder if it would just feel disjointed. Maybe I’ll interrogate Emma on the series when she visits.
At least I could learn a little bit more about romance from Sojiro on TV:
14. Gimme more in-game food.
I was very disappointed I only got to eavesdrop on people at the team’s celebration buffet and not actually pick the things that go on my plate. I was ready to dive into the vegetable table, and all I got was…Beans???
15. Practice makes perfect
About fifteen hours into the game, I had another chance to pick a name. This time, I only agonized for a minute. I knew what it had to be. I named my team My Dudes. I’m a monster who can’t be stopped, but at least I’m not the only one.