Persona 5 – Party and Confidant Rankings

Persona 5 is awesome. And if you talk to any Persona player, they’re all going to have their takes on who the best party is, and who the best confidants are. This is my take.

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Your Party

Like most JRPGS you have more characters than you have spaces for them. In general, your party should consist of you (mandatory), your healer of choice, a physical bruiser, and a fourth member of your choice. In earlier dungeons (as you gain members) your fourth member should often be your newest teammate because there will coincidentally be several Shadows that happen to be weak to their element. In Mementos and later dungeons, use who you see fit and remember that (though the game doesn’t make this explicitly clear) you can change out members any time in the stats menu when you’re out of battle, or in battle if you sufficiently level up your relationship with Hifumi (more on that later). Futaba will only be mentioned in Confidants, because as your Navi she never directly fights.

Without further ado!

Morgana – Your introduction to the Metaverse and your prototypical White Mage/Healer. He has a huge SP pool and gains access to all the HP and resurrection spells your party will need. While Wind is a comparatively weak element in terms of strength and few monsters are weak to it, few resist or drain it meaning that you can almost always do at least SOME damage with him if he isn’t needed to heal and physical shots are out. What cements him as my choice for Healer, however, are his skills that for a relatively modest HP fee give you a physical attack with a high chance to get a Critical strike. These are invaluable for getting a Hold Up in times where you can’t hit a weakness (often earlier in the game) or the Shadow simply has none. He is a bit of a glass cannon though, so if there are a lot of electric based Shadows around, you may want to swap him out for a back-up. Grade: A

Ryuji – One of the two physical powerhouses in the game, and he has the highest HP pool of any character. Always try to keep him leveled up because sometimes a party of you (magic), your healer, and your two heavy hitters is a good way to go. My main issue is that Lightening based attacks can sometimes inflict Shock. Shock can transfer to your party which can be a pain. Grade: B

Ann – Sorry, Persona. Despite your love of gratuitous fanservice, you forgot to make her useful enough to keep her in your party once your options open up. Her element of Fire isn’t that useful in most dungeons – just make sure your Protagonist has a Persona with a fire spell on him and that will take care of most Fire needs – and later on weapons are a better source of inflicting status impairments on Shadows. There are also better back-up healers. She’s purely a situational party member for me, especially once Makoto joins up. Grade: C-

Yusuke – Your other physical powerhouse. He’s not quite as strong as Ryuji, and his HP pool is a little smaller, but he makes up for it in a) style and b) because the status effect of his Ice attacks (Freeze) is an invitation for a free Technical shot if you can connect a physical blow on the same Shadow on the next turn. I also like his physical attack options a bit more than Ryuji’s. It’s a coin-flip, but he’s my personal go-to. Grade: B+

Makoto – A solid back-up healer (with useful status impairment healing skills to boot) and more importantly, access to Nuclear skills which can be very difficult to come by. She tends to be my main backup healer when I don’t use Morgana.  Grade: B

Haru – The Psi attacks almost never go out of style as a lot of enemies are weak to it, so be sure to either keep Haru in your party or make sure your Protagonist has some on him. She also has some good status heals, though she isn’t as strong a back-up healer as Makoto. She doesn’t seem to be as much of a damage dealer as Makoto though if using regular attacks (a necessary SP conserving move) so she’s still often on my bench.    Grade: C

Akechi – By the time you gain access to his Bless and Curse skills, you’ve already probably picked up Persona(s) with access to the skills, and realistically, you’re still best off developing them from yourself for Reasons. Also, it’d been nicer to have them a hell of a lot sooner too. Grade: C

Your Confidants

Who you hang out with is up to you, but some definitely have more advantages than others. Here’s who I think is worth leveling up. As I mentioned, Futaba will be on here, but your other party members won’t. For the most part, your main party members all offer the same bonuses. I’m going to try to finish my game maximizing Ryuji because I’m so close to wrapping that up, but there are just too many other better choices out there to focus on your (supposed to be closest) friends. I’m not including the four confidants that you level up automatically through the story because you don’t have to make it a point to hang out with them.

