Starting a new RPG series can be overwhelming, what with all the new fighting mechanics to learn and items to wrap your head around. Combine that with a slice-of-life, dating sim component and it can be easy to see why the Persona series can be a little intimidating to newcomers. For those of you who didn't buy Persona 5 on day one and are planning to play it in the future, have no fear! Here is a fairly large list of pointers on how to make life so much easier for yourself when playing Persona 5, particularly if it is the game you've played in the entire series.
None of the tips below give away major plot points, but needless to say if you wish to avoid any information about Persona 5 at all and want to go it completely alone, what in Igor's name are you doing here? However, I do appreciate that there are varying levels of spoiler sensitivity among gamers, so where I think some advice may give too much away for some people, I've wrapped it in spoiler tags.
General game mechanics
To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, you regret 100% of the times you didn't save. In Persona 5, you have the relative luxury compared to earlier instalments that a simple press of the Options button allows you to save almost anywhere outside of dungeons, except for during cutscenes. In Palaces and in Mementos, you can save fairly regularly compared to the positively archaic saving rules in Tartarus in Persona 3, so grab hold of every opportunity to save with both hands. There are no words to describe how grating it is to lose a solid hour of play time which then has to be painstakingly repeated, just because you decided to skip a Safe Room on a whim.
This is closely linked to point 1): it can be tempting to push your protagonist and his team forward for just one more floor, one more bout of exploration or one more big boss. However, much of the skill in playing Persona involves pacing yourself correctly and knowing when your SP is so low that you may as well wait for another day. My personal rule of thumb is that if the list of achievements on leaving the Palace is going to scroll a fair amount, or if I've levelled up more than once (particularly in earlier parts of the game), then it's OK to throw in the towel.
If my protagonist is almost out of SP and I'm not under any time pressure, then it's generally better to save the rest of my exploration for later than to leak regenerative items. After all, getting KOed multiple times in the same area can be enough to sour the game for a good few days, and is it really worth ruining the experience for myself because I got greedy?
Persona 5 is a good game. A very good game indeed. And it's a lean game; it's a thin slice of bacon stuck in a George Foreman for 10 minutes, while your average RPG is under-cooked fatty back bacon smothered in lard. So, if you feel like you have to go back to the beginning of a level to find something in order to progress the story, this means one of two things: you've missed a quicker path to the beginning of that level (e.g. a door that can now be unlocked from the other side or an air duct that can be crawled through); you've walked straight past what you were looking for. If you get the feeling that the game is asking you to travel all over the place and is becoming tedious, then either this game is not for you or you've missed your target.
Midway through the game, I got struck with either a Hama (bless) or a Mudo (curse) spell and that was it. Game over. A good 20 minutes of exploration vanished into the ether and I swore at my TV just a little. These nasty little incantations are insta-kill spells, and just because you get a Game Over if your protagonist dies, don't think that must logically mean that he is immune to their effects at Normal difficulty or even lower.
You can guard against this by being a defensive fighter. Tetraja is a handy spell to have at bay, since this neutralises insta-kill spells once. The Homunculus of yesteryear is not to be found, as far as I know, but a mixture of getting in there quick with finding weaknesses and shoring up your protagonist's defences, as well as having a bunch of revival items/spells on hand, should keep your bases covered.
If you're aware of Persona 3 or Persona 4, you will perhaps know players who rotated their teams to maintain a healthy, mixed roster, or who laughed at how their Yukari/Chie never progressed past Level 25. Those dark days are gone, as your unused team members are now considered as "back-up". If you play your Confidant cards right, you will gain the ability to swap out team members mid-fight, so you will want to do this strategically to exploit weaknesses prevalent in a particular Palace area (I wouldn't advise doing this enemy-to-enemy, since it wastes a turn) or to keep on fighting when certain characters are low on SP.
This goes without saying really for anyone but the most ignorant of the genre, but always try to have at least one or two healers on your team. Ideally, your protagonist would be one of these healers. As for which healer to pick, I would go for Morgana and/or Makoto. While Ann is a brilliant offensive player, she's a relatively weak healer until she reaches the very high levels. Morgana tends to be all or nothing, and packs some good revival spells; Makoto is a good all-rounder, hovering around the medium healing spells. I personally favoured Makoto until the 6th and 7th Palaces, when I started using Morgana much more frequently.
Obviously, losing health is a bad thing. However, if you have your team stocked with medicines and some good healers in your front line, you probably don't have much to worry about, presuming you keep yourself well levelled and have got the hang of combat. The more prominent issue most of the time is going to be SP. HP items are much easier to come by than SP items, even taking into account that SP items are more readily available than in previous instalments and are craftable; SP blight is still a problem.
Sometimes running low on SP will be an indicator that you need to stop, get to a Safe Room and continue your infiltration on another day. The exception to this is that once you get the "-dyne" spells in your repertoire, you're going to start bleeding SP like nobody's business. At this stage, if not earlier, I would advise equipping an SP-replenishing accessory to your protagonist. As with HP, an SP drought in a team-mate isn't a big issue; they can be swapped out or, in the case of Yusuke or Makoto, used as a battering ram. However, your protagonist being unable to cast spells can make it tough to get out of sticky situations unscathed, so tread carefully.
