Persona 5 Royal Review

Persona 5 Royal is a Japanese RPG developed and released by Atlus, in 2020, for PlayStation 4. Being a re-release of 2017’s Persona 5, Royal features new features, storylines, quality-of-life improvements, and characters. This improved version of the game echoes Atlus’ previous re-releases in the series: Persona 3 FES (2008) and Persona 4 Golden (2012).

In Persona 5 Royal, you’ll play as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. This group of vigilantes becomes known for erasing the distorted desires of villainous beings. As you live your daily life in the outskirts of Shibuya, Japan, you’ll hang out with friends, enter dungeons, and even play mini-games. The social link-building, well-paced gameplay, and epic music will surely charm fans of the genre.

When I played Persona 5 back in 2018, it introduced me to an immense world. I’ve never played something so stylish, so polished, and yet, so long. Spending over 100 hours, I found it to be one of the greatest games I ever played and finally understood the hype surrounding it. This past year, I’ve beaten both Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden and admit they’re easily as engaging as Persona 5. With that said, I knew it was time to return to Shibuya for another round with Royal.

If you want to view a quick list of updates and additions in Royal, check out the list here.

Story

Persona 5 Royal features the high school transfer student, Ren Amamiya, trying to live life after being convicted of assault. Sentenced to probation he now attends Shujin Academy as an exchange student. Living at Cafe Leblanc, he must spend a year away from home while trying to manage school and his life as the Phantom Thieves.

What I love about Persona 5’s story is its ability to touch on real-life social issues. Your first villain is a teacher/coach who commits sexual abuse against female students while bullying the students on his volleyball team. You’ll fight plenty of demons, shadows, and other mythological beings. But Persona 5 does a handy job of exposing the worst of society by reforming them and changing their hearts. Of course, it’s with plenty of humorous moments along with being dead serious.

What makes Persona 5 Royal’s story especially interesting is its gray morality. The Phantom Thieves become a hot debate in society as to whether their actions are righteous or illegal. It becomes even more complicated thanks to the third semester. If you unlock the right conditions, the third semester’s story will open up. This will bring you to an even grayer area on whether it is alright to rob people of their escapism in order to pursue happiness.

Character Design

Persona 5 offers a colorful cast of appealing characters. Engaging in their social links allows you to develop your relationship and help them solve their life problems. You can even enter romantic relationships with them. The game’s writing brings the player close to the characters with such clever writing as to immerse them in the story. Their pain is your pain.

I love the character design just for how well-animated the characters are. I’m especially fond of Morgana for your being the occasionally smart-assed, sensitive cat friend. Amidst the heroes, villains, and those in-between, you’re bound to find characters you bond with. Also note that, even with as much dialogue in the game, the game cleverly paces it with strong writing.

I should also mention that one particular character received outstanding character development. While their story expired late into the original Persona 5, the 3rd semester brought forth their inner, true self in the grandest way possible. It turned a character I strongly disliked and spun a complete 180 on them in the best conceivable way.

Aesthetics

Persona 5 features gorgeous animations and visuals. It offers a robust, stylish, UI, smooth battle transitions, and feels wonderfully polished in every possible way. Persona 5 Royal now offers 4K support for PS4 Pro as well. The battle animations, anime cutscenes, and portraits breathe life into the game.

Persona 5 Royal_20200308234501

Persona 5 Royal also boasts an exceptional soundtrack. Jazz, rock, and J-Pop all meld together perfectly. Shoji Meguro also composed for Persona 3 and Persona 4 and now brings a more smooth jazz style to P5. Honestly, this could be the greatest soundtrack I have ever heard.

Gameplay

The turn-based Persona gameplay continues its traditions here. You can attack, cast spells, gun down your enemies, and even hold them up. What I love about Royal includes some of the new improvements. You no longer need ammo for your guns, you can unleash powerful Technical attacks, and it features the new Showtime abilities which are both powerful and incredibly flashy. These become your finisher attacks that occur during a desperate situation and work to even the odds in your favor.

Persona 5 Royal rewards players who pursue building their social links. It’s incredibly beneficial to boost them with party members and NPCs alike. Whether it’s to add to your battle repertoire or so party members can shield you from lethal attacks, this game rewards the notion that you go out of your way to care about your allies.

The calendar system progression offers you a set amount of days to complete all your tasks. Knowing which social links to manage becomes entirely up to you. In fact, you choose how to spend every day of your life. Whether you want to boost a social link or boost a social skill, you can talk to allies, eat at restaurants, or even invite them to mini-games. The level of variety in this game offers you a bevy of fun activities with the dialogue that goes with it.

Also, while Persona has a history with randomly generated dungeons, Persona 5 added Palaces. These feel more like your traditional dungeons which feature puzzle-solving elements. As Phantom Thieves, you’ll also engage in stealth gameplay while you hide from and ambush Shadows.

Mementos, the randomly generated dungeon, also features a complete overhaul. In addition to new songs playing at deeper levels, you meet a new character – Jose – who shows up as a merchant. You’ll collect flowers and stamps in order to buy items and boost your EXP, Money, or Item Gain in Mementos. This alone makes it a major step up from the previous release’s Mementos.

