The long-awaited, award-winning JRPG franchise, ‘Persona’ has finally made its way to Steam, Xbox Series S|X, and the Nintendo Switch platforms and I couldn’t be any happier. Finally, more and more people can experience what I would call a masterpiece.
Well, maybe a masterpiece is a bit much, but because of what this game accomplishes for me, I would say it’s at least close to that title.
Back in 2020, in an unprecedented move, publisher Atlus released Persona 4 Golden onto PC after what seemed to be like an eternity of waiting, we finally had gotten our hands on Persona 5 Royal. Atlus was not only freeing Persona from the shackles of the PlayStation hardware, but the series was coming to everything to boot! It seemed like only yesterday, thinking such a thing would never happen.
Atlus would never put their newest mainline title on anything but the PlayStation. But here we are at last!
Persona 5 Review
Persona 5 Royal is an expanded port of the original Persona 5 that was released back in 2017 worldwide. It includes key quality of life features, such as more time to work on your confidants, new bonding events, new characters, and, of course, a brand new story arc. Now, Persona 5 was famously (or infamously, depending on who you talk to) a very long game.
My first playthrough took me about 120 hours. Royal is a much heftier beast with its all-new side content and other knick-knacks included, making this the definitive edition of Persona 5.
Following an incident in the big city, the 16-year-old high school protagonist was cast off by his parents to live with a friend of a friend for an entire year while under probation.
Already an outcast around Shujin Academy, rumors began circulating about how the protagonist, later to be known as Joker, was this tough bad boy kingpin back in his home time.
It’s crazy how you, the player, can feel the weight of being in this outcast’s shoes at the start of the game, as you see numerous times of the constant talk and bickering about you by other classmates.
Strange happenings have been occurring around the city as well, such as a massive train accident occurring and political corruption on the rise. Throughout Tokyo, denizens talk among themselves of the country tearing itself apart or the lack of future it has.
But back to Joker’s first day at the Academy, he and a fast friend named Ryuji Sakamoto are transported to the Metaverse, an alternate reality formed from the collective unconscious of the various people dwelling in Tokyo. This is where they encounter their first Palace of many.
A Palace is a strong manifestation of negative and corrupt thoughts, fueled by a person’s aggressively warped feelings about the people and the world around them.
What dwells in these Palaces? Shadows. Shadows are the enemies in this game. Based on the numerous demons in the Shin Megami Tensai franchise, Shadows feeds off and protects the Palace’s ruler. The stronger a person’s warped desires are, the stronger the Shadows.
Back to Joker and Ryuji, they accidentally encounter one of these Palaces and the Shadows on their first day of school. Thinking this is all an elaborate setup, the two don’t seem to take this other world seriously… until their lives are on the line! As it turns out, in the Metaverse, their school has changed into this humongous castle ruled by their gym teacher, Suguru Kamoshida.
With everything on the line, Joker awakens to his power of Persona (the manifestation of one’s personality, used to facing hardship) and summons Arsène, the Pillager of Twilight. Now it’s time to strike back, as new members join your newfound group, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, to face this perverted teacher.
How do they take down such a brute? By stealing his heart, naturally!
…But what does that mean?
You see, in the world of the Metaverse, hidden deep within a corrupted person’s Palace is their heart, AKA their Treasure. This could be anything that a person holds dear to them. Everything they bet their livelihood on. Stealing this from their Palace will cause it to collapse and force the target to have a “change of heart” in real life.
And that’s the name of the game! As you, the player, progress through the game, rounding up new members for your cause, the Phantom Thieves slowly but surely change the hearts of crooked adults to fight against a society that has them trapped. It’s not easy, however, as more and more corruption builds up in the background of your journey as the cast learns just what it means to really reform society.
Did you catch all of that? Persona 5 Royal is jam-packed with information in the first few hours of the game. Honestly, I haven’t even touched on some other aspects, like the Velvet Room and Igor, who aids you on your quest through fusing Persona, creating powerful new allies, and various gifted thief tools to seize victory amidst the coming ruin.
Admittedly, it does take a bit for all of this information to sink in. Trust me when I say this, but the game is totally worth it. I myself have spent hundreds of hours absorbed in this universe, its setting, and, of course, its characters. There is something about this game that brings out a warm joy within myself.
Persona 5 Royal functions like a typical JRPG in battle. You have your regular attack button, elemental attacks (courtesy of your Persona), items that can either heal you or hurt the enemy, and your guard button. Where Persona really shines is in its life sim elements that completely change the way players experience the game. Let’s start at the beginning with the aforementioned life sim.
