Persona 5 Overview: Phantom Thieves, School Life, Palaces, More

Within the Persona series, the latest entry is Persona 5. Known as the most popular and successful game in the franchise to date, Persona 5 is a great starting place for newcomers to the series while also representing the most refined entry for veterans who have been around for some time. Our Persona 5 overview is meant to welcome both of these types of players.

The Persona 5 overview guide will offer players a glimpse at what the game is going to be like. We will go over the main characters that you will meet, basic story details, how the gameplay works, and even how your first few hours in the game are spent. Let’s take a look at the tale of the Phantom Thieves up close.

Bottom Line Up Front: Persona 5 is the sixth mainline entry in the franchise, finely tuning the turn-based JRPG battles and Persona collection into their best iteration yet. Players take the role of Joker the protagonist, leader of the Phantom Thieves, which is a group that is dedicated to stealing the hearts of malicious people. The gameplay is a mix of the dungeon-crawling in the Palaces and school life where players go to class, hang out with friends, and earn money.

What is Persona 5?

While containing the number “5” in the title, Persona 5 is the sixth mainline game in the series. Released in 2016 in Japan and 2017 in the rest of the world, the title was available originally on the PS3 and PS4 systems but would later be available as well on the PS5 through backward compatibility.

Persona 5 is the latest turn-based JRPG that features a monster collection where players gather together Personas, or a representation of the other-self, to use in combat. At the same time, the player is a high school student so there is a balancing of the acts with regards to going to school and saving the world.

Persona 5 is the most successful game in the series to date, selling more than five million copies of the game and its two main versions around the world. This puts it in the conversation with other great JRPGs in the world, even triumphing over the Shin Megami Tensei games from which this series derived.

The game features a distinct style that is wholly its own, giving a flair that is fitting for thieves who are looking to steal the treasure. Everything from the user interface to the combat menus to the way the characters are designed and the world looks is built around this beautiful style.

For many Persona fans, this fifth game is their favorite in the series, and for good reason. It took the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach by refining and improving upon what came before. It does not necessarily do anything drastically different from Persona 3 and 4, following in their footsteps, but ensures that all gameplay systems from those two titles are at their peak.

Main Characters

As with all Persona games, Persona 5 puts a huge emphasis on the characters that are in it, perhaps even more so than the overall story itself. Like in other turn-based JRPGs, the cast of this game are party members that will help each other out in battle.

When it comes to the protagonist that the player plays as the canon name just so happens to be his nickname in the title: Joker. Joker is who players play as with his troubled past. He comes to Tokyo from a smaller town to start over after a criminal incident that he was involved in.

Joker stays with a family friend at his curry shop/cafe as he tries to enjoy a year away from home in the big city. The main character is mostly shaped by the player so he is the quiet, calm, and collected leader type. That said, the vast majority of the story centers around him and his relationship with the other characters.

Morgana is another major character involved in Persona 5, being the second talking animal-like mascot in the series. Similar to a cat (but definitely not a cat!), Morgana is the beating heart of the group, representing the best friend and emotional center of the team.

Next up is Ryuji, the third in a line of best bros who joins the hero as a friend early on in the story. Ryuji is a delinquent of sorts from the high school that Joker attends who does not have much going for him these days after the end of his high school sports career. He is a loud and highly emotional person, but also a goofy and endearing part of the team.

Ann is another hero who joins the group fairly early on in the story, being an aspiring model who gets wrapped up in the initial story events. She, too, is a bit overreactive at times but is fashionable and a loyal friend who will do anything for the group.

From there, players meet Yusuke who is a genius artist with a current problematic living situation. Quiet and thoughtful, he does not always have much to say in moments but he is carefully considering the events that are happening.

Makoto is next and is the younger sister of a public investigator, and also the star pupil at the high school that Joker attends. As student council president and an extremely smart student, she is an all-around model citizen. She attempts to offer the logical side to what is otherwise an emotional group.

Then there is Futaba, a middle school-aged girl who is a shut-in and genius hacker. Her character is a bit more mysterious at first but she becomes entangled in the events of the group and the supporter who provides tactical insight in battles while not necessarily participating herself.

