by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Persona 5 Royal's multi platform release is one of the largest announcements that came out of the 25th anniversary celebration, and is the second mainline Persona game to make its way to Steam, about a year and a half after its sequel Persona 5 Strikers had a multiplatform release. If any gamers haven’t seen my review of said sequel and don't fear potential spoilers, the link is here.
Royal is a 2020 rerelease of the 2016 game Persona 5, with plenty of additional content including an original story commonly dubbed 'the third semester', an unlockable extra series of events that didn't exist in the original release of the game. Even back when Persona 5 was a Playstation exclusive the charm and style of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts had the attention of many a gamer, so the chance to play it on your favoured machine after all this time has got gamers eager to either return to Shibuya or cross paths with the Phantom Thieves for the very first time.
Persona 5 Royal immediately showcases an 'in media res' beginning, showing the Phantom Thieves in the middle of a heist at a gorgeous, opulent casino. When things go wrong and the leader, Joker, is taken captive it is hinted that there is a traitor among the Phantom Thieves that has sold them out. This leads to an interrogation where Joker is told to explain everything and leave no details out, causing the game’s calendar to rewind backwards from November to April when Joker first arrived in Shibuya, a major ward of Tokyo. This beginning catches the attention of players immediately, the gorgeous music and visuals, the Phantom Thieves themselves, and the titular Persona power on display in the turn based battles are all promises of things to come as time passes and gamers move through the story.
Slice (And Dice) of Life
The gameplay of Persona 5 Royal is primarily made up of two different categories, which compliment each other in surprising ways: The ‘slice of life’ oriented Shibuya where Joker goes to school and explores the town, and the dungeon exploration and turn based battles of the Metaverse, a strange world made up of the cognitions of humans- with those who are particularly corrupted by desires having their own sections dubbed Palaces.
In Shibuya, Joker is treated to a relatively normal life, struggling to balance his very limited time, most primarily in an attempt to raise his social stats (Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness, and Charm) or to further his bonds with his Confidants, characters of importance in his newfound life who are emblemized by cards from a Tarot Deck (Joker himself is the Fool for example, while newfound chum Ryuji Sakamoto is the Chariot). Social stats allow for Joker to impress and charm his Confidants and even unlock new ones, while forging bonds with Confidants allows for new opportunities, boosting the powers of Personas with a matching Arcana in the tarot deck and even providing new skills and abilities for Joker to make use of in and out of the Metaverse. Time is limited though, and Joker typically only has a max of two 'actions' a day, one that takes place after school lets out and one that takes place in the evening before bed. Most Confidants can only be ranked up during the Afternoon slot, and that’s also when missions to the Metaverse have to take place- which leave Joker tired and limit what he can do in the Evening.
Within the Metaverse meanwhile, Joker leads his team through sprawling dungeons, solving puzzles and ambushing enemies, leading to turn-based combat where enemies are probed for weaknesses- being hit by a weakness or critical hit knocks down someone in battle be it friend or foe, and if all enemies are downed it allows players to perform an All Out Attack, a flashy and powerful move that deals incredible damage.
Not a Sprint, but a Marathon
Something that can be seen as either a flaw or a selling point when it comes to Persona 5 Royal is the length. According to some sources the average length of a normal, non-100% file is around 100 hours in size, which is a lot of exploring Shibuya or traversing Mementos. To some this is welcome, a meaty RPG to sink their teeth into- but to others it’s an intimidating scale that may cause people to hesitate to start particularly if their game-time is limited.
With that being said, this reviewer cannot recommend the game enough. Persona 5 Royal is chock full of amazing music, beautiful set pieces, wonderful characters, and a compelling story that makes its length feel almost too short, despite the opposite being true. Royal is worthy of its shimmering title, and is sure to steal your heart!
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A fully functional and incredibly enjoyable port of a beloved once-exclusive
Sheer Scope may intimidate players new to the genre/series