Feel free to shape your team according to whatever arbitrary criteria you please, since in my opinion it doesn't make a huge amount of difference to your combat results (though of course you should look out for weaknesses that seem to crop up in certain Palaces/sections of Mementos). All of the supporting characters have different specialties, which sync together fairly well, as long as you bear in mind the advice about having enough healers on your team and perhaps have a team-mate or two with revival/ailment removal spells.
My two caveats here concern Haru and Makoto. I think Haru is a bit of an odd character, since her Psy spells can either be supremely deadly or a pretty damp squib. She also tended to get knocked unconscious more often than my other team-mates. However, you will quite often encounter burly Shadows with Psy weaknesses, so she can be an absolute life-saver in the occasional situation. On the other hand, I felt that Makoto was a particularly strong team-mate to have, particularly when you unlock Freidyne. However, other characters such as Morgana combine -dyne spells, physical attacks and healing to good effect, so this might just be personal preference speaking.
While carb-loading and protein shakes might not harm your forays into Persona 5, what I mean here is that you should go for a good work-out of your team but also recognise when to rest. While you don't get tired from combat like in Persona 3, you should gain a good sense of how to pace yourself, even in the Palace itself. A good rule of thumb is that if you dispatch every enemy you come across the first time round, and take out a handful of respawns, you are safe to skip past other Shadows in your path. Of course, use your own judgment here and if you notice you're getting too little EXP from encounters, you're also safe to waltz past enemies.
Again, this is all common sense that applies to pretty much every RPG in existence, but it serves as a reminder that you can be overpowered in Persona, despite its reputation as a punishingly difficult series.
Mementos is very much like Tartarus in Persona 3: it's not the most fascinating of surroundings, it's almost hypnotic in its repetitiveness and it seems to go on forever. The game itself seems to do a bit of a wink-wink-nudge-nudge now and then with the comparisons. The trick is to see Mementos not as an endless maze to traverse to complete the Phan Site requests, but rather a training ground. It's an excellent place to go up a level or two, particularly since Palaces disappear after they've been completed, and it provides the perfect background for mining Personas and filling up your compendium. You obviously don't want to go down there every day, so it's a good idea to have two or three requests to complete in any one visit. Still, try not to see Mementos as a necessary evil, but rather as a nostalgic return to the Persona of yesteryear and an opportunity to make boss fights go much faster.
I am not kidding when I say you will be disgustingly wealthy by the time you finish the game. This, combined with the fact you'll want to rotate between all of the characters in the final Palaces, means that I would advise keeping all your characters kitted out in great armour, melee weapons and guns, even if you don't tend to use certain ones very much. I would also prioritise getting Dauntless Guts (4/5 on the Guts stat scale), because this will allow you to start the Hanged Man confidant, allowing you to upgrade your guns and obtain discounts in the airsoft shop. I never bothered washing dirty gear that I found, and I was so rich from keeping my inventory pared down and promptly selling treasure that I still had excellent armour.
The Velvet Room
Persona 5 doesn't mollycoddle you when it comes to registering your Personas; you have to check for yourself whether you are overwriting a prior record with stats that are better or worse. Particularly later on, you should be trying to manually register the relevant Personas after every save (ideally warping to the Palace entrance after every Safe Room visit) to help yourself keep track.
I would also advise diligently mining for Personas in Mementos and Palaces, even if it means acquiring Thoth or Pisaca over and over again. Doing so gives you a good stock of Personas to fuse for free, and means that you should only need to use the compendium to fuse very complicated Personas, get a trophy or two or right at the end of the game to go into the final boss battle armed to the gills.
Network Fusion is a neat new addition which allows you to gamble on one Persona per in-game day. You send off your Titania, Clotho or whatever into the universe and it is returned to you as a different Persona - usually one a few levels above your protagonist's level, but occasionally one that is a bit of a downgrade. Personally, I haven't lost out too much using Network Fusion, but I would advise playing it safe and using it to get rid of some lower-level Personas you may pick up through the "mining" tactic I mentioned above. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so you may as well give it a shot with something that's just taking up extra space in your party. This is a particularly solid option if you don't have the required extras to itemise your Persona (i.e. to fuse a leftover Persona with an item/skill card to create a snazzy new sword/axe/knuckleduster etc.).
I can't vouch for how possible this is in Persona 5, but past instalments have required a guide if you want to get all of Confidants done. In my opinion, this is not a game for staunch, unapologetic perfectionists, because you have to be ridiculously on your game to complete everything. Instead, try to max out a decent handful and go for middling results with the others. It's not vital to max everything for performance purposes, and you're just going to make the game needlessly frustrating for yourself. If you're desperate to see all Confidants maxed out, you have three options: use a guide, start a NG+ or look on YouTube.
