It’s no secret that my love for Persona 5 runs deep. Stumbling into the alternate reality back in 2017, lead me to giving my heart to these ragtag motley crew of deviant thieves with Persona’s latest entry into its franchise. Persona 5 oozes flair, style, charm, elegance, and design that remains unmatched in the world of Japanese Role-Playing Games. Having little experience with its recent prequels – most notably, Persona 4 Golden on the PS Vita – Persona 5 was the catalyst that drove me back into the zany world of JRPG’s, and reminded me of my love for the niche category. Persona 5 revolutionised the way we play JPRG title’s and has inspired many since its release to step it up a notch; raising the bar in conceptual design and gameplay.
Hell, legendary Nintendo developer and Super Smash Bros. Creator, Masahiro Sakurai expressed his love for the game and drew inspiration from Persona 5’s UI/UX main menu design, lifting certain ideas and implementing its unique interactivity within Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which led to the inclusion of Joker into the fighting series. But it does not stop there, Persona 5’s narrative has encouraged many a gamer and developer with great enthusiasm to ultimately change the way we perceive comprehensive matters that its story touches base with. No doubt, it is a little controversial to address such matters as Religion, Politics, Sexuality and Money these days, but Persona 5 handles it with such grace that it make’s this title unmissable.
So why revise, remaster, and re-establish something that is already considered perfection? ATLUS decision to add a layer of polish to Persona 5 did not surprise many of its long time devotee’s, as fans of the Persona series have become accustom to the Japanese developer releasing multiple versions of the same game, as well as spin-off’s titles from the Persona franchise. Persona 3 began this trend with its additional end-game content with the re-release, Persona 3 FES. Persona 4 saw its initial release back in 2008, confusing many gamers as to why the developer decided to release it on Sony’s PlayStation 2, with the PlayStation 3 gaining momentum and running red hot that year. Regardless, Persona 4 garnered major acclaim with a a near 2 million units shipped within its launch year. With this, ATLUS took the opportunity to once again remaster Persona 4, and port it to Sony’s newest handheld experiment the PS Vita. While the PS Vita floundered in the market, Persona 4 Golden was the consoles highest selling title with over 700,000 units shipped within the first year of its re-release.
With polished visuals, upgraded textures, subtle changes in plot, and an additional end-game, Persona 4 Golden took the PS Vita by storm turning the title into a must have for owners of the console. In February of 2014, ATLUS took over Akihabara’s town square with a teaser trailer that sent fans into a frenzy, Persona 5 was on its way to PlayStation 3 the following year. With fans once again questioning why it was releasing on Sony’s seventh generation console entry, it was explained that development of game had been delayed on multiple occasions, with the intent of porting the title to the PlayStation 4. While initially developed and released simultaneously on both platforms, the PlayStation 4 version of Persona 5 performed greater than its last-gen counterpart, with a smoother framerate, and rendered the title in Full HD. Even confined within its limitations, Persona 5 tracked masterfully, receiving critical acclaim across numerous outlets, and its dedicated community. But it was only a matter of time before we were teased with additional information of Persona 5’s inevitable upgrade.
While the PS Vita had retired a year prior to Persona 5 Royal (Persona 5: The Royal in Japan), ATLUS had no choice but to develop their upgrade for the PlayStation 4, utilising the original entry’s core engine, with specific upgrades to the title. Similar to P4G, Persona 5 Royal stays true within its narrative and design, delivering a dose of familiarity to players of the “vanilla” version, while changing quite a number of things, including map layout, additional plot pieces, new confidants, and Joker’s new grappling hook which plays in part of new interactivities. A slick 4K visual upgrade and a smooth 60fps are quite evident in the fact that we are experiencing the definitive edition of Persona 5. Devoted players who have crunched hundreds of hours into Persona 5 (like myself) will notice the copious amount of added features, new sprites and additional dialogue that take the experience above and beyond a simple remaster. Persona 5 Royal is Persona 5 on steroids. Everything you knew and loved about “vanilla” P5 is here, but it’s “turned to 11”.
