Persona 5 is a really good game. It's also complicated and occasionally unforgiving, with a ton of rules to learn and systems to memorise. If you want to live your best possible year in Tokyo, you may want a little guidance.
Persona 5 does an OK job of explaining itself to players, but there are definitely some things it leaves for you to figure out. I've put together a list of tips I wish I had known going into the game.
I've broken them into several categories: general tips, socialising tips for how to make friends, school/daytime tips for what to do when you're not fighting monsters, and combat/dungeon tips for how to stay alive when it's time to fight.
Since I know people are extra-sensitive about spoilers with this game, know that there are no major story spoilers in this post, and I've kept character descriptions vague. I do explain most of the game's rules, however.
Persona 5 gives you lots of chances to save your game, and you should take every one of them. Obviously you should save every time you enter a safe room in a dungeon, or before a boss fight. But you should also save every night before bed, because you might wind up making a poor decision the next day and want to quickly reload and do it differently. There is no shame in doing that, and if you save often, you'll save yourself some time.
Use multiple saves.
I also recommend spreading your saves out across a couple of slots. The game gives you a bunch to work with. If you're anything like me, you'll probably use too many different save files at first, then rely to heavily on one toward the end. Flip back and forth between a few, just to make sure you can go back a ways and do things differently if you decide you want to.
Start on normal difficulty.
In general, the game's "normal" difficulty is well-tuned and appropriate for the average player. You can always kick it down to easy if you need to. I don't recommend starting on easy, though, and if you pick "safe" difficulty you won't be able to push it back up. Normal should be a pretty good starting point for most players.
Don't sweat your schedule TOO much…
Your daily schedule in Persona 5 eventually gets complicated, though it does ease you in. Six or seven hours into the game, however, you'll already be worrying about what to do on a given afternoon, and how best to optimise your schedule. My advice is not to worry too much, and to let go of any dreams of getting things perfect on your first go. That being said...
…but do sweat it a little bit.
Don't fully believe the "take your time" text at the corner of the screen, either. If you're not advancing a confidant relationship, you should be raising a stat or making progress in a story palace. Never go to bed early, or otherwise waste too much time. Keep in mind that you really do only have a finite number of days to see and do everything in the game.
Be aware that the story takes a while to get going.
This last one is just something to keep in mind as you're starting out, particularly if this is your first Persona game: This game takes a while to get going. The story hits the ground at high velocity, then reigns things in and has you go through the usual slow buildup. It can feel restrictive and even annoying at first. Give it time, and be patient. Before long you'll be drowning in things to do.
SOCIALISING WITH CONFIDANTS
Don't neglect your confidants.
An obvious tip, but an important one. In Persona 5, what used to be called social links are now referred to as "confidants." You should make advancing confidant relationships one of your top priorities. Not only does each confidant have their own side story, which helps you get to know them better, they will also unlock crucial combat abilities. You want to have as powerful a group as possible by the end, which means regularly socialising with everyone.
Buy all the books you can ASAP.
You'll have plenty of opportunities to read books in Persona 5, and many of those books increase your social stats like kindness and guts. Other books will unlock new date locations on your map, which can be helpful in raising confidant ranks later in the game. Many social options are gated behind certain stat rankings (e.g. "to go on this date, you need a 3 in Kindness"), so it's in your best interests to raise those as quickly as you can.
However, one of the best times to read books is when riding the train to school, and you never know when you're going to be able to snag a seat. Be sure to buy as many books as you can early, so that you have something to read, should you wind up with some unexpected free time.
Understand how confidant ranks work.
Sometimes when you hang out with someone, you'll see a short chapter in their personal story and then unlock a new confidant rank.
That doesn't always happen, though. It's still worth hanging out with someone even when your character tells you your relationship won't rank up. Take them to a certain hangout spot or give a certain dialogue response and you'll see one to three blue notes come off of their head. Those notes move you toward your next rank up, so you want to get three whenever possible.
Carry the proper persona before hanging out with someone.
Before you commit to hanging out with someone, make sure you're carrying the correct persona. Somewhere in your persona inventory, you want to have one persona of the corresponding arcana to the person you're hanging out with.
For example, if you're going to spend some time with Ann, be sure you're carrying a persona of the Lovers arcana. This can help you rank up much faster, so it's worth taking a trip to the velvet room to get the correct persona before you start socialising.
Give the right gifts.
Each character has their own preference for gifts, though it can be a little hard to tell who will like what. It's a good idea to pay attention to what they say they like, and to buy whatever gifts you can afford in your downtime. Proper gift-giving can advance a confidant link much more quickly.
