2020 was a rough year and most of us used video games as an escape. While we were all in isolation, I was eagerly awaiting a game. Persona 5 Royal was set to be released by the end of the month. It’s an enhanced rerelease of the vanilla version with significant additions and changes. I was absolutely ecstatic. Luckily, I was fortunate to be able to safely purchase it. I’m so glad I was able to as well because I was going through a difficult time. The loneliness had hit me harder than I had initially expected. So, I dove headfirst into this fictional Tokyo and after 234+ hours, I’ve emerged. And I enthusiastically proclaim it was amazing. Let me explain why my crazy ass thinks so!
LOOKING COOL, JOKER!
The game opens with a masked man rushing through a casino. His comrades communicate with him through an earpiece, revealing his name to be Joker. As he attempts to get away, enemies intercept him at every turn, but all their efforts are for naught. He bursts through a window but as he lands, lights shine upon his person – the cops surround him. Unwilling to relent to them, Joker jumps, grabbing a ladder before climbing. Safety appears in reach, but strategically placed officers greet him. They step on his fingers and cause him to plummet to the police below.
Persona 5 Royal is a fantastical tale that takes you between reality and the cognitive world. A myriad of incidents dubbed mental shutdowns ravage a fictional Tokyo. Civilians are dying in inexplicable ways, sending a shockwave of fear through everyone. You’ll take control of a band of teenagers, each with a secret – they all have Personas. By harnessing the power that these entities bestow, they vow to change the hearts of those who have sinned. You’ll face culprits with crimes that include: murder, exploitation, greed, and sexual harassment. Will the deeds for justice go unnoticed, or will the cops be the death of Joker and his friends?
I can’t ignore the immense effort put into fleshing out and realizing this universe. The sheer amount of detail had me awestruck. In my personal life, one thing I enjoy is people watching. It sounds creepy, but I love to listen to their feel-good stories. In Persona 5 Royal, my odd habit lives on. I overheard women discuss relationships, and men talking about maid cafes. I know most find this kind of dialogue mundane, but I’d argue that it helps the world feel lived in. Every NPC felt alive, and that went far in assuring that this Tokyo felt like a breathing city.
Now, I’ve always thought crisp writing lends itself to immersion. Persona 5 Royal proves that theory to be accurate. When I’d banter with my friends, it felt familiar. I‘d go on dates and it felt authentic. Each character oozes personality and that made them all so believable. They weren’t simply polygons; they had an innate ability to draw me in. I felt emotions I wasn’t expecting to. By the end of the adventure, I legitimately felt like I lost someone. It felt empty in the pits of my stomach, and that’s not something I can say many games have done.
Something I‘d like to stress is that while you’ll find clichés, Atlus made it their own. Those chosen heroes are assuredly teenagers, but the thread that binds them is unlike most in this genre: trauma. As I’ve eluded to already, this game delves into several dark subject matters. There’s implied rape, suicide, slut-shaming, and even depression. It’s a risk to tackle these topics, but that gamble is the reason Persona 5 Royal is so impactful in my opinion. And the development of the characters is beautiful.
EVOLVING AS A PERSON!
It’s disgustingly difficult to discuss narrative without spoiling anything. I’m going to try because I have to illustrate just how much growth is actually here.
Fairly early in the game, I met a teenage girl named Ann Takamaki. Upon meeting her, I immediately noticed she seemed reserved. It was obvious in conversations that she felt like a burden to others. If she was challenged, she grew flustered as she doubted herself. It was clear Ann-chan was struggling within. Despite any efforts of mine to help, she’d be defensive and dismissive. As the game progressed, I got to witness her growth. That absence of faith in herself slowly began to recede as her confidence excelled. She had become a whole new person by that point. Ann-chan had experienced so much turmoil at the start; but by the end, she was freed of it.
WILL YOU GO OUT WITH ME?
Encased in this slice-of-life JRPG, there’s a dating simulator of sorts. While there are no traditional routes, you’ll still be trying to win the heart of a lady. The choice to be monogamous or polyamorous is yours. If you really wanted to, you could cheat and date several. In my playthrough, my baby girl was none other than Ann-chan. Her sassy wit and loyalty to her best friend attracted me. We went on dates and had dinner together. Eventually, we even professed our love for one another. I was ready to commit until I met her; the new girl in town – Kasumi Yoshizawa.