Must Level – These are the ones that (to me) provided the most benefit to my party. As an added bonus, I found that tended to have some of the best Confidant arcs around (well, except for Mishimia anyway)

Hifumi Togo – I wish I had started out her story sooner! Her abilities give you special moves in battle including the ability to escape from battle instantly (even when surrounded) to changing your party members while in a fight. Needless to say, your life becomes a LOT easier once you level up with her. Get on it as soon as you can.

Futaba Sakura – She becomes available fairly late in the game, but it’s very worth while as her abilities will save your ass when an enemy strikes first on more than one occasion. Her ability to cast buffs and/or heal you in battle comes in pretty handy as well.

Yuuki Mishimia – Absolutely start working on this as soon as you can. He boosts XP gains and can also make it so your party members on the bench can gain XP even when not in battle. This is vital for keeping your party close in level, which is always a smart move in JRPGs.

Tae Takemi – The more you level, the more access to health and SP boosters and accessories you get. Level her up higher and you get them at a discount. You NEED those SP replenishing bandages and this is how you get them.

Sadayo Kawakami – She’s important to level because she buys you time in school to work on other things (reading books to boost social skills, make infiltration tools, etc), does your laundry while letting you go out and do other things, and if you max her out, lets you go out in the evening, even AFTER being in the metaverse which is a huge time saver which all the time you can get is precious!

Maybe Level – These are the ones that can provide SOME benefit to you based on your play style, but shouldn’t be as high priority as those above.

Ichiko Ohya – If you get spotted a lot by Shadows she’ll help by help bringing their awareness down. It’s not the most useful, but if you start getting desperate and are frantically looking for a Safe room so you can get out of dodge which means you’re escaping a lot of battles (which also brings awareness up), this can be of help.

Sojiro Sakura – Although the Kindness bonuses for hanging out with him are nice, the truth of the matter is that the SP bandages can really offset the need his curries. If you dedicate yourself to leveling him up in the early game before you get those bandages, though, he could be helpful. It’s just hard to recommend prioritizing him.

Ryuji/Ann/Yusuke/Makoto/Haru – All have bonuses for leveling them. Most of them are the same. Pick one or two and focus on them because you won’t have time to level them all. I’m going to try and max out Ryuji and Ann in this play through and maybe focus on the others in a New Game+

Don’t BotherThese are ones who just don’t provide enough benefits to justify the time sink involved. The only real benefit is for the persona fusion boost that you also get when level up with them.

Munehisa Iwai – You can’t unlock him until you reach Guts Level 4. You can’t get Guts Level 4 until fairly deep into the game unless you neglect all your other status (which I don’t recommend). The biggest issue is that by the time you unlock him, you’re probably using a higher quality gun than what you have unlocked the ability to modify which means you’ll nearly need to max him out to be of any use. Combine that with the fact that gun effectiveness seems to go down as the game goes on (at least in my Easy/Normal mix playthrough) that I wouldn’t even recommend focusing on gun upgrades as much as I would your melee weapon – if you’re just trying to down an enemy, a shot from a low-level gun will still do the trick if they’re weak!

Shinya Oda – You can’t unlock him until about 3/4 of the way through the game, and you did see what I just said about the effectiveness of guns, right? Unlocking him does add some neat animations and the chance to get some free shots in, but when you’re only taking off 20 points off a Shadow that has 500+ it doesn’t really seem worth it.

Chihaya Hifune – She’s expensive to unlock and her readings feel pricey for what you get. Unlocking Kawakami’s skills means you can get your social stat boost simply by using that time to work on them. You can use a Wiki to preview future abilities of your Shadows or your Confidants. Gifts, taking them to a hangout they like, or having a Persona of their arcana will help boost your affinity with a Confidant instead. I regret putting time into her.

Toranosuke Yoshida – I don’t think I ever even formed a bond with him. I feel like this is a Confidant that would best be served for completionist players trying to form bonds with otherwise hard to get Shadows. More casual players though, can safely pass on him.