You can find available confidants on the map.
It can seem a little tricky to figure out which confidants are available on a given day. Your map is more helpful than it seems at first. Press Square on a location on the subway map and you'll see which confidants are there, and whether or not they're ready to rank up.
Not all confidants are equally useful.
Some confidants give game-changing, powerful abilities. Others aren't as useful. Without getting into too much detail, I'd say the most valuable confidants are: The doctor, the maid, the shogi player, Futaba, Sojiro, and Yoshida.
You should also focus on whichever party members you wind up rolling with in your main combat group, just so that they are as strong in combat as possible. A couple of other useful confidants level up automatically with the story, so you don't have to worry about those.
SCHOOL AND DAYTIME ACTIVITIES
Pay attention in class -- there will be a test.
It's always a good idea to get the right answer when the teacher calls on you in class, if only because your knowledge stat will get a little boost.
But you should also pay attention to be prepared for exams, which come at the end of each term. Exams involve a combination of questions you've already answered along with additional information the teacher may have added when talking about whatever they asked you about the first time around. Pay attention to everything they say!
Poll the network during pop quizzes.
There is no shame in polling the network for the answers to questions in class. In fact, I already went through and got everything right, just to help you out. You're welcome.
Maths... what is it
Take the time to walk around eavesdropping.
Before you commit to an after-school or evening activity, take some time to walk around and listen in on conversations. You'll learn more about the world and the characters around you. Don't worry about time passing; until you commit to an activity, you have all the time in the world.
Feed your plant.
You've got a plant in your room, and you should remember to feed it as often as possible. You can buy plant food from a couple of stores in town, and feeding your plant is an easy way to raise your kindness without losing a block of time.
Watch TV every night.
You can also watch TV every night without losing a block of time. Definitely do so -- not only will you learn more about current events, you'll occasionally be asked quiz questions that can raise your stats.
Buy stuff from the shopping channel.
Occasionally Morgana will remind you that the home shopping channel is having a special. Go to the TV and you'll have a chance to get some dills, dills, dills! I always bought whatever it was that was for sale. Even if it wasn't something I knew I needed, it was rarely expensive enough not to be worth it.
You will forget to return DVDs.
You're gonna rent some DVDs in Persona 5, and you're gonna forget to return them. Don't worry about it too much. It happens to everyone.
Apply for every job, but don't do them until you have a reason.
You can find the job signup flyers in the underground walkway in Shibuya. (Look for a flyer stand, it's a little tricky to find at first.) Sign up for every job you can, but don't do them until you have a reason to. There are some specific reasons to do jobs in order to further sidequests, and you might as well not waste an afternoon on a job until you really need to. You can generally make a lot more money in dungeons, anyway.
You can read books at the café bar.
If you desperately need to raise a stat, you can always spend an afternoon or evening reading at the bar at Le Blanc. I actually didn't realise this was an option for a while, but you just have to walk up to the bar and pick a book.
Be sure to craft lockpicks.
It's a good idea to take some time to craft lockpicks for yourself -- you should always have at least three on hand, since locked treasure chests always have the best items and gear. Make sure you have enough materials to make up to three lockpicks each time you begin crafting.
Keep current on Mementos.
I never quite found a way to fit Mementos into my in-game schedule, but I was glad that I kept exploring it at regular intervals. Usually I'd wait until I a story mission deadline had almost arrived, and I was long since done with the palace. That's when I would power through a bunch of levels of Mementos, ideally clearing out a bunch of requests at once.
COMBAT AND DUNGEON CRAWLING
Get as far into a palace as you can in a single go.
Just for the sake of time management, I recommend approaching each palace visit with the intention of getting as far as you can in a single shot. Sometimes you'll have to stop for the day for one of a variety of story-dictated reasons, but in general, try to get to a new safe room in a new area before you quit for the night.
I beat most dungeons in two or maybe three goes, and took down the later ones (once I'd bought items that replenished my SP in combat) in a single push. Think of it this way: the faster you clear dungeons, the more time you have for socialising.
...or, fine, you could just relax, whatever.
OK, though, I'm also going to throw this out there: it's totally valid if you don't want to marathon hours-long dungeons just to have another day or two to min/max your social life. If you don't want to do huge chunks of a dungeon at once, the game is generous with how many days you have before you get a game over. You do you.
Manage your SP carefully.
In Persona 5, your characters have HP (HP) for health, and SP, which they spend performing spells with their Persona. HP is easy to replenish, and HP-restoring medicine and food is pretty cheap.
SP is much harder to get back, so it's important that you make decisions based around saving SP whenever possible. That means killing enemies with physical attacks when necessary, and spreading out spellcasting among your whole party.
