Persona 5, the biggest JRPG release of 2017, has been out for weeks. Clear of the game’s launch hype, is it deserving of stealing the public’s heart or is it merely a bombastic masked pretender that needs exposing?
Art design is aces
Bold red, black, and white serve as its visual foundation. This arresting palette kip-ups to life and sweeps you off your feet with the gentleman thief/punk rock/latex fetish design of the main cast. It bumps and bounces in the menus, shaking up the UI when you button through. All-out attacks culminate in wallpaper-worthy graphics, and it’s never not satisfying.
There’s elegance to every transition. From winning battles to navigating between areas, the colors slink and slide across the screen, and you can’t help but smile at every context-sensitive swipe of the display.
Pressing O or X to cancel or confirm actions gives a satisfying squee. That precision glass shatter of a critical hit jolts of excitement. Every gunshot crackles staccato.
Series composer Shoji Meguro matches the rebel imagery with a super-slick soundtrack. The music effortlessly switches from sweeping jazzy strings and keys to grinding hard guitar riffs, all the while riding funky bass licks and finger-snapping percussion.
Criminally good opening animation:
Rebellious spirit restricted
It’s technically not part of Persona 5’s overall design, and I wrote about it in an earlier article, but the irrationality of Atlus in restricting capturing footage of the game bears repeating. I enjoy archiving my playthroughs on the PS4 with screenshots and videos. Atlus denies me and millions of other players that simple pleasure of keeping our own memories of an enjoyable experience. It’s harsh and petty, and I pray that future installments aren’t shackled by this backwards mentality.
Atlus has softened its stance on streaming since the game’s release, but the restrictions on the sharing features of the PS4 still stand.
Persona 4 took on the issue of gender identity head on with two of its main characters, shining a light on the struggles teens go through when reconciling their sexuality with society’s expectations on masculinity and femininity. It wasn’t perfect, but at least it had some nuance.
Persona 5’s “contribution” to the issue? A homophobic scene showing an age old stereotype of gay men as predatory pedophiles played solely for laughs. It’s one moment in a 100+ hour journey, and that might make it easy for some to wave off, but it only stands out even more to me as an inexcusable stain on an otherwise inspiring epic adventure of resistance.
Heavy topics done halfway right
While previous titles focused on personal turmoil, this latest entry serves up larger social issues like institutionalized abuse, labor exploitation, and political corruption for the good guys to take down.
It’s admirable and reflective of the large-scale “wokeness” we’re seeing in the youth now, but the shonen anime trappings, which Persona 5 indulges a little too much in, hamper the serious messages with long-winded exposition and, at times, clunky English translations from the original Japanese text. The always impressive voice acting performances do manage to carry most scenes, but not all of them.
The old-school, turn-based battles are now layered with shooting, enemy negotiation, and more team synergy that allow you to combo more attacks for quicker ends to fights. The year-long slice of high school life where you bond with schoolmates and strangers is as rewarding as ever with its weird, wacky, and intimate tales, while also being more exploratory as you can hang out with your friends all over Tokyo, too.
The most significant improvement is in the dungeons, or as the game calls them, the Palaces, that your gang of Phantom Thieves have to infiltrate and steal the treasures within to overcome the main antagonists. Each one is a fantastical psychological tableau that comes alive through unique puzzles and ways of navigation. What felt like a chore in the earlier Personas plays like a dream in Persona 5.
That is until you hit the last couple of areas that feel like they just go on forever for no reason other than to pad length and difficulty, which is especially egregious in the last couple of dungeons.
Supreme style and stunted substance
If you’re up for committing around 70 to 120 hours to complete one game, I do think Persona 5 is worth the time for its cool creativity, thematic ambitions, and irresistible gameplay hooks. Just steel your heart for the obnoxious narrative failings, and don’t expect to have much of a shared experience with your friends.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today
But doesn’t compromise performance
Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.
The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.
Powering the Zephyrus S is the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 24GB DDR4 memory. Storage options are from 256GB to 1TB M.2 NVMe SSDs.
The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.
ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.
Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.
As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.
ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop
Thanks to its super-slim bezels!
After going hands on with the ROG Strix Scar II and reviewing the Hero II in full, we wondered what else could be done to improve this second-generation lineup. Well, it looks like ASUS just gave us the answer.
Discreetly launched today, the new 17.3-inch ROG Strix Scar II (model name GL704) is the most compact gaming laptop of its kind, according to ASUS. It’s basically a supersized variant of the already-available 15.6-inch version but with an even badder screen.
It may be worth the wait, because the color-accurate 17.3-inch 1080p display is able to fit into a chassis designed for 15.7-inch panels, effectively providing it a width of less than 400mm thanks to the slim bezels.
The wide keyboard and Aura Sync RGB lighting make a return, along with the fast 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time of the display.
In terms of specs, it can go up to an Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of memory and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. A 256GB SSD plus 1TB SSHD combo maintains the speed and fluidity of the system.
It’ll be available by the end of September in official ROG stores. Pricing begins at US$ 1,699.
Crystal Dynamics sets up studio dedicated to Avengers game
And everyone in the MCU is in it
Square Enix and Marvel Entertainment teamed up to bring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to a gaming platform. The companies announced back in January that there will be an Avengers game, but has seen little to no developments as of late. Fortunately, the completion of a new studio for Square Enix’s US-based subsidiary Crystal Dynamics can change all of that.
The Avengers Project is going to tell an original story based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The game will feature the characters, environments, and storylines that loyal fans of the franchise will love and enjoy. However, after the announcement, not much news came up about the development of the game. People were expecting news during E3 2018, but sadly the Avengers Project was left out of Square Enix’s conference.
Square Enix and its subsidiaries are best known for their work on the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex series. Marvel executives wanted to partner with Square Enix as a way for the entertainment company to do things differently with their most popular franchise. Jay Ong, Senior Vice President for Games & Innovation at Marvel, noted that the game will “bring Marvel stories to life in ways our fans have never experienced.”
With the new studio called Crystal Northwest, Crystal Dynamics hopes to have some headway in the game’s development. The studio will put much of its attention on the technical and graphical aspects of the game to provide a unique gaming experience. Hopefully, more news and details on the project will surface in the upcoming months.
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