Atlus recently confirmed what players have been expecting since the release of Persona 4 back in 2008: Persona 5 is coming. Besides a bit of foreshadowing and setup in Persona 4: Arena, Atlus has revealed little about what this highly-anticipated sequel is going to be like. Nevertheless, these last few Persona games–along with Atlus’ history as a developer—give some clues as to what to expect. Here there be speculations; you have been warned.
Because of how important the Social Links have become to the fans, Persona 5 will almost certainly have a similar system, likely with some tweaks. The system will not be exactly the same because Atlus tries new mechanics in every game, using the standardized demon/persona designs as a method to unite their games on a visual level while also cutting down on production time and costs. In fact, under normal circumstances, it would be safer to assume that they wouldn’t reuse the Social Link system at all. Since it has become such an established and defining characteristic of Persona though, they will have to keep it in at least some form.
Related to the Social Link system, fans will likely see a refined time system. Players of Catherine who spent a fair amount of time in the bar might have noticed how time passed in small increments as they conducted conversations and such. Because the passage of time was just marked with a small audio cue and people periodically leaving in the background, the system felt more natural than how Persona 3 and 4 had to shoehorn all passage of time into huge blocks. The time system used in parts of Heavy Rain could also be an influence. In the more extreme cases, petting a cat or using a capsule machine could take all afternoon. Such an expansive system could be quite daunting and explain the long development time. However, someone at Atlus apparently has an obsession with using time as a mechanic to facilitate player choice, and they have already gone to ridiculous lengths in Persona 3 and 4 to make such an expansive in-game schedule of activities.
The Persona summoning and fusing will always be in Shin Megami Tensei games, so it’s safe to assume it will remain. Atlus really needs to keep the fusing system of Persona 4 in which players actually get to pick which abilities are passed-on in fusion; anything else would be a step backward. All that randomizing abilities did was make people waste time “rerolling” ability inheritances instead of actually playing the game.
Persona 5 will probably have a new cast with cameos from older characters, maybe even making a couple of them possible party members a la Persona 2. The organization that Mitsuru Kirijo sets up between Persona 3 and Persona 4: Arena–Shadow Operatives–will almost certainly be a major player, and there’s a strong chance that the party will be a part of said organization. In keeping with this, the player characters would probably be older, perhaps college students or young professionals similar to Vincent and his friends from Catherine. The high school setting of previous Persona games is starting to feel “been there, done that” and needs to be livened up with a change. If this new game has a larger scale than Persona 3 and 4 and involves any significant amount of travel, older characters would make more sense as well.
A larger scale would make sense, considering the promised return of the mysterious Malevolent Entity from Persona 4: Arena. Judging by his immense power, knowledge of the Midnight Channel and Nyx, and his generally sadistic demeanor indicate that he is likely Nyarlathotep, The Crawling Chaos. Absent since Persona 2, Nyarlathotep is the main villain of the entire series and archnemesis of Philemon, master of Igor and The Velvet Room. If Nyarlathotep makes his return, then Philemon might make a return as well and provide some more insight on how the overall mythos of the Persona universe works. The developing story of Elizabeth and her abandonment of the Velvet Room should provide insight as well.
After the smash success of Persona 4 Golden, Persona 5 has a tough act to follow. Some refinements to the established formula are likely, but overall, the game will probably have a lot of new ideas, going by Atlus’s track record. All Atlus has to do is deliver the quality gaming experience that they have so reliably produced thus far, and Persona 5 will be a worthy game.