Ever since its original release back in 2017, Nintendo Switch owners have loudly voiced their requests, or demands, for Persona 5 to break free of its PlayStation shackles and take residence on Nintendo’s console. It’s a journey that’s been as long as it has often felt hopeless, but after over five years we’re finally here. Persona 5 Royal is finally here.
The game’s main protagonist – Ren, although similar to The Legend of Zelda, you’re free to name him how you please – finds himself relocated to Tokyo as a condition of his probation after an incident leaves him wrongly punished and abruptly expelled from his school. With a black mark on his record, he is forced to join the only school that’ll accept him, Shujin Academy. On his very first day, despite trying to keep a low profile and out of trouble, a mysterious app appears on his phone transporting him to an alternative reality known as the ‘Metaverse’, a place where human thought takes tangible form. Unfortunately for your character, that thought often comes from that of overpowered corrupt individuals who as a result have created monstrous twisted palaces where they reign. Your character and a slowly growing crew of classmates then take it upon themselves to help change the evil individuals of Tokyo.
What sets Persona 5 Royal apart from the banquet of other RPGs out there is its wonderfully compelling blend of social adventure with its turn-based RPG. The ‘Metaverse’ essentially acts as your dungeons of the game, each palace a labyrinthian structure housing plenty of enemies to battle and intimidating bosses to take down. Outside of that, days will pass by in the calendar prompting you to plan how to spend your time going about your life be that attending classes in school, taking exams, playing video games, bonding with your friends and generally exploring Tokyo all of which will benefit you and your team in some way. Deepening the bonds between yourself and your confidants will rewards useful perks in and out of combat for example. Of course, you’ll need to make some choices as you won’t necessarily have enough time to level up everything you want adding a satisfying weight to your decision. All this makes for a story that reaches some truly ridiculous and outlandish highs through the ‘Metaverse’ whilst feeling personal and grounded through the typical day-to-day of Tokyo teenage life.
Fortunately, while you’ll be faced with some pretty nasty enemies in the ‘Metaverse’, your crew won’t be going in unprepared. Each member will be assisted by a Persona, a manifestation of its user’s personality able to provide skills and powers in battle. While your classmates will be limited to the one, your character will have the ability to juggle numerous Personas you’ve managed to negotiate onto your team. It’s these Personas that play a major role when it comes to doing battle.
Combat in Persona 5 Royal consists of your party exchanging blows back and forth in a typical turn-based fashion. Each of your characters has a number of actions they can take – defend, a physical attack, using their gun, using an item or using a skill through their Persona (costing SP or the game’s equivalent of mana). With eight magical elements each with strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be doing your very best to identify what to use and when in order to keep the flow of battle in your favour. Manage to successfully land a blow with an element the enemy is weak to, and you’ll not only knock them down but get another turn too. Whether you opt to repeat an attack with that character or pass the baton to another teammate for an added attack boost, if you continue to take advantage of the enemy’s weaknesses, you’ll find yourself in a very strong position, resulting in an all-out attack or a chance to negotiate for money or have them join your team. As you win battles, you’ll level up not only your character but any Personas used unlocking further skills from attacks and heals to status-affecting spells.
From a presentation standpoint, Persona 5 is to put it simply, absolutely sublime. The game simply oozes cool from its colourful cast of characters to the way the details of all your experience gained and items earned effortlessly slide into view post-battle. In fact, the transitions in particular never cease to impress with their style (a weird thing to say for sure but one I proudly stand by). As for the music, the combination of jazzy tracks with powerful rock tunes is and has been a regular on the journeys to a from work in the car.
It’s been said before time and time again, but having the ability to play big adventures like these not just on the big screen, but anywhere you go is a huge deal. It makes dedicating the 90-plus hours needed for a game like this much more manageable as you’re able to chip away at a palace on a train ride or stock up on supplies in bed before nodding off. And at no point does the Switch version feel lacking in comparison to its other versions, the game’s effortless stylish visuals still shining bright even on the small screen.
One thing that I will say, is that Persona 5 Royal can be a slow burn, particularly in the early goings. While you’ll be doing plenty of strategic battling, there will be times when pressing the button to progress through lengthy conversations in person or over text will be the order of the day. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. The writing in the game is so strong, and the wide cast of characters so enjoyable to listen to and learn more about, you’ll be more than happy to take a knee, sit back and watch the chatter unfold. For those that like things a little less… well… chatty and more focused on non-stop action, be prepared.
Lastly, since this is an enhanced edition, what exactly is different in Royal over the original Persona 5? Outside a myriad of smaller additions like new Personas, enemies, items and more, the game also includes a new party member in Kasumi, an extra semester to play through with a new palace to take on and a lot more. Essentially it takes what was already a damn near perfect RPG adventure and adds even more in all the best ways.
Long stretching RPGs are exactly the type of game I try to steer away from, opting instead to spend my time with shorter more compact adventures. My rule is shorter games means more games. Persona 5 Royal may well be the longest RPG I’ve experienced but that journey with the Phantom Thieves was one filled with so many countless highs it left me questioning if I should change that rule. It may have taken its sweet time but Persona 5 has finally made its way over to Switch and there’s little denying it was well worth the wait.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by ATLUS