Review – Persona 5 Royal (Switch)
IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK! – Introduction
My name’s Fernando, and I’m hopelessly obsessed with Persona 5 Royal; this is my story. In 2016, when I was 27, I experienced the first release of this gem, putting 120+ hours into it. During that time, I made friends and enemies. I even fell in love with a girl named Ann-chan. I maintained my purity, though, never lusting for her. Then, in 2020, at the beginning of the Covid era, an enhanced edition was unleashed, and I’d devote a further 230+ hours of my life. By this juncture, loneliness began setting in – I caved, sliding into Ann-chan’s DMs. As we hung out, we’d confess our adoration for one another. Alright, I might have gotten irrationally invested. Yes, I’m weird. Despite sinking an accumulative 350+ hours, you bet your ass I’m chuffed as hell to return to Shibuya. Also, I’m sorry, Ann-chan, but Kasumi-chan is my boo now. We’re over.
STILL A MASTERCLASS! – Writing
Without hyperbole, Persona 5 Royal is brilliantly, gloriously, and majestically written. Hell, it doesn’t matter what synonyms for greatness I use because they’re all goddamn accurate – oh, it’s that friggin’ good. The concept of jumping into one’s cognitive perspective of their surroundings has me smitten. Essentially, as people, our view of the world differs from individual to individual. For instance, my home is my castle, meaning if my heart’s infiltrated, my inner sanctum takes the form of a palace. Sure, this idea isn’t exactly a foreign one, but I can’t ignore the execution expertise. I’m simply giddy over how imaginative the narrative is. Of course, one facet that proves divisive is the tsunami of details early on that’s meant to set the stage. It’s almost indulgent, and I fear the excessive reading required might be a turn-off for some.
To be precise, 60% of your session with Persona 5 Royal consists of being bombarded by dialogue bubbles. The game can be pretty heavy-handed with information, and that’s a complaint I often hear. Yes, while a lot does get said, especially at the start, that time is wisely spent laying a foundation. Sure, I can acknowledge the action is sluggish to heat up, but for us English nerds, this is a wet dream. I’m introduced to the protagonist, Ren Amamiya, and immediately, it establishes the circumstances of his school transfer, first impressions of his legal guardian, and meeting two essential characters: Ann Takamaki and Ryuji Sakomoto. Realistically, the gameplay won’t begin until one or so hours later. By that point, however, the hooks sink in and never let go. The intrigue starts to boil over, overflowing and bleeding out the wounds until the credits roll. No exaggeration – the storytelling is phenomenal.
Naturally, this title wouldn’t deserve the Persona moniker if it’s continually ponies and glitter. That said, be forewarned that there’s a hefty helping of dark subject matter slathered on the bread of this literary sandwich. It’s making me a chubby boy, too, because I’m eating it up. Of course, be aware that this JRPG’s rated M for Mature because of the myriad of sensitive topics – suicide, implied rape, and sexual exploitation are only a couple of themes explored. Abuse is a focal point, and for that reason, it might be challenging to watch some of these scenarios unfold. As someone suffering from awful mental health, scenes depicting depression hit me particularly hard, but that’s where the magic lies. Moments have their impact significantly boosted because of how visceral they feel. I could sympathize, and that’s worth its weight in gold.
SUCK ME IN, BABY! – Writing
Alright, I have a confession to make; I very much enjoy people-watching. I know that’s creepy, but I find it strangely relaxing to hear laughter or random chatter. That said, imagine my glee when I saw my habit immortalized in Persona 5 Royal. I can listen to the discussions between NPCs and hear about their mundane day. Yes, what I learn is inconsequential to the plot, existing only to flesh out the world. In that regard, it does a damn fantastic job of making this fictitious Tokyo feel robust. There are also side-quests intrinsically tied to eavesdropping – I appreciate the justification for my oddities. Now, the reason I’m highlighting the above is it heavily, and I do mean heavily, contributes to immersion – everything feels solidified. Hell, the café Ren resides at has this potent warmth, filling me with an immense sense of peacefulness.