Justine & Caroline – Again, another Confidant for completionists. I don’t doubt this is necessary for super high level fusions, but for more casual players…not so much.

Phew! That’s a lot 🙂 What about you? Who do you like/dislike/ignore? Lemme know!

May 2017 Update

So…yeah. Hm. I guess I lied in that January update didn’t I? It wasn’t intentional, it just kinda happened.

Again.

I honestly didn’t start reading again until basically the beginning of April when a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods showed up on my door. It took me a long time (like…a month….really) but I finished it. And I loved it. I also took a break in the middle to devour the most recent Alex Verus book (see my capsule review page for my thoughts). I’m now almost done with Rivers of London and I have Owl and the Electric Samurai on my Kindle queued up ready to go. I also have The Crown’s Fate on pre-order and I’m looking forward to them all. I’ve finally accepted that I’m probably not going to get back to devouring books any time soon, and I’ve made peace with that. I rather read 10 books that I really really want to read instead of 70-100 books where I really I maybe genuinely truly enjoy maybe 25% of find the rest forgettable.

Anyway, as before, keep an eye on my Good Reads because I am trying to post there.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read American Gods, do so. If you like Urban Fantasy and haven’t read Alex Verus or Owl, get on that too. Otherwise, I’ve also updated my Eye Con review with more recent news (spoiler alert: attend with caution. They’re track record on pisspoor refund handling is too solid to be ignored) and yeah. That’s about that.

I’m almost 55 hours into a Persona 5 playthrough, so I’ll probably post a review whenever I get around to finishing it and that’s about all I got!

Have a good one, peeps!

Borrow it x 2 – Black Moon (Zodiac #3) & Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

I’m back!

Work has settled down a ton which means the urge to read has started coming back. On top of that, I have several books on my Kindle that I’m genuinely looking forward to reading. I’m not going to commit how often I’m going to post, but when I do, I will be posting on Mondays just for sake of some kind of consistency.

That said, I’m going to start with two solid YA sci-fi/fantasy titles:

 

Black Moon is the third book of the Zodiac series, and Frost Blood is the first book in an upcoming new series. If you know how much I’ve loved the Zodiac series in the past, then you’d be shocked to find out that I actually kind of liked Frost Blood more.

I know right? Seriously?

Here’s the thing. I love the Zodiac series because in addition to some very deep world building, an intriguing plot, and a very strong heroine, Russell managed to (mostly) avoid the cliches of the genre. In Black Moon however, it’s like she’s making up for lost time. It feels like Rho spends the first half of the book mooning over the two legs of the love triangle and attending a freaking royal ball, complete with “what to wear” montage. It’s just like WHY damn it? It just felt so unnecessary! The book did finish strong, and I’ll certainly read the final book, but this was totally a stumble for me.

On the other hand, Frost Blood doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is: a piece of YA fantasy that doesn’t push any boundaries. Our heroine is as fiery as her magic. The love interest has a tragic backstory and a twist regarding his true identity. There is a prophecy. There is an evil king. It’s all tied up in in a fairly neat bow of some solid world building. It’s not fresh, but it’s fun and someone who loves the genre will find this a fun book to cozy up to.

Now, I’d still go ahead and recommend both books to someone browsing the YA section, but both also feel a little bit forgettable. Not a great way to start my year, but not a bad one either!

Verdict: Borrow Both

Available: Black Moon is out now, Frostblood bows January 10th.

Top 7 of 2016

I’ve come to accept certain things about 2016: that Death decided to be a huge bitch, that politics are going to be depressing for the next four years, and that I’m not going to finish my 2016 Goodreads Challenge. That being said, my burnout doesn’t mean I didn’t read some fantastic books, so I still want to share my favorites with you. As per the norm for me, I’m taking my top 10%. Since I’m at 69 books, I’m going to go ahead and round that up to 7.