It's easy to get into the habit of just using your main character's many Personas to hit enemy weaknesses, but he'll quickly run out of juice if you do that. Spread your spells out and keep an eye on those SP gauges. (More on SP conservation a bit farther down.)
Always begin fights with an ambush.
You can begin fights the normal way, by pressing "attack" on an enemy. But you shouldn't do that unless you absolutely have to. Instead, come at an enemy from behind and press X to attack. That will give you a huge advantage in combat, and you can usually chain together attacks on each enemy's weakness so that you can do an all-out attack in the first round.
You're completely hidden when in cover.
Persona 5 may look like a traditional stealth game at first, but it isn't. As long as you're in cover, you cannot ever be seen by an enemy. Even if it walks past you and comes back up from behind. If you're in cover, you're good. So stay in cover.
Sometimes it's wisest to run away.
If you're in a tough fight and getting your arse kicked, it can sometimes be wise to just flee. That gets easier as you unlock certain Confidant abilities, but you can run from any fight other than one where you were ambushed by an enemy.
In particular, if you're trying to get to a boss with full SP but have some ordinary enemies in your path, you can just run from every fight on your way to the boss room. Nowhere is it written that you must fight through the same clutch of enemies for the tenth time.
Buy upgrades for your main party before each new story Palace.
At each new story juncture, new gear becomes available for purchase at the airsoft shop. It's generally a good idea to upgrade every chapter or two, though be sure to go through the items you get from chests to make sure you're not buying duplicates.
It can be a pain to manage your inventory in Persona 5, but if you do it effectively you'll save money while maintaining a team that's always ready to do some damage.
Don't worry too much about buying guns.
Melee weapons and armour are important to regularly upgrade, but I don't really recommend spending too much cash on guns. I mostly found guns to be useful for staggering enemies who were weak to gunfire.
Since you can't get more bullets in a dungeon, you'll want to save bullets for staggers. Even a weak gunshot attack will cripple a enemy with a gunfire weakness, so it's not worth paying to upgrade.
Pick your party members based on the enemies you see.
I generally rolled out in two formations: One group for bosses, and one for the palaces itself. Your boss configuration may differ from mine (I went with Ann, Makoto, and Morgana), but while getting to the boss, it's best to be flexible. Each floor of a level will feature four or five different enemies, and you should base your party makeup on their weaknesses.
Switch up your party to save SP.
As the game progresses, your party expands. It gets easier to swap out party members, even in combat. It's a good idea to do so, especially if you're trying to go for a long pull in a story palace.
While you generally want to keep a party that will do well against the enemies on a given floor, you can also just sub out characters who are running low on SP if you think it will get you across the finish line without having to go home.
Take the time to use healing items, rather than auto-heal.
Persona 5 adds a helpful "auto heal" that you can trigger in between fights to replenish your party's HP without dealing with any menus. However, it pulls from your Persona abilities, which means it drains a small bit of SP.
If you have a lot of healing to do, take the time to use items instead. You'll accumulate a ton of healing items over the course of the game, and it's easy to leave then unused.
Get SP regen accessories as soon as you can.
Each character in Persona 5 can wear one accessory, which gives some sort of buff or resistance. You can also eventually get "SP Adhesives" from the doctor at the clinic near Le Blanc.
These slowly regenerate SP each turn in combat, and they're really useful. Once I got four for my main party, I was able to clear some of the final dungeons in a single go. One viable strategy for SP regen is to leave a single easy enemy standing, then have everyone in your party block while their SP meters slowly fill. The more you advance the doctor's confidant link, the cheaper the adhesives are, too.
Don't sweat using single-use items that regenerate SP.
As you begin to amass SP regenerating items like coffee, you'll naturally want to save them. Don't be too precious about them, though. Better to save time in the dungeon than to end the game with a ton of cold coffee.
It gets easier to make SP items toward the middle and end of the game (be sure to advance the maid social link), so don't be afraid to use one if you think you need it.
Study an enemy's skills to guess its weakness.
Midway through the game, you'll be able to scan enemies and see their powers, even if you can't see their strengths and weaknesses. If you're fighting a new enemy, you can usually study their powers to make a few educated guesses about their weaknesses. One dead giveaway is if an enemy has an "evade" ability, like "evade fire."
That almost certainly means it's weak to fire, so get flamin'. Dark, skull-covered enemies are probably weak to bless, while angelic enemies are sometimes weak to curse. (Bless and curse are actually a little weird sometimes, so don't hold me to that.) You get the idea.
Take Persona crafting at your own pace.
