Disability Game Review: Persona 5
Written By: Michael Matlock
The long running Persona series, developed by Japanese developer Altus, is infamous for its mature content and Christian religious imagery. Persona 5 continues this edgy series as a turn-based role playing game on the PlayStation 4. You play the latest installment as a delinquent high school student exploring a dark world of distorted adult desires. To aid your fight, you join a masked vigilante group (The Phantom Thieves) who teach you how to battle the fantasy monsters using manifestations of your own psyche — your Persona. With simple combat mechanics the game is already accessible to many disabled gamers. Though additional accessibility options are sparse, those included may be enough to reduce your gameplay hiccups and increase your enjoyment.
Unfortunately, Persona 5 doesn’t have customizable controls except for the option to lower or raise the camera sensitivity. The cancel button can also be used as a workaround for the camera because when you press it once, your character will automatically be centered and point in the direction you’re facing. However, the combat in the game is fairly simple and usually just consists of navigating a series of menus. You’ll maneuver the menus using the directional pad and press the symbol buttons (which include the accept and cancel buttons) to attack and use different abilities. The trigger buttons are also occasionally required for things like; examining a monster’s weakness, follow-up attacks, or switching characters. The touchpad can be used in parts of the game when you want to check what other players have done online, but it’s entirely optional. Persona 5 is the first game in the series to have unique and elaborate dungeons, so they’ve also added more puzzles to these areas. Most of them require you to find hidden objects in a room or fight different enemies to gain clues needed in order to solve the puzzles. There’s not a lot of thought required to finish each puzzle and none of them are timed. Persona 5 also has four or five different difficulty settings to choose from ranging from “Safety” (which is like Very Easy mode) to Hard mode. The turn-based combat in Persona 5 gives you plenty of time to think and plan out each attack, so fighting doesn’t require any quick movement and it shouldn’t be too much trouble for gamers with fine motor skill impairments. However, I see one minor issue with the controls that I think I should mention. When moving your character you use the left control stick, but you can’t use the control stick to maneuver through menus even during combat sections. That means that doing simple things like; answering questions, checking your stats, or choosing locations on a map all require you to use the directional pad and not the left control stick. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it definitely would have made things less confusing to allow you the option to choose between the two.
Visually speaking Persona 5 can be very dark especially in the Metaverse realm, which is where you’ll be doing the most combat. Luckily, there is a brightness feature in the options menu that you can adjust. Persona 5 has cell shaded graphics and character models usually have a dark defining outline, so most things are easy to spot. For colorblind players however, there are certain puzzle objects that are distinguished solely by their color and this could potentially pose a problem. What I would suggest is using a specific gameplay mechanic in Persona 5 called “Third Eye” which lets you see hidden objects by pressing and holding one of the left trigger buttons. It also highlights puzzle items by darkening the room around you and gives them bright white silhouettes. This should stop any problems from arising for gamers with visual impairments. Accessibility options for gamers with hearing impairments are kind of a mixed bag. On the plus side, there are plenty of subtitles with large font for the dialogue in the game. When you’re not fighting monsters you’ll be doing mundane tasks, going to class, and initiating relationships in the real world. There’s quite a lot of dialogue to sift through in Persona 5, so readable subtitles are important. In the options menu, you can turn on specific subtitles for the Anime cut-scenes if you like. Though I have to admit the subtitles in Persona 5 aren’t always reliable, especially when it comes to background chatter. You will definitely miss out on atmosphere if you can’t hear the nice jazzy upbeat soundtrack, but the gameplay should be workable for deaf players.
Persona 5 is an excellent game with a lot of style and unique enemy designs. There are a lot of turn-based Japanese RPG games out there, but they would do well to take a page from this series as Persona 5 has perfected the model. Gamers with visual impairments won’t be hindered by any obstacles, but deaf players should know that subtitles in Persona 5 aren’t always consistent. There have been some tweaks to the controls for this installment and some disabled gamers with fine motor skill impairments might have some trouble. However, if you haven’t had problems playing previous games in the series then you won’t notice a big difference.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Released For: PS4
ESRB Rating: M