For those unaware of the plot, and those who are familiar here is your Spoiler Warning, things do change. Much like Persona 5, we’re once again greeted with our beloved Phantom Thieves, performing the ultimate getaway heist, stealing the treasure of what seems to be a casino packed full of gamblers. Scaling the rafters, Joker makes his getaway avoiding any enemies that try to block his path. Confronted and barricaded by a shadow, you immediately enter battle. This is solely done to introduce newcomers to the battle systems core mechanics, and devoted Persona faithfuls to the swanky and modern UI/UX layout. After defeating the shadow, Joker makes haste on the potential of shadows materialising and surrounding the young rebel. Avoiding all security, Joker suddenly hits a dead end. Being informed via earpiece, he is instructed to use his brand new grappling hook to sling his way above security, only to be stopped in his tracks by shadows. With Joker surrounded, we are then introduced to our new protagonist and additional party member, Kasumi Yoshizawa.
Yoshizawa-san is dressed similarly to Joker, donning trademark bright-red gloves, a black leather jacket, but is garbed in gym clothing that resembles a ballet dancer. Armed with a short-sword, Yoshizawa lands a flurry of swift slashing blows, brazen with a single barrel sawn-off shotgun that deals incredible damage. After the encounter, Yoshizawa explains to Joker that she has no intent on being a Phantom Thief and following their way of life. We then are placed back within the original plot line with Joker’s attempt at escaping the casino, and ultimately being caught and cuffed. Joker is taken in for interrogation, where he is bloodied and beaten by crooked cops who demand he identifies himself as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. We are then introduced to Public Prosecutor of the Tokyo District Special Investigation Unit, Sae Niijima. Niijima-san enters the room where Joker is being held captive to interrogate him, and for what would become the mysterious mental shutdowns around Shibuya. We are then bought back a fair amount of months, where Joker had arrived to Yongen-Jaya, the home of Le Blanc Cafe, and its owner, Sojiro Sakura.
It becomes Sojiro’s duty to shelter and foster Joker for his probation period, after being falsely accused of assault. From this point, gameplay will seem quite basic. We head to school, we study, we travel home and we sleep. Those are the events for the first couple of days. We’re then introduced to Ann Takamaki, a fellow student of Shujin Academy. With her long wavy platinum blonde hair and blue eyes, Ann’s appearance is suggested to be out of the norm for most young adults her age within Japan. This has to do with Ann’s background as an aspiring model, who migrated from America at a young age. After gawking at her soft appearance, Joker notices a strange app that is placed on his phone in which he swiftly removes due to its creepy looking icon. Approached by a faculty member and teacher of Shujin, Ann is given a ride to school by Gym and P.E. Teacher, Suguru Kamoshida. Rejecting an offer for a ride, Joker waits out the dreary weather, only to be confronted by a bleached blonde, scruffy looking student.
Ryuji Sakomoto’s reputation amongst his peers is perceived as troublesome, but believes he is misunderstood. The two make idle conversation about Kamoshida being “King of the castle” and a no good pervert. These keywords are noticed by Joker’s phone and are placed within the re-installed app. While Ryuji suggests a shortcut through an alleyway to the school, Joker notices something is completely off with his walking pattern only to have Ryuji shriek in mystery to the sudden appearance of a castle in place of Shujin Academy. The two enter castle wondering where everyone is, and why the school had been redecorated to look like a medieval fortress. After moments of questioning their path, the two are confronted by guards in silver armor; wielding swords and shields they attack the pair, knocking Joker out. Dazed and awoken inside a jail cell, Joker and Ryuji look for a quick escape only to be confronted by… “Kamoshida?” Once dressed in a tanktop with sweatpants, this Kamoshida seemed to psychotically flaunt his body wearing only hot-pink underwear, slippers, a royal mantle, and a crown fit for a King.
