Persona 5 Royal is a JRPG developed by Atlus and published by SEGA for the PlayStation 4 platform on October 31, 2019 in Japan and March 31, 2020 in the rest of the world. Versions for PC, Xbox and Nintendo Switch saw the light very recently – on October 20, 2022. Royal is an enhanced and expanded re-release of Persona 5, which was released for PS3 and PS4 in 2016. The re-release, in addition to fixes and changes to old content, includes new content, including new Personas, characters and an entire act, the events of which take place after the end of the main storyline. Persona 5 Royal is one of the highest-rated games in history, listed on Metacritic’s recommendation list and boasting a proud 100 score on the service. The game was loved by both critics and ordinary players, and now I will try to tell you why.
A dawn of new beginning
Persona 5 tells the story of a schoolboy who gets into trouble for trying to help a woman who was attacked by an unknown man. Unfortunately for the main character, the man filed a police report against him, so the boy was sent to another school for a probationary period. At this time, he will live with Sojiro Sakura, his relative and the owner of the cafe Leblanc, which will be one of the central locations of the game.
It is worth mentioning that the game does not name the hero – you have to choose a name at the beginning. Most often, you will be addressed simply as Joker – this is the nickname that the main character chooses for his alter ego in the Metaverse.
Soon, the protagonist meets his future partners: Ryuji Sakamoto and Ann Takamaki, during his first entry into the Metaverse – with the (non)cat Morgana, who will become an indispensable assistant for the team, because has the ability to transform into a vehicle that the team uses to travel to Mementos. Eventually, others will join the team of Phantom Thieves of Hearts, as the students call themselves: Yusuke Kitagawa, Makoto Niijima, Haru Okumura, Futaba Sakura, and Goro Akechi. The main goal of the team is to use their abilities related to the Metaverse to change people’s hearts and achieve justice in society.
The Metaverse is another world created by the collective unconscious of the residents of Tokyo. To move it, you need the Metaverse Navigator, a mobile application that appears on the phone of anyone who owns a Persona. The consciousness of the most powerful and most corrupt representatives of society forms Palaces in the metaverse – distorted versions of places important to these people in the real world. The consciousness of ordinary people merges into Mementos, a place similar to a subway tunnel, but almost infinitely long. In these places, the Thieves will have to use their Personas to defeat the shadows – the embodiment of the inner world of people.
I am thou, thou art I…
It is these words begins the agreement that the future owner concludes with his Persona. A persona is a subdued shadow, that is, a controlled embodiment of one’s own soul. Only the strong in spirit can have their own Persona, and it does not necessarily have to be someone worthy, only self-belief and own convictions are important.
You can access the Persona only in the Metaverse, where it takes on the form of a mask, which is what the word Persona means in Latin. Each member of the team, except for the Joker, has only one Persona, but it will evolve as the story progresses. The protagonist can turn into a Persona any shadow that he defeats in battle (except bosses). The Joker’s main persona is Arsene, with whom they make a deal at the beginning of the game, in the cell of Kamoshida’s Castle.
As you can see, the Personas of the main characters are unique – they are all based on famous cultural characters such as Billy the Kid, Zorro, Robin Hood or Arsene Lupin.
A total of 259 Personas are available to the player. All of them are divided into Arcana, there are 24 – 22 of them according to the senior arcana of the Tarot, and two new ones added to the Royal. Each of these maps (except the World map, which has only one Persona – Izanagi-no-Okami, available as DLC) has a corresponding character, here called the Confidant. The higher the level of trust with your loved ones, the more experience points the Personas of the corresponding Arcana receive when summoned. There are two main ways to obtain Personas: by subduing the defeated Shadows or by challenging them in the Velvet Room – the prison that Joker enters in his dreams and where he meets the mysterious Igor and his assistants, Justine and Caroline.
It is they who can summon new Personas for the hero. You can get a new spirit either by summoning a person you already know for the in-game currency, yen, or by combining those Personas you already have with you. In addition to summoning Personas, in the Velvet Room they can be upgraded with ritual incense and sacrificed in exchange for valuable items. How will we have to use Persona?
Take your time
The entire gameplay of Persona 5 is conventionally divided into two parts: in the real world and the Metaverse. In “our” reality, the protagonist is a first-year student at Shujin Academy, who must attend classes and not break the law, otherwise he will end up in prison. In the “real” world, the Joker will have to upgrade his skills and use them. The day is divided into four phases:
- The morning when the hero wakes up and goes to school;
- A day when you are in class and have to answer questions from the teachers, which will allow you to further improve your skills and familiarize you with the questions you will see at the exam (yes, you will have to take exams) ;
- An afternoon where you have the choice of meeting one of the characters, spending time at one of the entertainment venues such as fishing, baseball, or a burger eating contest, or heading to the Metaverse: in the current Palace or in Mementos;
- Evening entertainment is no different from daytime entertainment, but different characters and locations are available to you. However, if you have visited the Metaverse, the character feels too exhausted and does not want to leave the house, so you will have to spend your time usefully: read a book, make coffee or curry that will help you in battle, prepare combat equipment.
Hint: Raise your trust level with Sadayo Kawakami and you’ll have to spend a lot less time going nowhere.
You don’t need to strive for greatness
Practice of Persona 5’s plot takes place by exploring Palaces – the embodiment of the souls of particularly corrupt people. There are eight in total in the game – seven from the main game, each of which corresponds to one of the deadly sins, and the eighth, which is unlocked in Royal after gaining the tenth level of trust with one of the characters. In fact, the real end of the game is revealed only after completing it.
