There's so much to say I just know that no matter what I write here I'm gonna re-read this later and think of something I missed.
Every idea from Persona 4 Golden is enhanced and turned up to 11 in this game. This has the best turn-based combat system of any game I've played, especially when you access certain confidant abilities like the ability to swap party members on the fly during battle, encouraging you to use the entire party rather than sticking with 3 favorites. The baton pass and technical damage mechanics bring strategic depth and just make you feel like a badass -- wiping enemies off the board before they can take a turn, all the while knowing that one wrong move can turn the tables and bring a world of hurt your way.
The social and school sim elements of the game are as fun and addictive as ever. Royal blessedly gives you plenty of time to max all confidants without too much trouble if you set your mind to it.
The story. It's ambitious, and if we're being honest with ourselves, probably much longer than it needs to be. But the people who love this game won't mind because the time spent goes toward endearing you so deeply with a cast of characters.
Is the execution perfect? Absolutely not. Are there plenty of cringey moments that undercut the game's messages? Oh yes. But I can't think of another game (I probably just haven't played it yet) that is so willing to tackle difficult subjects while bursting with so much empathy for its characters.
And at the heart of the story is a message we don't get enough from our media -- the world is ours, and we fix its deficiencies, its cruelties, by working together.
Of course, it's been said a million times, but the game's style is unparalleled, in large part because of the incredible music by Lyn. Life Will Change, Last Surprise, and Rivers in the Desert are absolute bangers. Beneath the Mask is such a vibe.
Some granular criticisms:
-The game has some great UI tools that the tutorials don't really call attention to. I discovered some shortcuts way too late in the game.
-There's a certain character in the game who I gather is a fan favorite. And they just? Don't?? Do anything??? Interesting with him???? Even in the bonus third semester, like I was expecting them to. I'm just kind of confused about him. His voice actor is great though.
-Take Over should not play during 100% of ambushes. Because Last Surprise is a far superior track. But tactically you're incentivized to always be ambushing. So you hardly ever hear Last Surprise. Sad face.
-Joker should not have been a silent protagonist.
This is a very good game that I had a lot of fun playing.
I have a lot of small gripes, none of which amount to very much individually. Unfortunately, with an open-world game of this length, small gripes can snowball and detract from the overall experience.
I think this game will be my new personal poster child for "ludonarrative dissonance" in video games.
The art direction in this game is incredible.
I respect the choice to not include waypoints. But there were several moments in the game where I just wanted a fucking waypoint.
A fun game. The combat system melds together real-time and turn-based combat in interesting ways, and provides a ton of ways to customize a build to your play style.
The story is pretty mediocre. Worst of all, the game expects you to read through a lot of text to get details important to the story. A game's story needs to be really, really good for it to expect me to do that.