You see, Persona 5 Royal uses a calender system giving the franchise its own identity. The calendar starts in April and, depending on your actions in the game, ends sometime around February of the next year. This system offers a balance between daily life and phantom thievery, it’s up to the player to decide how they want to spend their day. While not every single day is playable in the game, Persona 5 Royal offers an unprecedented amount of freedom about what you can do.
You see, in Persona 5 Royal, you have what is known as social stats and there are five in total: Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness, and Charm. These stats increase depending on what you do throughout the day. Say, for instance, there will be times you can read a book you picked out at the library to increase your knowledge, or there will be a movie you must watch in the afternoon to increase your guts. These stats add another layer of complexity to Persona 5’s gameplay, as you need them to be able to initiate certain actions throughout the game. For example, to start as Makoto Nijima’s confidant, the game requires you to at least have a rank of 3 in knowledge.
Everything culminates into making the cast better phantom thieves. Hanging out with individuals, or confidants, gives incredible benefits to stats and thief moves and are pretty much required to do if you want to be the strongest you possibly can be. Not only do you hang out and talk with the various people you meet throughout the game, it is important for new features, such as switching out participants in battle or getting new types of gun attacks to take down your opponents. Additionally, your Persona grows stronger depending on the Arcana you hang out with.
And that’s another thing to keep in mind. The Arcana is the means by which all is revealed. What does that mean? Everyone Confidant you meet on your journey has either a Major or Minor Arcana. Pay close attention to these, as the Persona you use also shares them. For example, hanging out with the Moon Confidant will make your Moon Persona much stronger. As you dive deeper into fusing Persona, more and more fusion boosts will appear, rewarding you for making friends.
You’re probably wondering what you do while hanging out with certain confidants. Well, you, the player, act as sort of a guide throughout the various talks with your friends. You give them advice, coach them through hardships, and sometimes you can even fulfill requests for them as the Phantom Thieves.
What about the times when you don’t necessarily want to hang out with anyone though? Persona 5 Royal offers even more to do. There are days where you can go to the batting cage and practice some baseball, go fishing, play darts, hang out at a jazz cafe, eat monstrous burgers, play in the arcades, head to the gym and so, so much more.
Persona 5 Royal is an incredibly dense game and players will more than likely not get to see everything their first go around with how much content is packed into the game. It can be overwhelming at times, yes, but everything you do as the player, helps Joker and his friends overcome impossible odds at times due to how you play the game.
The music (is amazing)
This is the part where I gush about how great this game is. I’ve been waiting forever to talk about how great Persona 5 Royal’s soundtrack is. From the battle themes like Take Over and Last Surprise, to gripping boss themes such as Rivers in the Desert.
Rivers in the Desert
Just to note, Take Over was introduced in the Royal edition of Persona 5.
Persona 5 Royal is the one game where I am always tuning into the soundtrack. There is not a single track in this game that I hate… well, maybe one. Deep in the depths of the Metaverse lies a central, randomized dungeon called Mementos, which was a bit of a slog for multiple reasons in the original Persona 5, but the music was especially frustrating.
It tended to be repetitive and not all that engaging. Thankfully, Persona 5 Royal changes things up, giving us new tracks at certain points in the dungeon. This is a HUGE and welcome change that makes grinding in this dungeon much, much bearable.
Persona 5 Royal is an incredibly fun game filled to the brim with tons of content justifying its long length. However, while there is so much to unpack within the game, I would say the biggest flaw of the game is its narrative.
There are so many cases of bad or questionable writing that make you wonder, how did this get past the editing stage.
Freedom is a major theme in Persona 5’s world and it’s a shame that while the narrative is progressive at times, it’s constantly flailing in other places.
But is that really enough to drag down this wonderful game?
I would say that it depends on what you get out of the game. For me, while I do have issues with the narrative, I would be lying if I said it brought the game down for me. The way I see it, you gotta take the good from the bad, and what Persona 5 does really well is what helped keep me glued to this wild ride. I very much recommend picking up this title this holiday season to see exactly how much this game means to me.
|Amazing music||The game’s length may be off-putting|
|Tons of content outside of dungeon crawling||Some narrative and theme issues|
|Amazing new story arc introduced to Royal|
|Beautiful art style, outstanding and stylish presentation|
|Great quality-of-life features add flavor to an already classic experience|