I’m really late to ‘Persona 5’. The game came out ages ago at this point, with the original being a 2016 release for PS3 and PS4. Despite ‘Persona 4 Golden’ being one of my absolute favourite games of all time, I didn’t really push myself to get the game. I didn’t have either console, but with the current lockdown I found myself stuck in a house with my friend’s PS4, so I decided to get it.
The premise is fairly similar to the other games in the ‘Persona’ franchise – a spinoff of the ‘Shin Megami Tensei’ franchise that has grown larger than the main series games – with the player character being a high school student sent away from their parents. Except, this time your character has a criminal record for defending a woman from assault and then getting sued – a clear miscarriage of justice due to corruption, and just the first of many in the game. The protagonist forms a group known as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts to prevent similar things from happening, with their operations almost exclusively targeting evil adults and stealing their metaphorical Hearts, resulting in them abandoning their horrible ways.
Like with every ‘Persona’ game, the story is full of twists and turns, although a slow start is undeniable. It takes roughly an hour or so of gameplay before there is any real combat, and much longer before the game lets go of your hand to allow you to decide how you spend your days. You can choose to spend your days socializing with your friends, infiltrating the ‘Palaces’ to pursue your current objective, delving into the side area known as ‘Mementos’, and exploring the highly detailed areas of Tokyo that the game is set in.
Combat in the Palaces and Mementos is turn-based, with your party utilizing the powers of Personas – physical manifestations of their psyche – to fight enemies called Shadows. The combat is fairly easy, with some of the random encounters only taking a few attacks to finish, but the enemies do hit hard. Whilst it’s easy to combo out on an enemy, they can do the same back.
Most notable about ‘Persona 5 Royal’ is its incredible cast of characters, coupled with an amazing soundtrack and voice acting. The characters evolve and go through their own individual struggles as the story progresses, with these struggles becoming more defined if you pursue deeper friendships with them by spending time with them on free days.
‘Royal’ has significantly more content than the original game, including a new party member and multiple new endings depending on your actions and dialogue choices in the story.Whilst ‘Persona 5 Royal’ has yet to surpass ‘Persona 4 Golden’ in my eyes, I’m sure that repeat playthroughs could change this. The ‘Persona’ series is the absolute golden standard for the contemporary JRPG, and ‘Royal’ is a worthy entry to such a beloved franchise.