Ordering his guards to hold the teens down, Kamoshida attacks Ryuji with the intent to kill him. Pleading for his life and begging the deranged coach, Ryuji is held against his will for one final blow. Joker then demands Kamoshida to stop, with the coach taunting our protagonist by threatening to kill him first if he attempted to save his friend. A voice is then heard and explained that what Joker is experiencing is an “unjust game”. After standing up to the teacher, Joker’s subconscious speaks to him to uphold an agreement – an awakening. Joker’s persona forges a contract to save the two from manslaughter, with Joker blasting away all surrounding guards. Joker painstakingly rips a phantom mask off that had attached itself to his face. With blood streaming down, he awakens to his “true power” and unleashes Arsene, his Persona. Joker uses his newfound powers to knock down the empowered emperor, with the two scrambling for a quick escape. Successfully breaking out of the cell, Ryuji locks Kamoshida in the confined jail with promise to kill the two brats.
Ryuji and Joker clamber for the exit, making their way through the depths of Kamoshida’s Palace. The two hide from guards and stumble into a new partner and confidant, Morgana. Mildly convinced that the “moster-cat” was there to assist them out of the Palace, Morgana leads the way beginning what would be the initial stages of teaching newcomers how to play Persona 5. So with the backstory out of the way, let’s talk about gameplay. Persona 5 uses its Shin Megami Tensei origins to its advantage, displaying an array of abilities that both your Persona, your party member’s Persona, and your enemy Shadow may wield. In the case of Joker, simple stats and buffs will lead to advantageous encounters that can end in your favour if applied correctly. The use of a simple attack deals a fair blow to your opponents health. Combine that with your Persona’s abilities to pinpoint your enemy’s weakness and strengths, only builds your compendium and back catalogue of Persona knowledge, allowing you to take full advantage of using Baton passes, which is no longer an unlockable, it’s taught to you right from the beginning.
Baton Passes will build your party’s “Weak” attacks, allowing players to effectively grow the strength of each blow by double each Pass. Once you have gauged enough momentum, you will be given the option to land a “Showtime!” attack. Showtime! acts similar to Persona 5’s “all-out attack”, only that the ambush is utilised as a tag-team rather than the entire party engaging in the final blow. Each Showtime! is accompanied by its own unique, yet vibrant cutscene that pairs multiple party members into hilarious scenarios before its violent conclusion. Taking initiative is of dire importance in each Palace within Persona 5 Royal, where sneaking behind shadow’s while quickly tapping the cross button, allowing your party to get the upper hand with an “Ambush”. While some circumstances will call for you to engage face-to-face with some enemy’s it’s best to avoid these situations, giving your party full advantage of the first round of attacks without enemy retaliation. Preparing your party members, and organising for their duties is an option here. Dealing classes such as healer, or attacker are streamlined and quite simple to organise within battle sequences. I personally left it for my party to make their own decisions, while only controlling Joker’s actions.
Be mindful of debuffs and weaknesses that your Persona holds, as you can be taken by surprise and fall short sending you back to your last save-state. Much like every JRPG, if your team leader falls (Joker), you all fall. Acquiring HP and SP are as simple as grinding, and looting for coin to purchase goods such as medicine, food, soda or the occasional coffee. Upgrading weapons and armor can be done through Central Street’s airsoft shop, “Untouchable”. The surly manager and weapons dealer, Munehisa Iwai will run down the item list, and even offer you great deals…. “for a punk, like you”. You may also trade-off useless items to the dealer in return for a lower sum of coin. Exploring the various towns of Tokyo will lead you to interacting with new confidants, which will help you unlock various skills to use during combat, and also allow you to grind multiple personality stats. Playing baseball levels your proficiency, while studying in the school library builds guts and intelligence, while – a new feature – helping Ann answer questions in class boosts your Charm. Taking advantage of building a relationship with your teacher Sadayo Kawakami, allows you to build numerous stats within class time as well; build as many confidants as you can.
