Friday 5 May 2017

Persona 5's Confidants and Unlockable Mechanics (#JRPGAppreciaton)

One of the first things that stood out to me about Persona 5 when I tried to play it in Japanese last year was the way that gameplay mechanics kept unlocking, even 40 hours in. Playing the English version now, I'm still having the same experience five dungeons in, thanks to the Confidant system in Persona 5. This constant unlocking of new mechanics keeps gameplay varied and gives more benefits than just interesting conversations and Persona EXP for spending time with NPCs, and it manages Persona 5’s depth well. It's one of the many things that keeps Persona 5 deep in its JRPG roots, with the polished gameplay Persona fans know and love.

Spoiler note: No story spoilers will be spoiled here, but there may be some mild gameplay spoilers. Proceed at your own risk!

Confidants take the familiar social link mechanic for those who played Persona 3 or 4 and puts a spin on it that makes it suit Persona 5 much more. Persona 5’s themes of justice, crime and imprisonment mean some higher stakes for the Persona 5 protagonist and thus each confidant appropriately shares either a common secret or a mutual benefit from the Confidant relationship, aside from just friendship. These mutual benefits are extra mechanics that help the protagonist in his quest for justice and all the small new mechanics can make a big difference in the long run.

A cool part about these smaller mechanics is that each mechanic is very appropriate to who it came from. For example, becoming confidants with the nurse makes better medicine available to you or striking a deal with the teacher allows you some benefits when in class. Some of the old social link mechanics can also be unlocked, such as getting extra help from teammates during battle, so the protagonist’s dungeon crawling journey is supported in many ways. Supporting NPCs may not help in battle, but their outside battle support makes their relationship just as important to develop.
The thing I’m starting to appreciate most about Persona 5’s Confidant mechanics is how they make Persona 5 deeper with their individual mechanics, but when partnered with the unlockable nature of them the player can discover them slowly, making the sheer amount of them much less overwhelming. Thinking about it now, I maybe have three Confidant skills I haven’t tried out properly yet but because they’re only three small skills, I can look forward to using them soon at my leisure. A game with depth like Persona 5’s must be careful about now overwhelming their player and I’m glad Persona 5’s slow burn of mechanic unlocking shows a good understanding of this.
Persona 5’s Confidant system is the perfect update to Persona’s social link system. The 10-part stories are now not only meaningful from a plot perspective, but add to the deep gameplay that Persona 5 has in a way that ties in well to the story. There have already been a feel specific Confidant skills that have excited me with how well they suited their characters and with each new confidant skill, I look forward to seeing the mutual benefit they’ll bring to the Persona 5 protagonist and the Phantom Thieves. But for now, I’m over 100 hours into Persona 5 with a few relationships maxed out and I still plenty more small mechanics to unlock and make my in-game time more efficient with.

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Who's your favourite Confidant in Persona 5? What's your favourite Confidant ability?
(I'm a big fan of Yusuke as a confidant and Kawakami's abilities are insanely useful!)
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