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Persona 5 tips: combat, Social Links, confidants, romances, exams & other tricks

persona 5

Persona 5 Tips: combat, confidants, romances, stat grinding, school tests & other tricks for becoming the perfect phantom thief

The word has probably been spread quite firmly now, but if there's any doubt let's just say it again: Persona 5 is bloody amazing. We called it "the best Japanese RPG in over a decade" and dared to talk about it in the same breath as Chrono Trigger - so, yes, it's really very good and very much worth your time.

The rest of the critics rather seemed to agree. It's currently sitting pretty at an OpenCritic ranking of 94, only a couple of points behind best-game-of-all-time contender The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

That fact that it's so good means that a lot of people who've never played a Persona game before are looking at giving this one a shot, which is fair. On top of that Persona 5 actually mixes up a lot of classic Persona systems too, so there's quite a bit for long-time fans to get used to as well.

Have no fear! We've been playing Persona 5 far too much, and as a result we've put together a slew of lovely tips to help you survive your excursions into the shadow world of the metaverse. So... let us start the game.

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Normal Difficulty provides plenty of challenge - so don't forget to save often

Something that's generally been the case with video games across the board has been a general decline in difficulty over the years. It's not snobbish to say it: games are a fair bit easier now than they used to be, obvious exceptions such as Dark Souls aside.

For me this has led to Hard being the new Normal for most games, but the difficulty in Persona hasn't really been adjusted since the series made its PS1 debut. Basically, what I'm saying is this: in Persona 5, Normal is still pretty hard. If you don't pay attention enemies will be able to take you out with a simple exploitation of your current weaknesses.

Unlike some other Japanese RPGs such as Final Fantasy or Pokemon, you'll get a game over as soon as the protagonist, Joker, is killed. It's imperative you keep him alive over anyone else, so be sure to heal him as soon as he gets to a third health or less as a priority. Anybody else can be revived with items or skills.

In line with this don't forget to save or duck into a dungeon/palace safe room every time you see one. While these safe rooms are a pain as they require a loading screen in and a loading screen out, these are the only places in combat zones where you can save and also act as an auto-save checkpoint for if you die. Persona 5's more traditional save system makes it possible to lose hours of progress if you're not careful, so use those save rooms liberally.


Always find and exploit enemy weaknesses

If you're familiar with Persona you'll already be well aware of this, but if not then this is an important note: Persona combat has a certain flow to it, and it's all about enemy strengths and weaknesses. Every enemy in the game has strengths and weaknesses to a variety of elements - physical strike damage, physical gun damage, a variety of magical elemental categories such as fire (Agi) and ice (Bufu), plus dark, light and so on.

When you hit an enemy with their weakness it isn't just more damaging, but it actually knocks the enemy down. Knocking enemies down triggers a '1 More', an extra free turn for one of your characters, or if all enemies are knocked down pushes you into a 'Hold Up' that'll allow you to negotiate with demons, demanding money, loot or even for them to join your side. If all else fails you can perform a devastating all-out-attack on knocked down enemies too.

The flow of knocking down enemies and then following up with further attacks is an absolutely key part of Persona battles, so make sure you get used to that flow and use it frequently.

To learn enemy skills, cycle through available skills and try everything on them or have them join you through demon negotiation - when they join you, you'll learn everything you need to know about them. To review enemy weaknesses in battle, hit L1.

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Time is short, so limit your daily dungeon visits and make them last

Another major element of the Persona series that sets it apart from its peers is the calendar system, a mechanic which means you have a limited amount of in-game time to pursue your quest. That quest involves a lot of different angles, and you can essentially only perform two actions per day - one after school and one on the evening.

Going to dungeons such as palaces or mementos is exhausting, and so unless you have certain late-game perks that actually takes up a whole day, two slots. That's a lot of time to lose - two potential confidant cooperation advancements or valuable time studying to boost your social stats in one way or another. As such, you want to minimise your dungeon trips to free up time for other things.