Mementos acts as the title’s XP farm, allowing players to head into a parallel universe of Shibuya’s subway system which is notorious for its bustling commotion at all times of the day. The metaverse takes no exception to this reality, and contains a hoard of shadows for the thieves to deal with. Mementos’ structure is tiered by each boss you complete within Persona 5, allowing you to traverse deeper into its depths after each successful encounter. Joker’s ability to hold multiple Persona’s makes him unique in battle, allowing for more flexibility in attack range. Banking Persona’s will lead you to the imposing Velvet Room, a staple of the Persona franchise. With many iterations from previous entry’s, the Velvet Room takes form of a prison in its fifth incarnation. This reflects the state of Joker’s heart, while seemingly held captive by his cognition. Igor helps Joker reflect on his current circumstances, and guides him with knowledge and wisdom. His to associates Caroline and Justine, who resemble Igor’s prior assistants are firm but fair. The twins teach Joker how to fuse his Persona’s to give life to stronger battle partners.
Each fusion will mark itself within a Persona compendium, and allow players to buy back their old Persona’s if they choose to do so. You may access the Velvet Room at anytime of your choosing by visiting the big blue “V” marked on your map. An additional feature introduced in “Royal” is My Palace, a place where you may bring your own envisioned palace to life. Entering new palaces, and gaining new unlockable features will give your palace a unique look. You may check this feature out in the main menu. While some minor adjustments have been made to the title’s core gameplay, its graphical upgrade is evident. Aesthetically, it remains faithful to its conceptual design as Persona 5 individual franchise delivers its own crimson-covered characteristics. Royal does a tremendous job at displaying its upgraded intricacies; Persona 5 has never looked sharper. From re-texturing to completely overhauling areas, the changes made are eye-catching, and distinctly obvious given the power of the PlayStation 4 has over it’s predecessor.
The additions made to the already astounding soundtrack are whole-heartedly welcome. Bringing back Beneath the Mask to build off its calming environment, right to its new battle-cry in Take Over, Shoji Meguro composes another masterpiece in this entry, lead by the incredibly powerful vocals of Lyn Inaizumi. With additional dialogue recorded, many of our favourite characters return, with some of the industry’s biggest voice actors reprising their roles. Erika Harlacher(Violet Evergarden, Kakeguri), Max Mittelman(One Punch Man, Borderlands 3), Cassandra Lee Morris(Spyro Reignited Trilogy, SMT: Soul Hackers), Matthew Mercer(Critical Role, Attack on Titan), Cherami Leigh(Sword Art Online, Steins;Gate), Erica Lindbeck(Final Fantasy VII Remake, Mortal Kombat 11), Xanthe Huynh(Cells at Work, Anohana), and Robbie Daymond(Final Fantasy XV, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas) return in this all-star studded cast of video game and anime royalty. Exuding incredible emotion into their respective characters, we’re treated to former “filler” text-on-screen dialogue now performed with some slight revisions made for added personality. It’s the little things that count.
There is no doubt, Persona 5 Royal is the definitive JPRG experience. You won’t find none better than what ATLUS has accomplished with their action-packed, redemption story. Its determination to make an impact within our gaming climate delivers a sense of quality unfound. Enraptured with boldness and defiant risk-taking within its narrative is something to admire. Its awe-inspiring art direction, and creative decisions have lead to many developers within the genre to take note. Persona 5 has raised the bar, and most importantly has appealed to the masses beyond its niche. I cannot praise this title enough, from its engaging plot, its mystique behind the metaverse, our fascinating cast of quirky thieves, and their deviously bemused foes; Its a recipe for unmitigated satisfaction. The title will mark itself in gaming history, as one of the greatest turn-based Japanese Role Playing Games ever developed. Persona 5 Royal is in a class of its own, and a must have for all gamers.
Persona 5 Royal - ATLUS
Prepare for an all-new RPG experience in Persona 5 Royal based in the universe of the award-winning series, Persona! Don the mask of Joker and join the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. Break free from the chains of modern society.