Value

Persona 5 Royal is important for the JRPG fan, the Persona newcomer, and even the Persona 5 fan. Newer fans will certainly appreciate one of the greatest JRPGs out there while veteran Persona 5 fans can unearth dozens of hours of new content. Royal features a full-on story expansion that offers new social links, mini-games, activities, unlockables, and an entire third semester.

This comes along with various improvements to battle gameplay, exploration, and the abilities you gain. To be honest, I found Persona 5 to already be a near-perfect game. Doing the unthinkable is to polish it and add more to a game I already valued so highly.

If I had to say I had any gripes with Persona 5 Royal, it’s that it can admittedly become too easy. Even if you download the DLC Personas in the Velvet Room, that alone is not enough to break the player. You’ll still need to be on your toes so you don’t get one-shotted or ambushed.

However, strategic management of social links will allow you to gain these high-level Personas sooner. Meanwhile, your continued support of your allies, especially NPC social links, will grant you abilities that will significantly boost you against powerful enemies. By the time I finished the third palace, I was playing on Merciless difficulty and died only a small handful of times.

Despite this, Persona 5 Royal offers a level of flexibility that can enable players to become godlike or even balance their challenge. While you can, in fact, become quite broken partially due to DLC Personas, it’s entirely up to you whether you choose to or not. Even then, you will surely face challenging bosses and need to keep your guard up from enemies who can KO your protagonist in a fell swoop.

Final Thoughts

I cannot say enough good things about Persona 5 Royal. It might be quite possibly the greatest JRPG, if not the greatest game, I have ever played. The 172 hours I spent immersing myself in this experience is among the greatest I’ve ever enjoyed in a game. I’ve played countless hours of other JRPGs, including Persona 3 and 4, and I’m not sure if anything will ever be possible to top this.

Nothing feels quite as immersive as getting to live as your character, indulge in social links, and invite them to play darts or pool while boosting your stats along with them. Everything you do grants incentive and rewards the player. This includes anything from building social links to implementing battle strategies. The gorgeous, shiny graphics, the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies you, and your daily life brings immense levels of world-building within your little corner of Tokyo.

Overall, this is a must-play for any RPG fan including, again, those who played the original Persona 5. The amount of content far surpasses the price tag while the quality improvements raise the bar to the highest possible standard. With that being said, I hope you will enjoy this game as much as I did.

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History Lesson: Persona 3, Persona 4, and Atlus’ Localization Changes

With the recent releases of Catherine: Full Body, and Persona 5 Royal, developer Atlus fell under scrutiny due to notable censorship of these two fabled titles. In the case of Catherine, a bit of controversy emerged from dead-naming a trans-female character. In Persona 5 Royal’s case, Atlus chose to change a scene where Ryuji got hit on by homosexual men. This created outrage from various sides of the fanbase to include responding by boycotting the game.

While many fans of Atlus’ games got their start to the series with Persona 5, their past titles showcased scenes that might be deemed “not kosher” in today’s political climate. While Catherine was originally released in 2011, and Persona 5 came out in 2017, Atlus deemed it necessary to edit the re-releases’ scenes to acclimate the changing internet culture. One example of these past titles includes 2007’s Persona 3. I’ll outline a few scenes that, while some viewers may find innocuous or humorous, might also raise a few eyebrows.

Persona 3

During a trip to the beach, three of the male characters decide to go on a “babe hunt.” This means they will flirt with women on the beach in hopes of getting a date. While their first two attempts end up getting blown up in their faces, the third option starts off successfully.

The scene begins at 5:06 when Akihiko and Junpei make their pass at a woman. All is going well until Akihiko points out what is implied to be a stray beard hair. This outs the character as trans. However, while the identification itself isn’t so much noteworthy, she also comments how close she was to snagging a “boy-toy.” This implies the character to be promiscuous and predatory, seeking to date someone and trap them.

Persona 4

In the month of June, three male characters once again go on a “babe hunt,” this time in the city of Okina. While their efforts end with their rejection, one character seems to get catfished with the number he got. The number he calls belongs to a classmate, Hanako Ohtani, who is morbidly obese and unattractive.

At 14:00, you’ll meet the girl who follows the stereotypes of “selfish, ugly, fat girl.” She suddenly invites herself to Yosuke’s bike and breaks it by jumping on it.

Days later, you meet her again on a camping trip. She’s unwilling to share her massive portion of food and snores loudly at night. At 7:14, Yosuke asks her for food, only to be turned away. At 14:21, the snoring ensues.

Also note that the Persona wiki deems that there is another overweight character in an earlier game, Persona 2, who’s said to be treated more sensitively. However, if you look through the gallery, you’ll notice that she ends up losing weight at some point in the game, perhaps used as a sort of redeeming quality to her appearance. Once again, many players deem this scene normal and humorous. Others, however, might consider this fat-shaming.

How has censorship changed the landscape for gaming?

