Here’s a bad thing about a very good video game: there are too many nights in Persona 5 where I want to go out on the town and improve myself and hang out with my sexy teen friends, but I’m not allowed, because a talking cat thinks I need some sleep.
Here’s how it works: there are a lot of times in this game when, having gone through a dungeon or hit a major story point, you end up back in your room while the night is still young. On normal days, the “Evening” phase of Persona 5 is a good time to hit the streets of Shinjuku or Shibuya, eat a giant burger, play some Shogi, go fishing or watch a movie.
On post-dungeon days, though, you’re barred from going out. Any attempt to leave Cafe LeBlanc, or even read a book inside it, will be met with absolute resistance in the form of Morgana, your talking cat sidekick, who will utter the words that will haunt most of the rest of your time with this game:
You must be tired after today.
Let’s go to sleep.
When these are uttered, you are barred from doing absolutely anything but going to bed. No study. No tool-making. No training. No games. Just straight to bed with you, boy, no arguments, and no supper either. In a game that’s all about choices and options regarding how you spend your time, every time Morgana throws on the shackles it’s a massive frustration.
Not just because you’re supposed to be playing a young adult who, at any other time in the game, is allowed to lock up the shop, have girls over, wander red light districts, visit bars and, you know, infiltrate people’s hearts and save the world.
But mostly because, like I’ve talked about before, Persona is a game about time. Namely, making the most of it. There’s a creeping pressure from the moment Persona 5 first begins that you only have a certain number of days before it’s all over, and no matter how slowly you walk around and linger over dialogue options, nothing can stop that calendar progressing.
So every single time you’re given the time to do something, you’re compelled to make the most of it. You agonise over spending time with Makoto (ok maybe not this one that’s an easy decision), or playing some baseball, or taking a bath, because all of it means something, and all of it is important and contributes towards your finite progress in this fleeting video game.
To be dropped in your room at a time when you can normally do something, then told you can’t do anything but hit a button and watch that calendar tick over one more day is agony, made worse if you remember Persona 4 and how it let you trade late nights for exhaustion. And it’s not an isolated occurrence! It happens a lot, all the way through the game, and each time Morgana says it you get angrier at his insistent little head and the lack of a dialogue option that says “um you’re a cat you’re not my mum go away.”
You can ignore Morgana later in the game, should you have chosen to get freaky and max your social rank with Miss Kawakami. Drawing upon her vast experience in maid work and messing around with school-age kids, she’s able to give you a “special massage”, which loosens up your tired muscles and lets you head outside after a dungeon run.
It’s a great ability to unlock, one of the best in the game, but it comes way too late to make that much of a difference, or to make up for the months of frustration beneath the yoke of Morgana’s authoritarian bedtime paws.
It’s not like this is an accident of design, either. Atlus knows we hate it, to the point where there are official Persona 5 t-shirts that look like this:
Look, Atlus, we appreciate the gesture. You’re without parents in this game, and your legal guardian always takes off home before the end of a day, so it’s nice having someone around looking out for you.
But this cat looks too much. We’re big boys in a big city doing big things. Sometimes we just want to stay up late and play video games.