Haru is one of the final members of the group to join and is the daughter of a major corporation in Japan. She deals with a lifestyle that is mostly chosen for her while using her time with the team to break free from the expectations that are unfairly put on her.

In the original Persona 5, the final member of the group is Goro Akechi. He is a talented high school-aged detective who is investigating a string of murders that are at the center of the game’s story. He eventually becomes a member of the team as they work together to solve the mystery.

When it comes to Persona 5 Royal, there is a new party member that joins the team and that is Kasumi. She is a dancer who has a tragic past that eventually leads her into the group where Joker and the gang can help her deal with certain events in a new story epilogue.

Another notable main character is Sojiro Sakura, the middle-aged man who is the guardian of Joker during the events of the game. He owns the cafe that Joker lives in and acts as a fairly harsh and guarded person at the beginning of the story. While not a party member, he is integral to Joker’s story and a Confidant that he can connect with.

Phantom Thieves

The group that the main characters are part of is known as the Phantom Thieves. They are a secretive group of high schoolers who come together under crazy circumstances to “steal the hearts” of the bad guys that are in society.

The group starts rather small, just encompassing a few of the characters who are involved with some intimate storylines but they grow in number as they deal with more and more scenarios. The Phantom Thieves operate in the shadows, dealing with the dungeon-like Palaces.

They go to the shadow world to take care of their enemies without having to kill them. This is where they encounter the Personas and use the events of that other world to shape the real world that they are from. The Phantom Thieves are seen as heroes to some and villains to others, but their motives are always pure for making the world a better place.

Story Overview

The general story in Persona 5 focuses on the work of the Phantom Thieves. Without diving too much into the events that happen, Joker, Morgana, and the gang find themselves wrapped up in a shadow world where the actions that they do there affect the real world.

When the group encounters malevolent people who are harming society and various individuals, they use this mysterious power that they’ve been given to wield Personas to steal the enemies’ hearts and turn them into a better person or at least someone willing to turn themselves in to the police.

The story of Persona 5 is broken up into what are essentially chapters of different targets that the Phantom Thieves have. Their enemies start small but it does not take long for some of the targets to be significant figures in Japanese society.

At the same time that all of this is going on with the Phantom Thieves, there are random murders that are happening around Japan where someone will suddenly die out of nowhere. How this intertwines with the main characters and their story is a mystery for players to figure out.

Gameplay Explained

The core gameplay of Persona 5 is very similar to the past two games in the series, featuring a blend of two distinct styles: combat and high school life. As a high school student (who just so happens to want to save the world), you cannot shirk your duties but you also need to use your powers for good.

As such, players will find that Persona 5 has the classic turn-based battles that have been featured in many JRPGs before it. This is mixed with high school life where there are various non-combat activities that the user can engage in, many of them being optional for those who enjoy that sort of thing.

JRPG Battles

The battles in Persona 5 are turn-based, meaning that it has a more strategic style to them that requires the player to think and plan out what they are going to do to defeat the enemy. It is similar to the Shin Megami Tensei’s turn-based press turn system if you have played any of those games.

How it works is that your team will get to choose each of their moves and then the enemy will get their chance. What is important here is that every party member will get a chance to attack in a single turn and you will be able to select what they do with that move.

You can have them use magical abilities from their Persona, use items to recover, guard against a future attack, or just do a regular attack. The key to these battles is to land a critical hit or take advantage of the element that the enemy is weak to. If you do so, you will earn an extra move in that turn.

This could mean that, if done right, you could do up to eight moves in a single turn, instead of just four. That can be insanely useful in battles where you might be struggling or against the several bosses in the game. If that is not enough, there is another crucial part of the game in the Personas themselves.

While the Phantom Thieves are humans, they summon Personas to fight on their behalf when it comes to skills in battle. In the case of Joker, he is a wildcard who can use any Persona that he wants, so you will want to collect more as you go throughout the game.

This is done in battle by landing those same critical hits and taking advantage of weaknesses, which will down an opponent and give you the chance to have them join your team. This is the most basic way of earning a new Persona in the game, but there are other ways.