We’d hang as friends and we’d talk about her past. It was during our eighth time together that she admitted her love. When I heard her words, I was torn. I didn’t know what to do, but I did ultimately turn her down. Ann-Chan and I were already a couple, so I couldn’t betray her. It feels silly to write because this is a game and there‘re no consequences for my actions. If I really wanted, nothing is stopping me from having multiple sweethearts – a harem. However, I got to know Ann-chan and felt I had bonded with her. Furthermore, I just couldn’t put Yoshizawa-san through anything after what she had confessed. Let that sink in; I had a morality crisis due to data. These aren’t real girls and yet, I genuinely couldn’t be that guy. This is a testament to how truly special the writing is.
MEETING NEW FOLKS!
In the midst of a stellar JRPG and romance, there’s also a high school simulator. I could attend classes, hang out with my friends, or even study. These activities aren’t just asinine fluff either. They’ll go into one of the plethora of mechanics that Persona 5 Royal has within it – social stats. There are five in total: Charm, Proficiency, Knowledge, Kindness, and Guts. These can be used for many things such as buying from a sketchy store. What they’ll primarily be used for is to progress your relationships with particular individuals. Or as the game puts it – your Confidants.
There are many of these to meet, and each is assigned a specific arcana. Confidants will be integral in granting various perks. They include: instantly defeating enemies without initiating combat; enhanced battle tactics; or giving the inactive party members experience. Every arcana can reach a high of rank 10, with the methods of doing so including story progress, the aforementioned social stats, and much more. There’s even one that’ll allow you to perfect what amounts to the most addictive part of Persona 5 Royal – the fusion.
GOT TO CATCH THEM ALL!
A key feature of this franchise is the ability to capture a wild persona. To do this, I had to negotiate a deal to recruit. To do this, I needed to pander to their assigned personality. That’s right – each one has a trait that needed my attention. These drove you in the direction to be successful. For example; if an enemy is timid, giving either a vague or funny reply would only anger it. As a result, they’d escape and you’d lose your chance. If I were to be kind, the reaction would be much more favorable. It endeared itself to me before joining. I’d then return to The Velvet Room – it’s an accessible area from the beginning. It’s here I’d utilize those captured beings for the fusion process.
I absolutely adored this mechanic and it’s very possible a quarter of my time was spent here. There’s just something truly addictive about being able to essentially play God and create life. Not to mention how fun it is to combine and experiment. The following amalgamation would then be able to inherit the abilities both parents possessed. Basically, I was able to pick and choose what passive or aggressive skills I wanted my persona to have. It was that sheer level of customization that had me distracted. While JRPG’s are known to have ultimate equipment unique to each individual, Persona 5 also has the ultimate persona. They will only be obtainable through this method so I certainly suggest playing around with it. What’s more, you can cater this all-powerful to your liking by ensuring the best abilities go into it through the benefit of inheritance.
MY PERSONA HAS A TYPE?!
I’ve touched on Confidants and a bit about their purpose. I mentioned that each of them has an Arcana exclusively tied to them. Now I want to go in on how these individuals connect with any of the personas in your possession. To explain this efficiently, I‘ll use the Moon arcana.
If a persona I’ve created from fusion is of the Moon persuasion, the rank of the person will reflect the experience earned. In other words, if my rank with this guy or girl is 10, whatever persona I create that matches will receive a huge bonus. This adds more reason to want to get to know the various confidants. And that’s on top of the outstanding writing and fleshed out back-stories. Honestly, I can’t understate how fantastic the development is in this game – and it doesn’t only apply to the main characters. I’ll give two examples:
- You’ll eventually befriend a doctor that’ll have you partaking in drug trials. Each time you do, you’ll uncover more about her. You’ll learn of her motivations, and discover a past of lies
- During your travels, you’ll come across a politician. A soul that follows the classic tale of redemption as you learn of some corruption in his youth
With a total of around 20 confidants, there’ll be a lot to learn. What’s great is that I never found myself rolling my eyes. I never felt like the stories were cliche to the point of being groan-inducing. This is worth it alone for the narratives, with the fusion perks being a nice bonus.
A FORESHADOW OF MYSELF!
I’m back into talking about the story but that’s what I do. As an amateur author, I absolutely love seeing how the professionals do it. One thing I struggle with is how to foreshadow. It’s very difficult to not have it be obvious. Persona 5 Royal not only nails it but makes it look easy. I want to talk about a specific one. Again, since I’m against spoiling anything, I’ll be as vague as possible.