Persona 5 is quite cruel with its romance Confidants in that the top-quality storylines tend to be locked behind skill requirements. Want to break the ice with Futaba? Too bad - you need to be some sort of Mother Theresa to chat about the weather, even if the story has already progressed to show she can be quite personable. Needless to say, this can be pretty annoying, so when the game urges you early on to study, take up challenges or visit the diner, don't shrug it off as a waste of time. Getting this down pat in the early months, when some of the more interesting Confidants are not available at all yet, is quite important, unless you want to pour time into a character only to get very little back.
In my opinion, the back-alley doctor Confidant is one of the easiest to progress in, as well as being one of the most fundamental. While maxing out the Temperance Confidant allows you to go out at night even when you've been to Mementos/a palace during the day, for example, swallowing all sorts of suspicious concoctions for a sullen emo who probably printed out her own medical licence is a shrewd move, opening up access to a discounted menu of powerful healing items. I would advise stocking up on these a lot, since they will save your skin if your healers are debilitated or you need to conserve SP.
The game will let you know when you talk to a Confidant whether the next interaction will level up the relationship or not. However, I would say you shouldn't ALWAYS be put off if a link requires extra work to progress. While spontaneous interactions and outings can nudge these links along for you, there is nothing wrong with spending time with a Confidant now and then simply to edge it closer to a higher rank; in fact, for some Confidants, it's the only way to realistically go about maxing them out. The key here is balance.
Likewise, don't just wait for Confidants to text first. While a text can be an indication to strike while the iron is hot with a particular Confidant, sometimes a relationship can progress on that day, but you don't get a text notification or you've forgotten that you were notified a few days ago. The best tactic, especially towards the end of the game, is to pull up your map, see where there is a blue playing card hovering next to a subway station, go there and check it out. You might be surprised as to how you spend your free time if you stop blindly following SMS prompts with no variation. Having said that, the game does give indicators as to the right direction to follow, so it's wise not to ignore all notifications - not out of a real danger the Confidant will reverse (I barely utter a word to Ryuji anymore) but because it's a hint that talking to that person would be an efficient use of your time, to quote Morgana.
One of my favourite early activities was the Big Bang Burger challenge, since even failure gives you a little stat boost. Winning its various stages pays dividends in the form of boosting every stat except Kindness, plus it's quite entertaining to watch Morgana grimace as your protagonist wolfs down on a whopper the size of his torso.
Pro-tip: don't blindly buy everything from the bookstore (though if you are swimming in money, buying a few unneeded books will have a negligible impact). Some of the books open up new venues for excursions, but you can easily open these up through stumbling on them in Confidant dialogue, too. If you have a book which sets out to introduce you to a part of Tokyo you've already unlocked, there are no refunds, and no advantages to be gained from owning the book.
For reference, the catchy Tanaka's Amazing Commodities jingle, which was present in both Persona 3 and Persona 4 but is sadly absent here.
Compared to the quirky Tanaka of P3 and P4 fame, the shopping channel in Persona 5 is surprisingly lacklustre. Not only that, but it doesn't quite stock the amazing array of weapons and healing items that prior games allowed you to order (which makes sense, given that Tanaka is the Devil Social Link in P3 - who knows what shady black market connections he had). However, there is still pretty much no reason not to make use of it, since the prices are very low compared to prior games, the goods are at least somewhat helpful, you tend to get a lot of units per order and particularly towards the end of the game, you will probably have money bursting out of every orifice.
Items also tend to come on a next-day delivery basis, which is remarkable compared to the week or so it would take for delivery to rural Inaba in Persona 4: is the P5 protagonist an Amazon Prime member, or is expedition of parcels to the boonies in Japan simply that shoddy? Who knows.
No, I don't mean that jobs in P5 are to be avoided like the plague; they are actually quite useful, just not for the purpose of earning shedloads of money. In fact, unless you're very early on in the game, chances are you don't NEED to work for money. However, certain jobs can lead to new requests in Mementos, the building of stats and even meeting a new Confidant. Jobs give you exposure and experience, rather than making you stinking rich - you are a thief, after all, so why would you need to be a wage slave?
Your teachers might have told you back in high school, when you were preparing for an exam, that there's no such thing as a trick question, so study hard. That is emphatically not the case in Persona 5. A number of the quiz items fired at you would have the most smug Jeopardy champion stumped, and it's quite the upgrade in difficulty from the questions you were faced with in Persona 3 and 4.
My advice here doesn't really amount to much at all, except for parroting what I've said in other areas - don't let yourself get worked up if you get a few questions wrong. The test at the end is largely a memory exercise (albeit quite a mean one, given that a lot of in-game and real-life time might have elapsed between each mid-term and final exam), so it shouldn't be too scary. You have two choices for the classroom scenes, when you're trying to find the right answers to the questions on the first try, so that you can memorise them for the exam and boost your Knowledge stat: cheat and look things up, or be at peace with the fact that getting 100% in a Persona game unaided is pretty much a lost cause.
If you want some idea of how to do your best, my advice would be not to jump at the first correct-looking answer you see, and take your time to read through all the options.
Phew! That was a hefty list! If you have any further advice for novice Persona players, please leave your tips and tricks in the comments down below.