Disclaimer: This review of Persona 5 Royal was conducted using a code supplied by the game’s PR team. This does not affect my judgment of the game but is explained for the purpose of transparency. Also note, at the time of writing I haven’t completed the game, however, I have played 70 hours of the game. Again, this is explained for the purpose of transparency. Screenshots used are in Japanese as I forgot to take screenshots and these are all I could find so apologies.
Persona 5 is a game that I unfortunately missed out on back when it originally released back in 2017. I had seen my uncle playing it when I went to see him and the game really had me interested. However, as is the way of someone who wishes to review video games, I didn’t have time to play it myself. With the release of Persona 5 Royal in March of this year on PS4, I finally had the chance to play it!
What Are The Differences Between Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal?
Well, I’m glad you asked. The short answer is a lot, it is essentially a new game. The long answer is that some new features include (but are not limited to); a new character for the team, additional school semester, additional cutscenes, a new area to visit/hang out in, new Personas/enemies/weapons, and the Showtime moves. The full list can be found on this very detailed list by Push Square. If you haven’t played the game before, like myself, I see no reason not to buy Royal over the original.
What’s The Story About?
The story for Persona 5 Royal is told in a very interesting way. The story begins with Joker being captured by the police. He is taken into an interrogation room and thus the story begins from the beginning. Throughout the game, you will pop back to this interrogation, with the prosecutor asking you questions to prompt the next part of the story. It’s a very interesting way of telling a story, but for this game it works very well.
And so we are taken back to the beginning, to when Joker was wrongfully accused of assaulting a man. From here he is sent away to Tokyo, to live with a man by the name of Sojiro. With a criminal record, he is an outcast at his new school. Many students have heard rumours of the new transfer student, and have already made up their mind as to what kind of person he must be. The first night in your new home, you are introduced to Igor; a strange man who tells you you must rehabilitate yourself. Afterwards, a strange app appears on your smartphone.
You come across another outcast by the name of Ryoji. Shunned by the track team for lashing out at the coach, Ryoji finds himself in the same boat as you and so starts a friendship. On the way to school, you stumble across a strange castle. Inside you meet Morgana, a strange talking cat who begins to explain to you about what is happening. He explains of the Metaverse, and how this castle is called a Palace. It houses the twisted desires of one person’s heart and exists in a realm separate to the real world. By stealing the treasure within, it is possible to cause a change of heart to the person. They will then confess to their sins, and change their personality to become a better person.
The first palace belongs to the volleyball coach, Kamoshida. Rumours are he abuses the volleyball team, while also grooming some of the female students. So Joker and the team (calling themselves The Phantom Thieves) set their sights on stealing his heart and making him atone for his sins. From here the plot thickens. More people join the team, the Phantom Thieves become more popular and well … I can’t say much else without spoiling the plot. One thing I will say though is that this game’s plot gets heavy. The first palace alone deals with themes of physical abuse, grooming of underage children and attempted suicide. Not all of the palaces deal with such dark themes, but it’s something to be wary of. This game is not afraid to delve into the darker side of human life, but it handles it very well.
How Does It Play?
Persona 5 Royal seems to have some complex gameplay when you look at it from the outside. Yet, when you play the game you realise that it is in fact in-depth gameplay that consists of many small things forming a much bigger picture.
Let’s start with day to day life, as this forms a significant chunk of the game. The easiest way to explain this is that it is essentially a slice of life section of the game. You attend school, which isn’t as tedious as it sounds. After day one the game fats travels you there, and you don’t really do much. Sometimes you may have to answer a question, many of which I did not know the answers to. After school you can choose who to spend time with. There are many to choose from, and improving your relationship with them can help you in the Metaverse by gaining access to abilities and such.
You can also use your free time to increase Joker’s stats. Joker has certain stats, which influence how well you can do things such as talking to others. A higher kindness score opens up new levels of dialogue, and sometimes you can’t even discuss things with people without a high enough guts rating. Doing things such as taking on eating challenges, practicing your baseball swing or entering clinical trials can improve your stats. Correctly answering questions in class can also improve your knowledge stat. I highly recommend investing time in improving your stats as it really does help
The Meaty Stuff Of The Plot
But you don’t want to hear about day to day life in Persona 5 Royal, you want the meaty stuff. The palaces. It all begins once a target has been identified and their palace located. Each palace has a time limit, and you must steal the treasure before that time limit. It begins with infiltration. You must actually get into the palace. From there you explore the palace and eventually find the treasure. It isn’t as easy at that though, as there are shadows along the way. These are essentially enemies who patrol the palaces, looking for intruders. Get spotted, and the threat level of the palace will increase making it even harder to infiltrate. This can be lowered by defeating shadows or using an item.