Okay, I’ll be honest; it’s been disgustingly brutal gushing over the story without spoiling it. With that out of the way, man, the character development is otherworldly – I’m beyond impressed. What helps wrap it nicely in a bow is how smooth everyone’s evolution is. There isn’t a morsel of feeling forced or haphazardly done. Everything is meticulous, and because of that, it’s absurdly easy to step into the shoes of either Ann-chan, Ryuji-kun, or Kasumi-chan. It was so very intriguing to watch their personalities begin to change based on the events that took place. The way their replies dictated their growth was believable too. I emphasize relatability because I can easily empathize with them all. I was always on the edge of my seat, eager to see what was next.
GET TO KNOW ME A LITTLE! – Writing
Frankly, I can count the JRPGs that left me sorrowful upon finishing on both hands – Persona 5 and the enhanced Royal edition occupy two of those fingers. The most significant factor as to why is the superb cast of characters. Listen, parasocial relationships are common in this day and age. I’m not someone that gets attached to public figures, and yet, here I am, forming a bond with a bunch of polygons which is arguably worse. The back-and-forth between Ren’s friends oozes realism. Their banter is especially noteworthy for how true-to-life it is. Basically, it’s wrapped snugly in a blanket of authenticity, helping these piles of 1’s and 0’s feel like skin and bone. How they pester or get into saucy situations, such as calling an adult maid service, reminds me of my childhood. I’m years removed from high school, but Persona took me back.
Now, there’s no hiding that Persona 5 Royal bathes in clichés. I mean, within minutes, it’s abundantly clear that the saviours of this fictitious Japan are teenagers. However, P-Studio approaches this trope with a unique spin, tying everyone together with trauma. The backstories that await are heartbreaking at best and meaningful at worst. No matter what, there’s always a degree of emotional weight to the words. What’s more, every single situation is grounded in reality. Sure, there’s a healthy dose of fantastical elements, but the way it presents ideas deserves an ovation; even stereotypes utilized come across as fantastic. There’s the intelligent student, gamer, athlete, rebel, artist, model, and the girl from a wealthy family – it’s like a sitcom. Once I finally got to the finish line, goddamn, there was an emptiness in the pit of my stomach. It honestly felt like I was saying goodbye to friends.
CALL ME, MAYBE?! – Writing
The blood, sweat, and tears put into ensuring that everyone is given distinct mannerisms is mind-blowing. This aspect truly shines when courting a potential partner – the hormones are raging. As I’ve already established, Ann-chan was my main squeeze in my second session. I found her loyalty and sass captivating. We were happy, too, until suddenly, our union was put into jeopardy. I began chatting with Kasumi Yoshizawa, marking the start of a love triangle – it split me. Now, nothing prevents me from jumping into a harem of pretty ladies. The thing is, I couldn’t cheat. Both she and Ann-chan had been through hell with their respective lives. Let that sink in; I had a morality crisis because of these fictional girls. Hell, I felt utterly horrible at the thought of being a douche. Needless to say, my girlfriend wasn’t blonde this time around.
I do have a minor, albeit extremely nitpicky, gripe with dating. See, the game won’t recognize any deep connections. It doesn’t translate them into the story. Instead, any relationship I cultivate is treated like an afterthought. Despite having poured my heart out, once I’m back to jumping into cognitions, the love is retconned, and a platonic camaraderie replaces the romance. It’s a slight blemish, but shows an absence of cohesion – I’m momentarily taken out. Sure, Persona 5 Royal does manage to lasso me in again, but for a brief window, my immersion weakens. It’s jarring to witness whoever I’m courting fawn over Ren one second, then show no affection the next. As separate routes, though, they’re bloody brilliant. It was simply pleasant learning about their backgrounds in such an intimate way. I just wish these moments of bliss were acknowledged.