Honestly, I don't have that much advice when it comes to fusing Personas. Here's what I do: every five or six levels, I go to the velvet room. I make a few Personas based on the highest level I can craft, and how many good abilities I can get to carry over. I try to make Personas so that my main character has every major damage type. That's about it.
Some people I know fuse every Persona they possibly can, just to build up their registry. Some try to capture every Persona in every dungeon. If you want to pursue the twins' confidant rank, I welcome you to do so. I can't offer you any more specific tips here, unfortunately, because high-level Persona fusion just isn't my jam.
Get Ice and Fire personas ASAP.
OK, here's one specific fusion tip: get ice and fire Personas for your main character as soon as you can. It will be a minute until you have party members who can use those abilities, and they're both good to have in the early goings.
Grab Personas near the start of a palace.
I didn't get too into negotiating with downed Personas -- nine times out of ten, I do an all-out attack. However, the best time to get personas is at the start of a level. That's because the minute you take on a new Persona, you learn all of its strengths and weaknesses. Makes it much easier to fight them down the line.
Try to remember each persona's strengths and weaknesses.
Occasionally, particularly in Mementos, you'll take on a sub-boss that's basically just a powered up version of a normal Persona. Even if you have that Persona, the boss version's strengths and weaknesses will be unknown.
It still has the same strengths and weaknesses as its regular counterpart, however, so as long as you can remember the strengths and weaknesses of the regular Persona, you should be good.
Swap out party members who are weak to an enemy's moves.
Pay attention to your party members' weaknesses, and if you're going up against a tough enemy that attacks with that element, get them the hell out of there ASAP. Too many times I left Morgana in a fight against an enemy that I knew used lightning, only to have it hit his weakness and get a bonus round.
Even low-level enemies can quickly become a threat if they get to stack turns by exploiting your weaknesses, so don't give them the opportunity. It's worth sacrificing a turn just to get vulnerable party members out of the line of fire.
You get a warning before tougher fights.
Any time the game gives you an option to press ahead or "hang on a second," it's warning you that you're about to enter a boss fight. That's a good time to take stock, make sure you have the right Persona equipped (preferably one that gives a buff at the start of a fight), and that everything is in order.
Use your radar ability constantly.
The protagonist's "third eye" ability is crucial when exploring Palaces, to the point where you won't be able to progress past certain points without using it.
It's generally a good idea to constantly be flicking the button as you explore, particularly given that third eye illuminates the grabbable treasure that's lying around each level. That treasure adds up, so make it a point to find it and get it.
If you die to a boss or mini-boss, you get to restart the fight.
I was losing badly during an early boss fight and decided that rather than finish it out, I'd just quit the game and reload a save. Bad call! If I'd just let the boss kill me, I would have started over from the beginning of the fight, rather than from back at my last save.
Don't despair too much if a boss or miniboss kills you; you won't get kicked back to your last safe room.
Use elemental damage items to get a baton pass.
The baton pass is one of the most useful and powerful new skills in Persona 5. Hit an enemy's weakness (and advance to a certain point on your confidant rank) and your party members can toss their bonus turn to another person in the party, who gets a powered up attack.
It's useful in a ton of different ways, but here's one you might not think of: Over time you'll accumulate low-powered items that do 50 points of some specific elemental damage. If you wind up on a party member who can't hit any weaknesses, use one of those items, then baton-pass to a character who can hit a weakness.
It's a good way to get a chain attack going even if your initial party member doesn't have the right skills to stagger the enemy.
Pay attention to skills that "power up after baton pass."
There are a couple types of physical attack skills that say they power up after a baton pass. Use them! They really power up, and when combined with a defence debuff or an attack buff you can score massive damage on a boss or miniboss.
Save often in palaces, even if you have to backtrack.
For the most part, palace safe rooms are reasonably spaced out. You'll make it to a new area, and almost immediately there'll be a safe room off to your side. In a few places, however, you have to go a bit longer without a safe room than you really should.
If you feel like you've made significant progress and keep not finding a safe room, trust your gut and backtrack. It never takes all that long to get back to the most recent safe room, and it's much better than dying and losing a bunch of progress.
Don't forget about goho-m.
Speaking of that, don't forget that you have consumable items called "goho-m," which allow you to… go ho-me. They will warp you back to the last safe point.
I never used goho-m once during my playthrough because I more or less forgot I had it, but it would have made my life easier in the couple of instances where I decided I wanted to backtrack and save before pressing on.
That's a lot of tips! Hopefully they help you have a more productive and successful school year. If you have any tips of your own, feel free to add them below. See you in Mementos.