The Velvet Room is a recurring location in the Persona series and it returns in Persona 5 as the place where users can fuse together Personas. If you want to complete the Compendium or list of all Personas that are available in this title, this is the place to do it.

Palaces and Mementos Explained

As you are completing your Compendium, gathering up Personas, and battling enemies, you will be exploring the various dungeons in Persona 5. Like in previous games, the dungeons in this title take on a special form; in this case, being called the Palaces.

As the Phantom Thieves, your job is to steal the treasure or hearts of the bad guys that are in the story. Since you are stealing treasure, in this shadow world, they are seen as royalty with Palaces that you have to infiltrate to find the treasure and take it.

The Palace dungeons are detailed and usually have several different locations to them. It can take a good bit of time to explore an entire Palace, so there are checkpoints that you can unlock to make it easier to fast travel throughout the dungeon areas you’ve already been to.

The gist of the story and the Palaces that you go to is that you have the goal of locating the treasure. You can do this in a single in-game day but finding the treasure is only part of the mission. The treasure is usually locked up and requires the player to send the calling card to unlock it.

One special dungeon that is an exception to the rule is Mementos. This is a unique dungeon that is available fairly early on and is persistent throughout the entire title. It is technically optional but it is here that you can find certain Personas, grind for levels, and even complete side mission requests.

More of Mementos are unlocked as the story goes on with many different levels to explore. It is unique, too, in the fact that you can traverse it using the Morgana van. While it is almost entirely optional, this is a great way to spend some of the days getting unique items and leveling up.

School Life

Speaking of spending your days in Persona 5, the other major of the gameplay is the high school life that Joker has. The game takes place over the course of about an entire school year, including all of the semesters and breaks that are in between.

You will play almost every day of that calendar year, so this means deciding how you want to spend your time as a student. At certain moments in the story, there will be main story missions that you have but you typically have the flexibility to do them whenever you want so long as you finish it before the time limit, which is usually made pretty clear to you.

As a student, you only have a finite amount of time that you can spend, which usually means two main activities per day, with the exception being the weekend. You will go to school during the day and on certain days, you might have quizzes or tests that you have to take.

The teacher could ask you a question and you have multiple options to pick from, with your personal life stats rising if you get it right. After school, you then can go into the Palaces, check out Mementos, explore the town, hang out with friends, shop, do minigames, or even work a part-time job.

That’s right, several different part-time jobs are available to you as a student and players can freely take them on to raise their stats and earn some cash in the process. The jobs are detailed on their own since they will sometimes give the player choices and picking the right one will result in more money and stat points.


There is a lot that you can do in your free time in Persona 5 to the point where you can go hours without doing any turn-based battles at all. One major element of school life is the Confidants. Previously known as the Social Links in 3 and 4, Persona 5 amps up this gameplay feature.

Confidants are various main and side characters that you will meet in the game. You can choose to spend your precious and limited time in Persona 5 to meet with these characters on certain days and build your relationship with them by giving gifts, hanging out, and even going on dates.

Each Confidant has 10 ranks to them and there is more to it than just finding out more about that person and their story. Raising these ranks will open up various gameplay bonuses, such as making certain Persona fusion easier, unlocking new battle options, and much more.

For certain female characters, there is even the chance to romance them as Joker if you raise their friendship to a high enough level and make the right choices in conversation, so you can help him find the love of his life in the process. Almost all Confidants are optional and missable, so this part is among the most important features of the game for many players.

Your First Few Hours in Persona 5

When you first boot up Persona 5, you will find that there first few hours of the game are extremely detailed, in-depth, and a bit guided at times. It takes a bit of time for the title to open up and let you do whatever you want, but it is best to enjoy this time as it teaches you almost everything you need to know.

Without giving away story spoilers, the game gets off to a crazy start by showing you a moment from later in the story before dialing it back and showing you how you got there. Joker arrives in the city, moves in, and starts to get comfortable at school before meeting Morgana, Ryuji, and Ann.