My usual critera for selecting books apply: one book per author, must have been reviewed in 2016 (and for this I’m using my Goodreads page since I still did some posting there, even if I didn’t necessarily do a proper review of it) and must have been rated a Buy It from me. I’ll link to reviews where available.

 

7. 23447887

A great piece of historical fantasy set in a world where the Prohibition was against magic, not alcohol. It’s adult. It’s moody. It doesn’t preach. The characters are interesting, the romantic dance is a joy to watch, and the ending is fitting of the paths that Kelly was having these characters walk. Read my full review.

6. 29236298

Last year I made the predecessor Illuminae my top pick in part for the unique storytelling. While I still love it, this book didn’t quite blow me away as much as that one did.This one does have a much slower start, the ending you have to set aside ALL of your disbelief to buy and Kady and AIDAN feel a little shoe-horned in. That said, I’m still really looking forward to seeing the next book and it’s a no-brainer recommendation to fans of YA and popcorn sci-fi.

5. 26109041

Though not officially released in the U.S. yet, this book is easy enough to obtain on Amazon and I highly recommend you seek it out. I’m not a fan of zombies, but I love what she did with the genre. Add in a loner protagonist who isn’t an asshole, some great side characters, and some absolutely lovely details in the printed version of this book and I think this would be a hit for any fan of Urban Fantasy. Read my full review on Goodreads

4. 25036395

Talk about a book that came out of left field for me: the premise of the protagonist being The Only One who can save them all had me rolling my eyes, but then Durst surprised me: our heroine isn’t a Chosen One. Like. At all. She doesn’t have a ton of power, she doesn’t have some kind of birth right claim, she literally just works her tail off and through sheer force of will and an ability to think outside the box manages to save the day. Throw in some really well developed side characters, a fantastic magic system, a book where sex is treated as a healthy part of human relationships and you have a book that is all around fantastic. I can’t wait for the sequel I just hope it gets published. Ready my review on Goodreads.

3.

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YA done right. The kind of YA that I’d recommend to those who wouldn’t even normally read YA. This book takes a very clever magic system, a fun pseudo-Russian setting, and some great rounded characters to create a book that manages to avoid most of the traps that YA writers normally fall into. I adored this book, and if you like secondary world fantasy, I think you will too. Read my review

2. 25695756

I had a super hard time deciding between this, or the original book Rook on this list. Both are awesome. Both I have a ton of love of for. The sequel won out, however, because rare is the author who has a 4 year wait between books and have that second book really pan out and be fully worth the wait.

This one was.

It’s a story of female friendship, of clever paranormal creatures, and some fantastically dry British-style wit (he’s American by way of Australia, but still). I don’t know if there is a book three, I hope there will be a book three, and I will wait (im)patiently for it, even if it takes another four years to appear. Read my review on Goodreads.

1. 30258320

Okay, yes, this is a 2017 book, but I’m putting this at the number one spot because I feel like this book couldn’t be more timely. One of the overriding messages of this book is how the complacency of the people allows corruption and evil to infiltrate their lives and become an accepted part of every day life. This book is dark. There are almost no real heroes. It is grim. And it is fantastic. If you haven’t already pre-ordered this book, do so, now. You can thank me later. Read my review on Goodreads.

I am Setsuna.

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Hey folks!

Still not reading much (though follow me on Goodreads to see when I do post the occasional review) but I did just finish playing through I am Setsuna, a JRPG recently released for the PS4 and Steam so I wanted to share some thoughts. Is this worth the $40 price tag?

First off, if the phrase “Chrono Trigger meets Final Fantasy X with the materia system from Final Fantasy VII mixed in” doesn’t mean anything to you, I’d say just go spend your $40 on the Final Fantasy X/X-2 remaster released last year. It’s a much better introduction to what JRPGs can be. But for those who do know, let’s take a deeper delve.