The way I play Persona is I min/max it - I go to dungeons on as few days as possible in order to advance but on the days I go to the dungeon I stay there for a long time. This is a more challenging way to play since it means slogging through dungeons when you have low health and SP, but it'll be worth it in terms of the free time you gain elsewhere.

Speaking of SP, use that as your final barometer of when you need to bail out of a dungeon to return another day: SP is more difficult to recover than health, so when that's completely depleted it's time to let go.

Dungeon Returns

As an important side-note to long-time Persona fans - once a dungeon is complete, you can't go back to it ever. Be sure to clean it out of chests before taking the main treasure. You can return to mementos whenever you like, however.


Unlock all the Confidants as soon as you can - and know who can be romanced

In previous Persona games Confidant cooperations were known as Social Links or S-Links, and these basically represent your relationship with the people of Tokyo in Persona 5. There are 21 confidants in the game each based off one of the Tarot Arcana, each with their own unique backstory that you'll come to learn over time.

In Persona 5, each confidant has a few bonuses. Boosting your relationship with a confidant will in turn grant bonus EXP when you fuse a Persona of their associated Arcana, but roughly half of the 10 levels of friendship for each will also bestow additional bonuses. A confidant with your teacher will allow you to slack off in class and perform other tasks on school time, for instance, while a cooperation with a doctor will give you a discount on medical gear to be used in dungeons.

Unlock them all early, then level up the ones you like the most by spending time with them to maximise your bonuses. For additional bonuses, be sure to carry a Persona of the arcana your friend is with you whenever you hang out.

Here's every Confidant Arcana, plus how you meet them. Make sure you don't miss any!

  • Fool - Unlocks automatically on 4/12
  • Magician - Unlocks automatically on 4/15
  • Priestess - Unlocks after the bank palace - speak to Makoto outside the Student Council Office at school to begin. You'll need rank 3 knowledge. Romanceable.
  • Empress - After 10/30, talk to Haru on the rooftop of the school to get started. Romanceable.
  • Emperor - There's an event with Yusuke on 6/14. After this, find him at the Railway Underground Passageway in Shibuya.
  • Hierophant - One day in late April when you come home Sojiro will be available for a chat.
  • Lovers - On 4/15 this cooperation will automatically kick off. Romanceable.
  • Chariot - On 4/12 this cooperation will automatically begin as part of the story.
  • Justice - Story-related and unmissable, this cooperation begins on 6/10.
  • Hermit - Very late in August this cooperation will automatically begin. Romanceable.
  • Fortune - Once Shinjuku is unlocked in June have your fortune read at night by the girl. Return to her and pay the money she asks, then return again, complete the sidequest and return to her one final time to start this cooperation. Romanceable.
  • Strength - This cooperation will begin automatically on 5/18. Complete the twins' requests to level up this cooperation.
  • Hangman - After the event with the mysterious package, chat to Iwai in the airsoft store with rank 4 guts or higher.
  • Death - Any time after 4/18 you can visit her in the clinic that's near your house. Romanceable.
  • Temperance - On 5/24 there will be an in-game event with Ryuji and a maid. Talk to Kawakami after school outside the Student Faculty Office the day after this event. Romanceable.
  • Devil - Once you unlock Shinjuku as part of story events, meet with her in the Crossroads bar at night. Romanceable.
  • Tower - On 9/4 you'll get a sidequest, 'Winner's Don't Use Cheats'. Complete this quest, following the steps, to unlock this cooperation.
  • Star - From 6/25 on you'll be able to go to the Kanada Church. If you have rank 3 charm or higher you can start this cooperation with the shogi player there. Romanceable.
  • Moon - Automatically begins on 5/6 as part of the story.
  • Sun - Listen to the politician's speech in the Shibuya Station Square at night.
  • Judgement - Automatically begins on 7/9 and levels up with story progress.
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Understand the pros and cons of demon negotiation

Once you get the enemy into a 'hold up' by knocking them down with weaknesses, you'll have an opportunity to negotiate with them. Using this you can have them join you as a Persona, or exploit them for cash or loot. This has pros and cons.