It does not take long before you are welcomed into the first Palace in the game and meet the first villain that you have to take down. This first storyline arc is pretty linear at first and, honestly, one of the best in the game so it is best to sit back and enjoy the time with these characters.

At the very least, you will get to explore the first Palace, meet some of the characters, and explore a bit of the city in these first few hours. Depending on how long it takes you, you could get to the point where you can start doing some of the side activities, but it depends on your playstyle. In my opinion, it is best to take your time here as the story starts quite strong in these opening hours and it is easy to pass it by.

Persona 5 vs. Persona 5 Royal

When deciding to play Persona 5, one of the toughest questions is going to be which version to pick up: the original or Persona 5 Royal. Though they are both available on the PS4, your save files will not carry over from one to the other and this is a very long game, so it may be best to only get one.

If you are picking between these two, absolutely go with Persona 5 Royal. It is the vastly superior version of the game with new characters, a new party member (who is arguably the best romance partner for Joker), a third semester to play, new Personas to collect, and much more.

Persona 5 looks like an almost incomplete and inferior game by comparison to Royal. At the time it was released, it was amazing but some changes in Royal should have been there, to begin with. For one, without spoilers, there is a particular party member who has a less than satisfactory story arc in the original game.

This is due to the late arrival and such, but Royal fixes this and turns this character into easily one of the best around. I would go so far as to say that this person fulfills what they should have been all along and is the best Persona character, in my opinion.

Persona 5 Sequels and Spin-offs

Once you finish, hopefully, Persona 5 Royal, you can start checking out the spin-offs and “sequel”. The spin-off is found in Persona Q2 where the Nintendo 3DS sequel features the cast of 5 join 3 and 4 for a first-person dungeon-crawling adventure.

Then there is Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight where the cast enters a dancing competition. If you are a fan of rhythm-based games, this one might be for you. And last but not least, there is Persona 5 Strikers, which is essentially a sequel to the original Persona 5.

In this game, it takes many elements from the original, like collecting Personas, leveling up, exploring towns, and completing dungeons, but puts an action RPG spin on it. It also introduces a new party member and other characters, so it is a great lengthy RPG for those looking for more Persona 5 action.


Question: Is Persona 5 a good anime?

Answer: Persona 5 does have an anime adaptation that was created by A-1 Pictures and tells the main story of the game in a single season. This is similar to what happened with the Persona 4 anime, but I will say that it is slightly better than that one.

The problem is that the Persona 5 anime is still not the best place to check out the main story for the first time. It works if you have played the game and want to see the characters again in a new light, but I would not recommend it as a complete replacement for the game.

It tries its best to cover some of the optional activities and Confidants in the game, which leads to some goofy moments here and there, but it can only do so much.

Furthermore, the animation, like the Persona 4 one, is still fairly lackluster when compared to other anime out there. Overall, I would say that it is a good anime but just barely.

Question: Is Persona 5 beginner-friendly?

Answer: Absolutely! Persona 5 is the most accessible and beginner-friendly entry in the series with many quality-of-life features that are there to help usher in newcomers. The gameplay is fluid and fast, not nearly as slow as the battles can be in the other titles.
There are a lot of major improvements across the board in Persona 5 that make it a more fun experience for new players.

Question: What is the main idea of Persona 5? 

Answer: While some of the main ideas of the game will be subjective to what each person takes away from it, it can be argued that the core theme of the series is breaking free. When Persona 5 was first being teased, it was bringing up this idea of slavery and chains.

This is a theme that carries throughout the game as many of the characters are figurative slaves to a group, idea, events, or even the past. With the different storylines that happen throughout the game, the core theme is about breaking free from those chains to become the best version of you possible.


Persona 5 is a massive game that can take more than 100 hours to complete on your first try alone. And the craziest part is that this can happen even without necessarily engaging in all of the side activities like going to work, raising your regular life stats, and completing all of the social links.

This means that this Persona 5 overview could go into so much detail about the entire game. That is where our other guides come in like the Persona 5 treasure demons guide that lets you know about this very specific optional activity that players can engage in, in both Persona 5 and Royal. We highly recommend that the completionists out there who wish to collect all of the Personas check it out.

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