Playing Games - The Genius of 'Persona 5' - Writing
My Thoughts on the Game 'Persona 5'
I have alluded to the strength of the writing in Persona 5 previously—now it is what I am going to focus on specifically, primarily because I feel if the writing is not up to standard with the rest of the polish of the game, it would be an abject failure. I say this because so much of the inherit quality of the game in fact does come from the writing.
Being a final year third student about to embark upon the world big bad world of adulthood where I am going to be making films for a living, one of the first things we learn when constructing a story is plant and pay off. In other words, Chekhov’s gun principle, or in more basic terms he says, and I paraphrase, "Leave only that which is important to the story and take everything else out. If a gun is shown in the first chapter, then in the second or third, it must have gone off."
This is something that the game has mastered to the point that it is an art form. Throughout the game you hear whispers, either when you are walking through the streets of Shibuya, to subtle moments of dialogue when the characters are speaking which at first seems of little consequence, only to shift the entire tone and direction of the story later on. A majority of these plants are placed in plain sight within the first ten hours of the game, only for them to come into fruition dozens of hours later, some up to (if you play at my pace) 90 hours later.
At no point do the characters seem less than people. You grow attached to them and the changes in their characters are so subtle that you do not notice just how much they have changed 'til you start New Game and see everything from square one. With so many characters it would be easy to lose focus on one or the other. However, many character traits are spread out evenly and each character is given their own time to develop.
Over time you get a clear sense of the various personalities that are involved in your confidant list, and the close bond that each of the characters have as a result of the mainline story in the game. If you are a completionist then you will get a deeper backstory into the various characters, the obstacles that they are trying to overcome, and the emotional weight that they are trying to get over in order to become the best versions of themselves that they can be.
The information is transmitted from the narrative in a believable way where the characters themselves are finding things out along with the player making the information relevant. There is only one moment of exposition based dialogue that is nearly painful to listen to, and that is at the very start when Sojiro Sakura is telling you the position you are in.
The emotions that the characters are going through are incredibly relatable as a result and makes the heavier moments in the game that much more emotional, especially the ending to the game, where you feel as if these characters were actually your friends. (Either that or I really need to go outside and do something other than watch films, read comics, play games, and write about them.)
Combine all this with the fact that the narrative is well spaced over the course of nearly a full year where you are playing every single day, the sheer amount of story that needs to be written to fill all of that time is immense and the fact that it is all very well spaced out makes it all the more a great achievement. This is why I think that the writing in this game is amazing.