A BIT OF A GREEN THUMB! – Writing
We have to discuss the foreshadowing because while it’s well done, there’s a catch. The subtlety is intense, demanding I stay laser-focused. A few examples only actually crossed my radar with this third go around. Upon seeing them, I was amazed – my eyes were wide, and my mouth was agape. I even audibly swore before chuckling at the realization of the genius from P-Studio. There’s an insane number of seeds being planted, sometimes secretly, that heightens the appeal of replayability. You see, generally, JRPGs are a one-and-done affair. Persona 5 Royal nonchalantly convinces me to jump into New Game+, though. Yeah, I’m aware all the twists and surprises are nonexistent. Despite that, there remain many tiny stealthy bells and whistles. I must give kudos and applaud the effort because it’s awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, it’s also a double-edged sword.
Regrettably, it’s that seamless river of information that opens up a plot hole. Late into the title, during the turning point, a climactic reveal left me bewildered. When I saw it in 2016, I didn’t dwell on it because the intended unexpectedness still hit me. It didn’t ruin anything, and, truth be told, it’s possible to make loose sense of it all. Even without any apparent breadcrumbs, I could somewhat formulate a sensible explanation. The mishap lies in the need to think critically about character roles. I had to concentrate on all the pieces before they’d start to mesh. While I enjoy a thought-provoking romp, the inadequacy of planting the seed may deter a casual audience. Then again, I highly doubt folks care about a negligible disconnect. Since you’re unaware of its position, it’ll likely go unnoticed. The reason I saw it is that I’m a snob.
A SHINY NEW TOY! – Writing
With Persona 5 Royal being an enhancement, there are disparities to the vanilla version. They range from an additional dungeon to a grappling hook, giving this package substance. I’m not going to divulge much else, though. I rather you, the reader, dive into the extra goodies blind. Activating it does require specific steps that, if you aren’t privy, can lock you out. In that case, I got you:
- Doctor Maruki must be Rank 9 before November 18th
- Kasumi Yoshizawa must be Rank 5 before December 18th
- Goro Akechi must be Rank 8 before November 24th
I highly suggest building these three bonds ASAP. Whenever they become available, drop everything you’re doing and hone your energy into hanging out. Trust me; it’s worth it. The revelation that kickstarted the third semester had me spewing out vulgarities in shock.
MAKING NEW ACQUAINTANCES! – Gameplay
If I were to quiz anyone on why they dislike Persona 5 Royal, one mechanic stands chief among the rest. The regularly cited culprit is Social Stats – Kindness, Guts, Proficiency, Charm, and Knowledge. It’s pretty inoffensive, but does have a few unappealing traits. You see, half of Persona’s gameplay loop borrows elements from the slice-of-life genre, following a similar structure. It operates on a timer disguised as a calendar, with events slated to occur on set dates with zero leeway. When partaking in the various activities that bolster stat values, the day whizzes, coercing you into a balancing act between maximizing them and preparing for the next dungeon. As an unfortunate side effect, it also creates unnecessary stress. What’s particularly bothersome is the increases happen at a leisurely pace and can become demotivating. Sadly, there’s another side to this feature that might prove iffy.
The second divisive inclusion is locking progression behind improving said stats. Rest assured, as it never does disrupt the core storyline. However, when it comes to bettering rapport with your teammates, well, that’s a different ball game. Basically, if you’re becoming closer to one of your friends and desire to deepen that connection, you may find a minor prerequisite. For example, maybe a specific amount of charm or guts is required. It sounds frustrating, and yes, I concede it is, but it’s never detrimental. Besides, as I’ve already extensively covered, writing is fantastic – I was always anxious to see upcoming conversations. I also took any stop gaps as a sign to nourish my other friendships. If I plan it right, it’s possible to rank every, as the title refers to them, Confidant. Doing so brings nifty perks, too, that happen to correlate with a mechanic I’m obsessed with.
Before I get into that, it’s imperative I highlight the methods that help bolster social stats. Plainly put, there is a mess of avenues to trek. For instance, after hanging out with a couple of select Confidants, they might reward a very paltry increase to either. It’s definitely nothing to write home about, but it’s yet another rationale as to why it’s pivotal to mingle with friends. There’s also a wide variety of banal tasks with the same effect. It can be that some mornings, you have the opportunity to read a book that benefits whichever stat resonates with the contents the most. Perhaps you rent a film or video game – proof that neither is useless. What particularly tickles my fancy bone is that when it’s raining, studying gets a boost due to the serene ambiance of droplets. Persona 5 Royal nails reality, and the attention to detail is insane.