Art:
This game takes the vibe of the SNES-era games and gives them a watercolor makeover to beautiful effect. It’s a lovely game. There’s some especially nice snow-work, where your characters create paths as they move through snow and those paths disappear as you move along. That said, everything in this game is in the snow. Everything. Even when we get some color in the form of a sunset after you’ve defeated the final boss, there’s still always snow. So while it’s lovely, it loses some of its effect over time. Some variety would have been nice, is all I’m saying.

Music & Sound:
This game is notable for its piano-only soundtrack. While the piano does fit the somber mood well, after a few hours I was killing for a violin, a cello or some other string work to offset the piano. It just becomes monotonous overtime and I’m not convinced this was the right way to go. It would have been just as easy to keep the mood but go from a soloist up to say, a quartet for some variety. I absolutely love instrumental scores, but now that I’ve finished, I’ve no desire to go figure out how to pull the soundtrack that I got as a preorder incentive off my PS4 to listen to elsewhere. The rest of the sound work is fine, nothing to write home about. You’ll probably want to turn off the voice clips though. Though in Japanese, they get no less tiresome when you hear a character repeating the same phrase for the thousandth time.

Gameplay:
I love me some active turn based battling. I’m actually sad that the FFVII remaster is doing away with it. I like having some time to plan, and by having it active it means you can’t take forever lest the enemies get their shot at you. And at the core, the system works just fine. The additions to the system – momentum and fluxes – are questionable at best. The momentum is definitely helpful (basically get your timing right and you can add bonuses to your moves), but fluxes are so confusing (and so poorly explained) that I still can’t explain it to you and I’ve defeated the game. There’s a very non-helpful explanation in one of the vendor screens, but that’s it. You can safely ignore it and not be hurt by it. The bigger issue lies with the spritenite/techs and it’s twofold. One: there are way, way, way too many of them. Dozens upon dozens. Your eyes can glaze over the list and still keep scrolling. It’s just way too much, even more so when you realize that outside of a few bosses (more in a minute) the battles in the game are just too simple to even need a fraction. You’ll settle on the handful you’ll use per character rather quickly and stop even looking into new one for one simple reason:

The gameplay balance is horribly off. There’s a specific double tech and a triple tech that essentially break the game. You can use the double tech to wipe out mobs in one go, and the triple tech to out cheese the cheesy bosses at the end game. While you can avoid using them during play to not just sail through the dungeons, they become vital at endgame.

Case and point: the dungeon with the final boss is essentially a five-part fight, no saving in between. I was appropriately leveled for the area, but kept wiping at some part within the four sub-bosses. I did a quick search for a strategy guide and saw the rec for the triple tech. I went ahead and got the spritenite needed for it, and I was able to beat the whole final boss fight in one go.

Grinding isn’t even a viable alternative because stats are based on weapons more than anything. Why waste hours and hours and hours grinding for incremental gains when a couple of choice spritenite can save you the frustration of throwing your controller at the wall over cheap difficulty spikes? It’s just not worth it.

The gameplay isn’t awful by any means, but I don’t think Tokyo RPG Factory brought anything new and worthwhile to the table, and it certainly isn’t going to make you want to play through again to try and play with the builds. There’s no reason to.

Oh, and finally, save points are FAR too sparse in the dungeons. You can go an hour between finding one, which is a pain in the ass. The lack of an inn system is an odd omission and the vending system desperately needs a way of selling items in bulk. These aren’t deal breakers, but in the 20 years since these came out, these kind of things have been perfected, so the choices here just seem to be here to be different, and it hurts the game.