If you ask for cash you're likely to get more cash out of an enemy than if you just kill them, but less EXP. If you demand loot you'll likewise get better items - sometimes really rare stuff - but the same goes for the EXP once again.

While it can be tempting to end every battle with a Hold Up and a demon negotiation, if you do that all the time you'll find yourself short on EXP and dangerously under-levelled for the challenges Persona 5 will throw at you. Instead, consider finishing off more battles with all-out attacks and by outright killing enemies in general. This should still be your bread and butter, but demon negotiations are still useful for stocking up on extra cash and items.


Cheat at school quiz questions using the online Thieves Guild

Persona 5 has a built-in online system called the Thieves' Guild. This system offers up a number of cool little systems you can use throughout the game, but one of the coolest is the ability to see what other people did with their free time at any given moment by pressing the PS4's touch pad.

This is useful for finding out which confidants people spent time with or when people went into the metaverse and finished dungeons, but it also has one more excellent use if you're so inclined: cheating at school.

Throughout the game you have to masquerade as a normal school student, and part of this double life involves answering questions at school and getting good grades. When a question is asked of you, if you're unsure hit the touchpad - the game will bring up a graph showing how everybody else answered, and without exception this'll always show the truth by a wide margin. It's a bit like cheating, but hey - it's there to abuse.

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Don't neglect your personal social stats

Persona 5 protagonist Joker enters the fray with five basic personality stats set to zero - that's Knowledge, Proficiency, Guts, Kindness and Charm. While these skills don't have any effect on your combat in the metaverse they do impact your real-world activities in a big way, so you shouldn't neglect them.

Persona 5 features many, many speech checks throughout the course of the story or during the confidant cooperation side stories - and many times you'll be unable to progress or even begin certain friendships without having a certain amount of skill. Getting closer to Ann Takamaki requires kindness, for instance, while drumming up the courage to speak to gun store owner Iwai requires courage.

These stats can be boosted in a number of ways, so explore the world - many small actions can have an impact. Feeding the plant in your room raises kindness, while getting questions right in school raises knowledge. Doing well in school exams with that knowledge will raise your charm as fellow students look up to you. Part-time jobs, eating out, going to the movies, studying, watching DVDs and even playing video games can raise stats, so experiment with your free time.

Sometimes you can combine these activities with confidants, which is a great way to both level up a stat and boost your relationship. If somebody invites you to the movies or asks to come over and hang out for an activity, agree!


The stealth mechanic is a pain, but don't sweat it too much

Stealth is a big part of Persona 5 and shouldn't be ignored - sneaking up on an enemy and getting the drop on them is an absolutely vital element of doing well in this version of Persona's turn-based combat. If enemies spot you not only will they gain the upper hand but the palace 'security' level will rise - trigger too many alerts and you'll be booted out of the palace for the day, an awful waste of time.

However, don't worry too much about stealth. While the camera is a bit of a pain when you're using it, stealth in Persona 5 is actually incredibly forgiving. When you're hidden Joker will be shadowed and hunkered down next to something by pressing X. You're near-enough invisible in this state.

Abuse this fact to get up close to enemies and them ambush them with a context-sensitive hit of the Cross button.


Carry a range of Persona and be aware of their weaknesses

This is a death almost every Persona player knows, I think: You're in a dungeon, things are going great, then you encounter a new enemy. As you prod and feel them out for their weakness, they hit back decisively: you're weak, you're downed, and they follow up with a 1 More attack that proves fatal. Game over.

Be careful. As the game progresses enemies begin to become smarter about their own elements, and they'll use your elemental weaknesses against you. Each Persona has its own unique elemental affinities, as mentioned earlier, and you should match this up to dungeons and opponents carefully.

Some enemies even have instant-kill attacks of the light or dark element - so don't walk around a dungeon with a Persona that's weak to one of these elements! It could very well be the quickest game over screen in an RPG you've ever seen otherwise. Look at your elements in your Persona stats screen, carry a range of Persona with different weaknesses, and switch Persona outside of battle as and when you need to in order to protect yourself.

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