GOTTA CATCH’EM ALL! – Gameplay
You know, no one’s going to tell me that Persona 5 Royal isn’t just a Pokémon title for adults. Before crucifying me, consider that a central mechanic depends on recruiting the titular Persona fought in the wild. Catching them isn’t dependent on chucking balls, though. See, targeting the enemy’s weakness downs them into a vulnerable state. Once that occurs, it’s time to strike – I hold them at gunpoint before negotiating their accompaniment. To achieve a successful coup, I must adapt my replies according to their mood. If they’re Timid, being vague or funny will spark hostility, prompting combat to ensue. It’s a concise system and a neat little notion, but I have a slight qualm – I couldn’t discern which answers were what because everything reads so flatly. That means locating the correct choice devolves into trial and error.
Point blank: there’s something genuinely addictive about fusion. In fact, I reckon half my session was spent experimenting. You see, JRPGs are known for their ultimate weapons, but with this title, there’s an ultimate persona, too. Both can only be obtained with this method. What had me infatuated was the freedom to determine what moveset mine would have in the end. By using inheritance, every cognitive creature can be taught techniques that are passed down. Rest assured, I was in complete control, meaning I could manually decide what I desired without relying on silly RNG. The ability to customize what passive and aggressive skills I threw on a persona was super fun. It adds strategy, too. With patience, I could turn Ren into an unbeatable powerhouse. This feature made stepping into uncharted areas thrilling, thanks to the possibilities.
To help further my Pokémon comparison, each persona has a typing, or, well, I guess the correct terminology is Arcana – they may be Sun, Moon, Hermit, or one of the various other options. It’s here that the previously mentioned Confidants truly shine. They’re crucial to unleashing the full potential hidden within these entities because they, too, have their own. If it so happens to align with the persona born after fusion, there’s a good possibility of receiving a hefty injection of power depending on your kinship with the respective character. I love this facet because it gives another reason to, aside from the immaculate literary prowess, not be socially inept. With a much tighter relationship, the persona will level further and learn every skill they’re capable of. It implements more customization choices so I can nail the perfect creation.
TRADITIONS DIE HARD! – Gameplay
Persona 5 Royal is a love letter to the olden days of JRPG gaming – traversing dungeons is done with your whole party marching behind. The battles themselves aren’t fast-paced; instead, they follow the tried and true turn-based methodology with attack order settled by speed. One facet that isn’t adopted is that pesky random encounter rate. Enemies are seen walking in the vicinity, meaning avoiding unwanted confrontations is your choice. Because you’re aptly called The Phantom Thieves, lurking in the shadows with stealth is feasible, allowing you to ambush. It’s agonizingly easy to pull off, too, making battles last seconds – to make things even faster, there’s this neat effect that mimics a fast-forwarding VHS tape, even with white static lines, speeding up the slaughter. Of course, one catch with this automated function is no magic utilization – be aware of persona with physical resistances.
So, grinding makes the majority groan, but a minority cheer. The thought of having to run through battles mindlessly is quite unalluring. Persona 5 Royal certainly requires you to do some still, but the way it implements it helps to alleviate that inherent tedium. You see, in an engaging turn, any time I had a level up, my eagerness grew. With each uptick achieved, a batch of new fusions was unveiled. If I have desires to wield the crème de la crème, my lethality has to see a buff. It was due to this nice incentive that I was blissfully taking part, even putting time aside specifically to murder at my leisure. The only gripe I have is the allocation of experience points. It’s a nitpick, sure, but if I’ve earned 200, it’s a tad daft to split it amongst everyone.
VISUALLY GREAT BUT… – Presentation
People tend to gloss over that vanilla Persona 5 was always meant for the PlayStation 3. It’s thanks to a wave of delays that it was eventually ported over to the next generation. I’m glad that’s the case because the visuals are a marvel on a powerful platform. On the Nintendo Switch, well, it’s excellent, but certainly has blotches. Resolution is a victim. Even on the OLED, colours have a muted appearance. The anti-aliasing is also hit or miss. The environments tend to have those uniform edges, but the character models don’t fare well – they have a jaggedness. Fortunately, it’s a tiny gripe that doesn’t distract from the tale it weaves. The reason for the washed-out aesthetic is, without a doubt, due to Royal making use of the full power of the PS4. I’m relatively confident only those coming from there will notice the difference.