Moving slightly off the Atlus subject for a minute, keep in mind how much the political climate has changed in just the past 5 years. Nintendo censored Fire Emblem Fates, Fatal Frame, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and the recent Tokyo Mirage Sessions release on Switch. They even censored Bernadetta’s Support conversation in Fire Emblem: Three Houses in a recent patch as well as replaced a voice actor due to his history of abuse. Another smaller example would be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s censorship of Mithra, from Xenoblade Chronicles 2. However, Smash Bros. creator, Masahiro Sakurai, explained in the past that he had to censor female characters or else the game’s CERO rating would raise.

Sony has also taken measures, in their recent policies, to censor or not release games in the west. Among these include longtime favorite series from Japan, such as Senran Kagura and Dead or Alive.

How this affects Atlus’ games.

Persona 3 and Persona 4 were released before the days of digital patches and updates. The aforementioned scenes fell in with cultural humor considered normal for its release. While the scenes were likely created with humor and no harm intended, reflect on censored games in the past few years. They might not pass the litmus test to be released without various amounts of editing to be re-released in the west today.

In my personal case, I played Persona 5 before going back to 3 and 4. Knowing of the censorship of Persona 5 and watching the aforementioned scene, it immediately crossed my mind. “They probably wouldn’t be allowed to get away with this today,” I thought as I watched the scenes. Granted, I could be entirely wrong, but I could also see why groups on social media could create an issue out of it.

However, please consider that Atlus has done a tremendous job of gracefully touching social issues. They tackle one character’s insecure homosexuality in Persona 4 and allow his newfound friends to accept him for who he is. Persona 5 deftly tackled issues of bullying, sexual assault, exploitation, plagiarism, suicide, blackmail, sex work, and trauma. The story revolves around punishing abusive adults, and removing them from power, while exposing their crimes for the world to see.

Some parts of the internet argue Atlus is insensitive with handling certain characters. Others praise the series for its deft handling of social issues. However, perhaps the most important thing to consider is the gray area. It becomes paramount to educate other players on the importance of accepting other people, for who they are. This falls in regardless of whether a publisher will cater to the whims of one side or the other. A black and white difference encourages fighting among fanbases whereas a gray area brings players together for a common cause: respect for other viewpoints.

Final Thoughts

Given the recent examples, scenes that involve alleged transphobia, fat-shaming, deadnaming, and homophobia are indeed hot-button issues. It’s easy for a few articles to argue one side, attack the other, and create social media fighting while doing so. However, this article does not serve to cater to any side, but to serve as a history lesson on Atlus’ titles and how recent localization policies affect social media as well as game re-releases. If you’re a fan of Persona 5, or Catherine, and did not know about these scenes in Persona 3 and Persona 4, then hopefully this enlightened you with a bit of trivia.

Also, on last personal note, Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden are wonderful JRPGs that I strongly recommend getting. If you enjoyed Persona 5, please give them a try one day!

Do you feel these issues are worth addressing for game releases or do you feel they’re blown out of proportion? Let us know in the comments below!

Atlus Encourages Players to Demand Persona 5 for Nintendo Switch

Atlus Calls for Action

With the release of Persona 5 Royal only a month away, Atlus West – the publisher of the illustrious Persona series – began a campaign to encourage players to ask for a Switch release.  IGN asked Atlus Community Manager, Ari Advincula, about Persona 5 coming to Nintendo Switch. Her response was, “I am a strong believe in ‘never give up on hope’.” Featured on Reddit, the thread received over 16K upvotes. While Persona has maintained being a Playstation-exclusive franchise, Atlus has released spin-offs of the series on Nintendo systems. Among them include Persona Q and Persona Q2 for 3DS and the upcoming Persona 5 Scramble – a Musou title – for Nintendo Switch later this year.  More notably, however, the protagonist from Persona 5 made his debut in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, last year, as a DLC character. Put together, all of these elements have perpetuated hope for the award-winning RPG to come to Nintendo’s console. As of February 16th, #BreakFreePersona was trending on Twitter. The social media movement garnered a huge following with players demanding Atlus release Persona 5 Royal on Nintendo Switch. For Smash Bros. fans who do not own a PS4, it would become a capital investment for Atlus to introduce Joker fans to his home game for the first time.  As has been the case for over two decades, Super Smash Bros. serves to market characters and games to players from the games they were originally from. Note that Cloud appeared in Super Smash Bros. before Final Fantasy VII ever came to a Nintendo system. Yet, while even Final Fantasy VII is now available on Nintendo Switch, Atlus currently shows no signs of releasing Persona 5 Royal on the system.

Atlus Titles on Nintendo Switch

In the meantime, Atlus has recently re-released their Wii U title, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, for Nintendo Switch. Also noteworthy is, despite their strong line of games for the 3DS, Atlus has yet to make an update regarding Shin Megami Tensei V, which was first revealed several years ago. With that said, we’ll keep you updated on the news regarding Persona 5 Royal for Nintendo Switch. Have you played Persona 5 before? Would you like it to come to Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments below!