Around the middle of the game, there’s a small scene that initially seems to be a throw-away. It’ll be of yourself and your friends casually chatting. Eventually, you’re joined by an acquaintance of sorts. They’ll comment on the subject that you’re all conversing about before moving on. The reason I consider this foreshadowing is an already established point. It contradicts what’s happening, albeit in a subtle way. I didn’t pick up on it at first because it blended so seamlessly. I was oblivious so once it was revealed, I shook my head. In hindsight, it’s actually painfully obvious. I can only conclude that the story had me utterly distracted.
THIS GAMEPLAY IS INSANE!
Traditionalists of JRPG’s will feel at home. Persona 5 Royal includes roaming dungeons with your party in tow and purchasing better weapons. I loved the variety of stores, and really related the inclusion of arcades or book stores. To be able to rent video games to raise social stats was quite realistic. Books help you to be more kind, gutsy, proficient, and so on as well. It’s also an activity to do while commuting to school. Again, these things come off as mundane but in-game, they‘re given significance. I’d actually get excited whenever an event popped up since it meant an increase – those social skills can be a slog to max out.
As far as battle mechanics are concerned, this isn’t free-flowing action. Instead, it’s a classic turn-based approach that some might not be on-board with. You’ll have options to melee, use items, run, utilize your persona, or shoot your gun. It’ll also provide you with time to plan your next move. One nice quality of life addition to this enhanced version is your ammunition is now replenished after a fight. It used to require a trip to a save-point. Because of this tiny change, I found myself using guns more in comparison to the vanilla Persona 5. Why this is noteworthy is because a lot of monsters are weak to bullets. By targeting their vulnerabilities, it’ll stagger them, allowing you to unleash a powerful move known as “All-out attacks”. Your active characters jump into the air and utterly decimate your foes. This will also be the opening to interrogate your enemy.
KASUMI AND A WHOLE LOT OF NEW!
As I’ve already established, Persona 5 Royal is an enhanced version of the 2016 classic. With it also comes new features; some of which I’ve talked about prior. One thing I haven’t mentioned is the brand new third semester. This focuses on Kasumi Yoshizawa and fleshes her story out further. The incoming revelation that she plays a part in blindsided me – to the point I audibly cussed. In our chats, she’d share her struggles and past. I took what she told me at face value and concluded one thing. After learning more though, that was upheaved. What she had previously said began taking new meaning, while still making sense in context.
There’ll also be the addition of another brand new character aptly named Doctor Maruki. He is a social worker with the councilor arcana to compliment his job. It’s he and Kasumi that’ll play an important role in unlocking the third semester. Unfortunately, this will require specific steps, meaning that it’s missable. That isn’t something you want to hear after sinking several hours into any game. Fortunately, I’m going to help you out with that. This is how you can ensure you get to experience the new content, as well as a post-credits scene;
- Councillor Arcana (Doctor Maruki) must be Rank 9 before 18th November
- Faith Arcana (Kasumi Yoshizawa) must be Rank 5 before 18th December
- Justice Arcana (Goro Akechi) must be Rank 8 before 24th November
My recommendation is to concentrate fully on these three.
There’s more added to Persona 5 Royal too: revamped palaces, new personas, a new area of town for you to explore, a grapple hook and more. I won’t go into detail because I want you to have something to look forward to.
CHECK OUT YOUR STYLE, JOKER!
Persona 5 Royal simply oozes finesse. All of the character models and environments are vibrant and crisp. There are tiny flourishes of color mixed in like the splash of purple each time you walk. Even the loading screens have charm, with it mimicking the busy lifestyle of Tokyo. Instead of a generic black screen, it’ll resemble whatever scene you’re transitioning from. For example; doing so while in the city will show silhouettes of people walking across the screen. In the same vein, doing so in the subway will mimic the interior of a train with several individuals inside. I felt it was a clever way of pleasing your eyes while also keeping you engaged.
One other aspect I’d normally gloss over is the menus. I can’t help but wonder what sort of genius came up with it. As I chose between equipment or setting up personas, the image of Joker in the background would move. His actions were snappy and never complicated, but it added so much to an otherwise often ignored section. Persona 5 Royal will actively seduce your eyeballs and by the end of it, I felt violated. The animations are unsurprisingly smooth. Every bit of movement is fluent; every motion is like butter being spread on freshly made toast.
SOUNDTRACK OF A LIFETIME!
