Even before you start playing, Persona 5 makes sure you know that it is just so effortlessly cool. A jazzy tune kicks off the opening credit sequence, where the names of directors and artists appear as street signs and graffiti on billboards. A top hat-wearing angel flies through the air, while a masked burglar rides on top of a rushing train. One character dances on an empty overpass, sliding across the asphalt as if they were figure skating; another grinds down a railing playing air guitar. The whole thing is rendered in a mostly red, black, and gray palette that gives it the feel of a manga come to life. I usually skip through these openings, eager to get to the game itself, but I’ve watched Persona 5’s brief intro sequence countless times. It’s a way to ease myself back into its stylish world before playing.
This confident sense of style has always been a part of the series. In Persona 3, characters summoned demons by shooting themselves in the head with magical guns, yet they still managed to look like the crew you always wished you could hang out with in high school. Persona 4’s teenage demon-hunters spent their nights investigating the occult while dressed like a J-pop group on the verge of breaking out — they even starred in their own slick music game spinoff. Persona 5 manages to top its predecessors stylistically, thanks both to a shift in setting and a move to more powerful hardware.
Unlike its predecessors, Persona 5 takes place in a real-world location, set in modern-day Tokyo. This means that in your off time, when you’re not fighting monsters, you can walk around the shops in Shibuya, take a date out for a meal in fashionable Harajuku, browse the retro gadgets in Akihabara, or explore the seedy dive bars in Shinjuku. Often, what you’re doing in those spaces is relatively mundane. You might be studying for exams with a friend, or grabbing some supplies at a drug store. But the visual design makes these moments feel cool, despite the fact that they usually aren’t.