Shadows themselves are, in theory, easy to fight. Each shadow has an element that it is weak to, some even have resistances to certain elements. By using the correct element against each shadow, you weaken it and it falls to the floor. From here you can launch a team attack. or talk to the shadow to gain its power. Trial and error is the only way to determine a shadow’s weakness, but once you have discovered it you can check again later via the analysis tab in battle (by hitting L1).
Shadows are fought in three ways. Melee attacks can be done by selecting the attack option, or you can shoot the shadow with your gun. Ammo is replenished after each fight, but once it is gone for that fight it is gone. The most effective way to defeat a shadow is to use your Persona. Your Persona is the embodiment of the soul essentially and is awakened in the Metaverse. Each of the team members have a certain element they can control, but luckily for us, Joker is special.
While your teammates are limited to one Persona, Joker can hold multiple personas giving you access to multiple elements to battle with. You can change your Persona once each turn, so be careful. Each Persona also has it’s own element it is weak to, thus making Joker weak to that element, so that is something to keep in mind. You must also monitor your SP level, which is the gauge you use to perform Persona attacks. Personas can even be fused together to make more powerful Personas, something which is a key part of progressing in the game.
Once you reach the treasure you must first make it materialise. This involves leaving the Palace and leaving the person in the real world a calling card. This card lets them know that the treasure is being targeted and makes it appear in the Metaverse for 24 hours. Once you send that calling card the only option is to steal the treasure the next day, so make sure you are prepared. What follows is a boss battle, each of which will have a different mechanic to it but the core principles for battle remain the same.
Once the treasure is stolen, next you play the waiting game. I tend to prioritise the palace over anything else, and so steal the treasure ASAP. At first, I assumed that this would trigger the change of heart sooner, but that isn’t the case. Regardless of when you do it, the change of heart will not happen until the deadline. Now while this may sound tedious, I actually found this time very useful. I would strengthen connections with my companions, and boost my stats ready for the next palace.
Later in the game I would spend this time exploring Mementos. Mementos is an area in which you tackle smaller change of hearts, such as that of school bullies. You can also wander around fighting shadows, thus farming XP, items and cash. A very useful area and one I’m having to use to level up and beat the palace I’m infiltrating at the moment.
Graphics & Audio
Persona 5 Royal is a JRPG, meaning that it has an anime art-style to it. This is something that interested me the most about the game. I am a massive fan of most things Japanese, and so there may have been a bit of bias in the beginning. Pushing that aside, assuming you don’t detest the art style of anime, the game looks absolutely amazing. Everything from the HUD display to the all-out-attack end screens when an enemy is defeated. The showtime moves I mentioned before are also brilliantly done. These are special moves carried out by two characters when a teammate is in danger, to help finish off the enemy. These are well animated and reflect the relationship between the two characters perfectly.
In terms of audio the game is once again, perfect. The sounds in the game perfectly reflect what is happening in that situation. The music is extremely catchy, and I have found myself humming the battle music for the past two weeks on and off. Even the little things in Persona 5 Royal are well done, and help to add to the atmosphere of the game. The sombre music when discussing some of the darker themes of the game, the sound effect when you ambush an enemy. It all adds together to make an amazing experience.
So, should I buy it?
If you haven’t been able to tell throughout this review, I absolutely love this game. The fact this review is so late should be proof of that. In from downtime from working, I have done nothing but play this game. I have become obsessed with everything about it, and I feel safe in saying that Persona 5 Royal is definitely in my top three games of all time. Persona 5 Royal gets my first ever 100% score.
Persona 5 Royal is a perfect JRPG experience. The in-depth story, mixed with exciting combat and interesting mechanics make for an unforgettable experience. An absolute must-play for fans of JRPGs or RPGs in general.