I don’t think I’m remotely qualified to tell you how spectacular the OST is. It was effortlessly able to amplify the emotion in scenes. Persona 5 Royal achieved euphoria with a beautiful blend of jazz and lyrics. During those slice-of-life sections, the music was soothing and docile. I felt an immense level of calm and relaxation, especially when it rained. What surprised me was how it altered my perception of songs that can motivate me. That marriage of sax, guitar, and bass had my blood flowing and adrenaline singing. A lot of dancing happened as my ears couldn’t help but smile. These songs had me enthusiastic to push on and even grind. Even months after I finishing Persona 5 Royal, I catch myself listening to the OST on a semi-regular basis.
A LOSS OR A “DUB”
Dubs tend to be frowned about in comparison to the Japanese voice work. Well, I’m happy to report that the English dub too is fantastic. It’s fluent and sounded organic. It never felt like someone was reading from a script. Conversation cadence always felt natural and concise. The only flaw I can think of is more of a personal preference. Dates don’t really have any voice acting and I feel it would’ve brought that to a new level.
Atlus made a stellar selection and every actor and actress did a great job. Their deliverance of each line had me invested. I’ve never wanted to hug a character more. On the opposite end, I also never wanted to punch one so badly. You’ll meet a smarmy teenager about a quarter of the way through. Just how they’ll talk down to you made me angry. Someone that has a lukewarm reception in terms of voice is Morgana. I may be one of the few to say this but I loved it. It’s both charming and matches perfectly.
IT’S CRACKED PERFECTION!
Nothing is perfect, and everything can always be improved. That goes for Persona 5 Royal too despite my unending praise. It’s important to note this is extremely nit-picky. However, I feel there are a couple of changes that would make this so much better.
The first has is the thing I called a masterpiece – the narrative has a blemish or two. The first has to do with relationships and dating. When you get a girlfriend, it’ll never be reflected in the game itself. That bond is only shown in designated sections. I think it would’ve added an extra bit of polish if the dialogue altered a bit based on who you were dating. It isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but it was a bit jarring to see your girlfriend consider you a friend despite professing her love a second ago.
My second gripe is a plot hole. There will be a certain character that’ll require a change of heart. Because Persona 5 Royal deals heavily with cognition, all palaces are based on the person it belongs to. It’s a neat idea, but the problem lays when the biggest twist of the story is a stretch. While you can make loose sense of it, it quickly falls apart once you think about it critically. I can’t say too much, and to be frank, most won’t see it. I didn’t when I first played Persona 5 in 2016. It wasn’t until Royal that I questioned it.
The third is how experience was allocated. For example, if a single battle grants 200 points but you have four party members, each will get 50. I felt this method complicated the simple act of grinding. While it’s a nitpick, I feel it would’ve been exponentially easier if each character gained the displayed amount of 200.
AND THE GAME OF THE YEAR VERDICT IS…
Persona 5 Royal is – despite my nit-picky cons – a masterpiece JRPG. It’s a classic title full of genuine moments of unadulterated bliss and smiles. The confidant system interweaves into several mechanics flawlessly. And the banter is a joy to listen to. Every relationship feels very authentic and immersed me into this fictional Tokyo. The narrative is sublime, and the fact that I struggled to cheat on data is a testament to that. Though, I do wish that the dating was a bit more fleshed out. Instead of only being in the relationship scenarios, it would have been cool if it extended to normal play. I found it a bit jarring to be referred to as a friend when I confessed my love moments before.
Persona 5 Royal is what a mature Pokémon would be. There are eight palaces in total, with a ninth added into this package – the league now awaits. You’ll find Persona have types in the guise of arcana. By raising the relationship with the confidant assigned to that specific typing, you’ll gain an experience bonus upon fusion. Because personas can inherit the skills of both parents, it’s even possible to create the perfect being.
JRPG fanatics need to add Persona 5 Royal to their collection. The character development and fearlessness to jump into dark and mature topics were appreciated. It took standard tropes and turned them all in their head. It’s visually stunning, and the music causes an ear orgasm. Atlus really paid attention and polished this four-year-old diamond, making it utterly and beautifully radiant. With the vanilla Persona 5 costing less, is it worth buying an enhanced version?
Yes – all the extra content is amazing, and the quality of life additions make Persona 5 Royal the definitive version. The only conclusion is;
PERSONA 5 ROYAL IS A MUST BUY
If you enjoy Persona 5, then perhaps you’d like our review for Persona 5 Strikers.
Many thanks to my credit card company for helping me acquire this title.
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Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.