Persona 5 Royal adds even more content to one of the longest Japanese role-playing games (JRPG) in the genre — but fans of the series probably won’t complain. First released as Persona 5 back in 2016, Persona 5 Royal is an updated version of the original game, which adds new characters, tweaks to the battle system, quality-of-life improvements and an extra semester, complete with its own Palace. What sets this new release apart is that Persona 5 Royal is no longer a PlayStation exclusive. Players can now experience this game on the Xbox Series X/S, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Despite being an enhanced version of the fifth Persona game, Persona 5 Royal is a great jumping-off point for players who are new to the series. Throughout the game's 100-plus-hour story, players explore dungeons, take on increasingly difficult foes and capture new Personas to build out their arsenal. In-between taking down palaces, you attend high school in Tokyo and engage in activities to boost your social stats.
Even all these years after its initial release, Persona 5 Royal has something for everyone, with a diverse cast of characters, engaging combat and a story filled with plenty of mystery. Our Persona 5 Royal review will help you decide if this is one of the best Nintendo Switch games, or if you’d be better off playing it on a next-gen console instead.
Persona 5 Royal review: Gameplay
Persona 5 Royal’s gameplay is split between exploring Palaces, which serve as the game’s dungeons, and experiencing daily life as a high school student.
In Palaces, the heroes, called the Phantom Thieves, fight enemies known as Shadows. During battle, four party members go up against increasingly difficult enemies using their Personas, which are a manifestation of each character’s personality. While the rest of the team has only one Persona apiece, the protagonist is able to wield multiple Personas simultaneously. He can also recruit Shadows defeated in battle to fight alongside him as Personas.
In addition to physical attacks, each character can use elemental skills to quickly dispatch enemies. By paying careful attention to an enemy’s weaknesses, players can incapacitate foes with the right attacks. When The Phantom Thieves knock down every enemy, the group can team up and launch an All Out Attack for loads of damage. Likewise, once a character hits an enemy’s weakness, they can hand off the remainder of their turn to another party member in a move called a Baton Pass. Unlike in the original game, Persona 5 Royal allows you to chain these Baton Passes together for even more damage.
Discovering each enemy’s weakness and exploiting it correctly, is what makes Persona 5 Royal’s battles fun. Instead of just attacking your enemies until their health is depleted, you need to strategize accordingly to pull off an All Out Attack. It also feels quite rewarding when you see the custom animations that follow these attacks.
Attending school is just as important as taking down palaces, since correctly answering questions during classes will help boost your knowledge. There are even midterms, as well as a final exam. These sections of the game serve to break up the action, although I also liked how they give you additional insight into each character's personality.
Persona 5 Royal review: Social activities
When class is done for the day, you have the afternoon and evening to participate in different activities. From reading books, to playing retro games, to watching DVDs, to going to the movies, to working a part time job, there’s always something to do in Persona 5 Royal. Even if you only have a few minutes to play each day, you can still get a lot done in the game. Increasing your social stats feels as rewarding as leveling up your team.
Besides activities, you can also spend time with your friends and the other characters you’ll meet in Tokyo. By building stronger relationships with them, you will be able to create powerful new Personas to help you in battle. All of Persona 5 Royal's disparate parts feed into each other, which helped me keep going, even at times when I wanted to stop and play something else instead.
As you do activities or socialize with your friends, time passes, and there is a limit to how much you can do in a day. You need to spend your time wisely though if you want to master each of the game’s five skills (Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness and Charm). Increasing these skills can become addictive, and you may find yourself playing for just one more in-game day, in much the same way as Civilization players tell themselves they are going to take just one more turn.
Persona 5 Royal review: Story
Persona 5 Royal tells the tale of a group of high school students who gain the ability to enter a cognitive world formed by humanity’s collective unconscious. This world is called the Metaverse. The teens dub themselves The Phantom Thieves, and they work together to take down Metaverse Palaces, which manifest the distorted desires of corrupt adults.
The story starts off strong. The Phantom Thieves pull off a heist inside a casino, which actually takes place later on in the game. This opening section introduces you to the protagonist, whom the police arrest shortly after he learns the basics of exploration and combat. Following a brief interrogation by public prosecutor Sae Niijima, the story jumps back to the beginning of the school year, when the protagonist arrives in Tokyo.
This isn’t the only time jump, as the game uses them often. This mechanic works well, as the sections that take place in the future show how powerful The Phantom Thieves become, while also adding some mystery to the plot. These time jumps even give players some insight into which corrupt adult The Phantom Thieves will target next.
While the protagonist gives off an air of mystery, his best friend and former track star Ryuji Sakamoto is more outspoken and brash. Meanwhile, aspiring model Ann Takamaki is thoughtful, and often serves as the voice of reason for The Phantom Thieves. Besides being their guide to the Metaverse, the catlike being Morgana provides some much needed comic relief. These are the first characters you meet, but the rest of the cast all have interesting traits and personalities, which encourage players to get to know them better.
For the most part, Persona 5 Royal tells its story through cutscenes and dialogue, but group chats on your phone also convey important information or story points. At times, the game almost feels more like a virtual novel. If the plot resonates with you, you likely won’t mind its presentation. But if you want to just press on with the action, you may be annoyed by just how much story Persona 5 Royal has to tell.
Persona 5 Royal’s story isn’t without its drawbacks, though, which include some pacing issues towards the middle of the game. First-time players can also easily miss the third semester of classes, which is a rewarding new addition to Persona 5 Royal. The third semester is worth experiencing, especially since it gives the game’s story a more compelling conclusion. However, if you don’t plan accordingly, you may not get to play through it at all.
Persona 5 Royal review: Visuals and sound
Despite the limitations of Nintendo’s hybrid console, Persona 5 Royal looks great and performs well on the Nintendo Switch, in both TV and handheld modes. There are some slight slowdowns when troves of enemies appear on screen, but nothing game-breaking. Load times are fast, and I didn’t notice any lag in the hours I spent playing the game.
By opting for a stylized design as opposed to a more realistic one, Atlus has made it possible for Persona 5 Royal to still look great on the Switch even with its less powerful hardware. Persona 5 Royal’s red, black and white color scheme is prominent throughout the game in menus, battles and even when checking your smartphone for incoming messages. At the same time, menu animations flow smoothly. The game's sound effects mimic how the protagonist moves when sneaking around a Palace, and that helps you feel like a Phantom Thief.
The soundtrack is another high point of Persona 5, and it’s hard not to get the catchy songs stuck in your head. When exploring the various neighborhoods of Tokyo, you’ll often hear slower, more heartfelt songs, and even a few instrumental tracks. However, when you head into the Metaverse, the pace of the music kicks up a notch to match the action taking place on screen.
Persona 5 Royal review: Verdict
Persona 5 Royal puts a fresh coat of polish on what was already a successful modern take on the traditional JRPG. From new characters and dialogue, to a whole optional extra semester of gameplay, there’s more than enough content here to justify the game’s price, even if you’ve already played Persona 5. While fans of the series should feel right at home, Persona 5 Royal also makes the game more approachable for newcomers, with tweaks to its battle system and quality-of-life improvements, such as Morgana not repeatedly pestering you to go to bed.
If you enjoy a good mystery and have the patience to make it through the slower parts in the middle of Persona 5 Royal, The Phantom Thieves just might steal your heart, too. Now that the game is available on every major console, there’s never been a better time to give it a shot. Just make sure you clear your calendar first, as once Persona 5 Royal hooks you, real-life days go by just as fast as the ones in-game.