Listen, I rarely ramble on menus, but I’m inclined to here. Persona 5 Royal is oozing finesse from its pores. Every transition is wonderfully animated with peanut butter smoothness. There’s even a smashing easter egg waiting to be triggered. As for the loading, I’m floored. It isn’t the run-of-the-mill tips or a load of pointless drivel. No, it disguises the wait by trying to replicate the facade of wherever you are. Depending on your locale, as the title is processing the next area, it populates the screen accordingly. If you’re inside a subway, it resembles the interior of a train. If I roam the streets of Shibuya, however, suddenly, there’s a slew of average folks. Sure, I agree that this is a big fat frivolous detail. The bucket of charm it dumps into a game swimming in it shouldn’t be ignored, though – it tightens the package.
SWEET MELODY! – Sound Design
If insemination is possible after blissful musings have penetrated the ears, I’m unmistakably pregnant. I mean, the soundtrack is sublime. Whether it was a song with stellar vocals or an instrumental, it always fits the situation. As rain fell, the keyboard presses were tranquil and soft. As I took up arms against a boss, the guitar riffs were catchy. If you threw on headphones with that heart-thumping bass, things were about to get real. I also want to shout out the exceptional Rivers in the Desert. It’s just a crying shame the song isn’t heard much more frequently. That sultry blend of violins with a beautiful voiceover to the beat is simply orgasmic. I’d catch myself singing, much to my niece’s dismay. As I lay in bed, my feet were rocking and jiving. Despite this being my third playthrough, I couldn’t help but have the cheesiest smile.
MIGHT BE A “DUB”! – Sound Design
Folks often write off English dubs, citing them to be stiff, inexpressive, or way too manufactured as a few reasons why. Persona 5 Royal manages to break the critiques by starring an incredible cast that not only delivers, but does so in spades. The fluent nature of conversations is fluid – it never once came across as them reading a script. The flow of exchanges kept a snappiness and did splendidly to immerse me more into their world. When it’s paired with the excellent dialogue, I was giggling with enthusiasm. A voice I can see posing an issue is Morgana and the grating nature of his high-pitch murmurings. His shouts, while I had earbuds, got loud. I did grow accustomed to him in no time, and I honestly never found him to be an annoyance. Still, it would be a disservice not to highlight his squeals.
AND THE COGNITIVE VERDICT IS…
Persona 5 Royal is the epitome of what constitutes a JRPG classic. It’s full of unadulterated moments of ecstasy. Literary prowess does a wicked job of nailing the mannerisms of teenagers. The addition of the voice talent did well to bring their kid-like demeanours to life. If my having played through three times isn’t proof enough of how special the game is, I evidently have awful taste. Since I’ve now enjoyed it on both a console and handheld, I can unequivocally say the latter platform is best. Hell, it made my session feel new. My addiction to the fusion aspect also benefited from lying down in a reclined position. Rest assured as there’s a staggering amount of content I neglected to discuss. There’s also an avalanche of quality of life adjustments that make this version the definitive way to dive in. Without a doubt, buy it. Now.
Thanks to the aesthetic and having originally been on the PlayStation 3, not too many sacrifices had to be made. Apart from the lower resolution and brightness taking a hit, everything is great.
It’s old school and I love it. Of course, it’s also going to appeal to certain people. Battles may be turned-based, but they are streamlined to be fast. Choosing commands is snappy and exploring dungeons is a blast. I can also make coffee in-game, pushing the score to 11.
It’s breathtaking in just about every way.
I have played on three separate occasions and I loved each one. There’s something truly special about the way the mechanics marry together. I love their cohesiveness. Thanks to fixes made to nonsensical calls from the vanilla version, I had a blast.
Final Verdict: 10
Persona 5 Royal is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Persona 5 Royal was provided by the publisher.