Story:
So what about the story? It’s….there. It’s watered down Final Fantasy X. Ndir is an Auron clone, but 1/3 as interesting. Setsuna is the Yuna analogue but way more naive and still so ridiculously optimistic and positive that it’s absolutely grating. Endir, a cipher for the player has no real personality at all, and his part in the story isn’t really explained once you get the exposition as to what’s actually going on. Some other stock characters round out the party, but none stand out all that much. Even more baffling, right after you defeat the second-to-last major boss fight you get one more character to join your party. Why? I don’t know. He doesn’t add much of anything to the story, and because of the aforementioned issue with the spritnite, his being over leveled compared to your party is meaningless. I used him for a few trash mobs and on one of my failed boss run attempts, but you could easily never use him in battle at all and still beat the game. He’s just there. I will also say the ending is quite divisive and a lot of players don’t seem to like it. It doesn’t bother me as much for a reason that I can’t give away, but the story leading up to that point is so basically predictable that as you finally get to the final reveal (which is very slowly dragged out over the last major dungeon in the game) you just aren’t surprised. I kept waiting for some interesting twist to the story, and well, don’t get your hopes up. It’s all very trope- filled and lacks any of the nuance or depth of Final Fantasy X. All in all, this is pretty standard stuff, and if you’re looking for the richness that Square Enix can bring to its games, keep looking because you’re not going to find it here.

Verdict:
If it sounds like I’m down on this game, it’s because I kind am. I love this old-school style and was very excited for this game to release. My excitement died quickly though, and we’re just left with a slightly above average game. I don’t think I can recommend it for $40 when the inspiration games can be had for the same price (or cheaper!) on PSN, Steam, or various handhelds. Look there first instead. Otherwise, if you are a JRPG fan, I’d try and pick this up for $30 or less, I just think $40 is a bit overpriced.

 

 

 

The End (For Now)

So this is something I’ve been wrestling with for a while now, but I’ve since decided that I’m at peace with it:

It’s time to call it quits with this blog.

Yeah, I had a post up just last Friday…and that was a book I finished like a week and a half ago? Swapping to posting once a week help me build up some lead time, which I’ve now completely squandered away and that honestly helped me make this decision.

So what’s going on?

Burnout and work.

I’ve recently touched on how I was hitting burnout as of late, but what I think has pushed me over the edge is a very real, and now very permanent, increase in my workload. While it is within the realm of what I can handle, I don’t have the downtime I used to have. And while I know many read to get rid of stress, I find myself not wanting to read as much when I am stressed – and when I do read, I need to be something I can fall head over heels in love with which is hard to do with the aforementioned burnout.

I’m not going to stop reading, nor do I think I’ll ever stop reading fantasy, but I am just going to pull way, way back. I just want to finish something or not without feeling guilty that I’ve got nothing to post. I want to be more at peace with the thought that it may take me another week or two before I want to pick up a book. I want to be able to just throw a star rating on Goodreads and call it a day.

So yeah. Time to call it a day.

Maybe I’ll post the occasional review if something moves me, or maybe I’ll just squee on twitter (@gilded_lady hint, hint) instead.

And maybe, just maybe, if I manage to get through this fun of mine, I’ll start this up again in earnest. But for now, so long and thanks for all the fish 🙂

Hexed (The Iron Druid Chronicles #2) – Kevin Hearne

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Summary:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Review:

In some ways, Hexed feels like it ought to be a continuation of Hounded, like it is finishing the set-up work that the first book started. Why? It now feels like the players of this world are fully in place: we know that the Morrighan and Brighid will likely spar over the course of the series. We now know which witches will be at his side, and which witches he’ll be sparring with sporadically over the course of the series, and so on.

Why? The first third of the book feels like filler.

We get some fun character interactions, and Hearne is setting up some characters that will become important later in the series, but it’s so insignificant to the plot that none of this story is mentioned in the synopsis at all. Worse still, you could take this all out and have the story basically work as is with very few, very marginal changes. Not helping matters is that this book barely clocks 200 pages without it, it basically NEEDS to be in here to justify calling it a novel. To me, that is the very definition of filler.

But once I got past that, I enjoyed the book. I like the world that Hearne is creating and Atticus is a very likable figure. The world is unique enough and the humor of the first book is still there and if you’re looking for a more action-centric series, this will certainly fit the bill.

I think at this point I expected to be more sold on the series than I am. Will I pick up Hammered at some point? Probably. Do I feel in any rush to do so? Not really.

That said, I completely get why this series is as popular as it is though, and I do think that if you liked the first book you should give this second one a chance.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: Now