Give a Man his Mask and he will Become his True Self
Even though I’ve been a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series for some time, I’ve never gotten to playing Persona 5 (or any game from the Persona series). I’m familiar with the game, my friends have talked about it non-stop, I’ve encountered the many cosplayers, and seen a few episodes of the animated series on Crunchyroll.
The point is that Persona 5 Royal is my first time playing this game overall. Before going in, my expectations were already set somewhat high. It only took a few minutes of playing to be stunned as I was not expecting a journey that could captivate me in such a manner. From its use of music to play on colors and its roster of characters, I can see how it has earned the reputation it has. Royal is the version that adds more to a game that is already a masterpiece.
Your Rehabilitation will Soon Begin
Told through a series of flashbacks, the story focuses on the protagonist after they are framed for assault. Expelled from school and on probation, they are forced to live under the care of Sojiro Sakura (a family friend). On his first night, he is brought into the Velvet Room by Igor who warns him that he must be rehabilitated while granting him access to an app that lets him enter the Metaverse
On the first day of school, he and Ryuji Sakamoto (a delinquent) are drawn into the palace of Suguru Kamoshida (the volleyball coach). They learn the truth about how he treats his students and meet Morgana, who becomes their guide in the Metaverse. After teaming up with Ann Takamaki, they set out to change Kamoshida’s heart by stealing his treasure (the thing he desires the most).
After their success; they become known as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. Using their Persona and understanding of the Metaverse, they set out to change the hearts of other wicked people in power. Along the way, new people join the crew while their popularity grows. At the same time, they also attract the attention of sinister forces.
Give Me Your Power
From a narrative perspective, Persona 5 Royal strikes the ideal balance between telling a compelling story and being fun.
Right away, I have to admire now the story is radically different from other Shin Megami Tensei games that I’ve played. You’re not trying to undo, survive or prevent the apocalypse (or some other world altering catastrophe). Instead, it’s one more based in reality but still making use with its supernatural elements.
Wanting to focus on elements based in reality, it elegantly captures this feeling in two ways. First is through its characters who are all relatable in some way. We all know someone who is similar to our heroes (or put into their situation) and the villains. Even if you can’t relate, you could appreciate them as a character. Second is the social environment and power structure of the society. I bring this up as it’s one that is also all too familiar (be it at school or in the community).
As with most Shin Megami Tensei games, you don’t need to have played previous titles (but you should have because they are fun). This is the fifth game in the Persona sub-series but you don’t need to have played the previous games to understand what is going on. The personas/devils are familiar but everything else is unrelated to past titles. At most regarding continuity, long-time fans might find subtle Easter Eggs.
Going in, be aware that Persona 5 Royal is not like every other JRPG you have played. There are going to be more dialogue and narrative choices you will need to make. At times it could feel like a visual novel. This is not a bad thing as there is a good balance between the two elements.
If you ever played a Shin Megami Tensei game, then gameplay is all too familiar. Players will form a pack with a Persona whose power could be used in combat. Players could upgrade their Persona by fusing two together to create a more powerful one. Combat is the standard turn-based system while exploiting an enemy’s weakness could unleash an all-out attack. It may all sound overwhelming at first but it’s easy to follow.
The world is broken into two types, the real world and the Metaverse. Half the journey will be in the real world as players build up their character and prepare for what is coming. Metaverse is a world built on the twisted twisted desires of humans and it’s broken up between the palace of a powerful individual and Mementos. Major progressions take place when players infiltrate a palace and steal the target’s “treasure”. Mementos is one large dungeon-like stage where players can do side-quests or grind.
One can not ignore its brilliant use of colors and music. These elements combined successfully set the needed mood. Be it dread, tranquility, or determination – the game knows exactly how to make the player feel in the moment.
It has all the hallmarks of a masterpiece but it also has its issues. My biggest gripe with the game is that it takes some time for everything to open up. One of my peeves in any game is when it takes some time to unlock all the basic gameplay features. Persona 5 Royal is guilty of this as it took a while before a lot of the main gameplay could open up.
To its credit, at least it was paced in a way that you won’t notice right away. Plus it’s not such a slog that it might discourage you from not wanting to get into the experience. Just be aware going in that it has one of those beginnings though!
Show Me Your True Form
Since its release, Persona 5 has not only grown to become the defining entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series but also one of the most influential JRPG’s of the last few years. Royal takes what is already a masterpiece and makes it better for PC gamers.
Disclaimer: FortySeven Communications provided the game used for this review.
This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into the gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Persona 5 Royal (PC)
- Solid narrative with characters that are relatable and likable.
- An ideal balance between the main story, character development, and side quests.
- Easy to learn combat and gameplay mechanics.
- Visually colorful world complemented by a killer soundtrack.
- It takes sometime for everything to open up.
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Stan Rezaee is the founder and Editor of 8Bit/Digi. He is a journalist and gamer from the Bay Area who has been writing about the medium for over five years.