Each palace is a huge location divided into several zones or floors. As you explore them, you’ll have to hunt for loot, defeat shadows, and solve puzzles. Usually, if you’re skilled enough, the palace can be completed in one day, but some of them have blocked passages that require something to be done in the location corresponding to the palace in the real world to open.
An innovation in Royal was the Will Seed – fragments of soul crystals, three units of which can be found in each palace. Climbing each of them restores a small amount of spirit, and collecting all three combines the shards, giving you a unique artifact.
At the end of each palace, a unique boss awaits you, the battle with which is always exciting. Each of them feels very different, and some are quite difficult even on normal difficulty. Also, each palace has its own unique design, visual and musical, but we’ll talk about it later.
Mementos is the collective palace of all people in Tokyo. It is inhabited by many weak Shadows, however, some of the enemies you will receive orders from will resemble minibosses.
Mementos are divided into levels, each of which is divided into floors. All floors are subway tunnels, on each of which you will find many opponents and a transition to another level. Sometimes there will be additional rooms with chests or stamps. Mementos has its own currency – stamps and flowers. You will collect them in each level and spend them in Jose’s shop. This mysterious boy will sometimes appear randomly on Mementos floors and will be marked on the minimap. Stamps can be used to increase the amount of experience and yen you get while exploring Mementos, and flowers can be used to buy items.
All the currency you collect disappears when you return to the real world, so I recommend spending it. New levels of Mementos are unlocked after each Palace is completed, so you won’t be able to go through all the dungeons at once. If you stay too long on one level, you will hear the ominous clanking of chains… I advise you to run away if you are not well upgraded!
Gonna be a show to remember!
In the Metaverse, the main characters are transformed into Phantom Thieves – a team of heroes with supernatural abilities. In addition to access to Personas, their physical abilities are enhanced, and Morgana from an ordinary cat becomes an anthropomorphic creature capable of transforming into a vehicle.
The team of thrives consists of four characters at the same time, which you can change between battles without restrictions, or, by raising the level of trust with one of the hero’s girlfriends, the ability to switch them directly in battle instead of a turn.
The battle itself takes place according to the classic JRPG turn-based mechanics, where one character performs one action: uses an item, attacks with a weapon, uses a Persona skill, or defends. The main feature that makes the combat system extremely exciting is the vulnerability of the characters.
Each Persona and Shadow have their own characteristics – they are more or less vulnerable to certain types of damage. Hitting an opponent’s vulnerability allows you to take an additional turn, during which you can hit the next enemy, and so on until they are all stunned. When this happens, the game goes into dialogue mode.
If your opponent is not a boss, you have three options: ask for an item, tame it, or perform an All-Out Attack. In the case of the first two options, negotiations begin, where, according to the character of the opponent, you will have to choose suitable lines to sway them to your side. In case of success, they will do the desired, and in case of failure, the battle will resume.
If you don’t need anything from your opponents, you can use the last option and perform an All-Out Attack. This is a finisher that deals a lot of damage. If the battle ends after it, you will be shown the victory screen of the character who was the last to walk during the execution of this technique.
Other unique fighting techniques include the Baton Pass and Showtime Attack. Baton Pass allows you to pass your extra move to another character, increasing their attack and restoring some of their health and morale. The effects of multiple Passes stack, so if you pass the move three times, you can deal a lot of damage with a single attack. The strength of this technique is different for each member of your team, so you will have to upgrade it while playing darts or pool with your friends.
Showtime is also a team trick that becomes randomly available during one of the characters’ turns. This attack is performed by two characters, dealing a large amount of damage. New Showtimes open throughout most of the game, the last one during the final act.
There are also enough normal attacks. You can improve both the characters themselves and their Personas. The characteristics of the characters are affected by their level and equipment, which can be both found in dungeons and bought in the store. You can also improve weapons there, adding new effects, such as elemental damage. The level of the character increases as standard – by winning the battle of opponents, you get experience for all characters active in the battle. In the same way, their Personas are upgraded. With a new level, they unlock new abilities, and there are indeed many of them.
Using Persona attacks requires spending spirit points for “magical” attacks and health points for “physical” attacks. You can restore health and spirit both during and between battles. Spirit can only be restored with the help of items, and health can be restored by Persona skills. If the Joker dies, the game is over and you can go back to either the start of the fight, your last save, or the start of the day.
There is a lot to write about the battles in the game, but still I do not consider them the main decoration of Persona 5 Royal.
Can`t hold on or life won`t change!
In my opinion, characters are what make RPGs interesting, and Persona 5 is no exception. On the way, the Joker will meet many people with whom he can make contact, and with some even enter into a romantic relationship. There are a total of 23 approximate main characters in the game. Three of them – Igor, Morgana and Sae Niijima progress along with the story, so you don’t have to upgrade them specifically. Twenty unique characters with their own storylines remain, each of which you can help in exchange for useful bonuses. Their opening is directly tied to the level of trust – the higher it is, the more abilities you open.
All approximates are different and their tasks differ significantly in content. A failed politician, a fortune teller, a former yakuza… And even your class leader! All these people are completely different from each other, but they have something in common – the desire to help the main character. Conventionally, the characters can be divided into two categories – members of the Thieves team and outsiders. Your teammates usually give you combat bonuses, but this isn’t always the case – for example, Ryuji Sakamoto allows you to instantly defeat opponents lower than you in Mementos. Some characters become available as Confidants well before they join your team, so their bonuses will have new combat-related effects added later.
“Alien” characters open the hero to completely different abilities. For example, the fortune teller Chihaya Mifune will give you the ability to see which of the dialogue options will give more trust points with the character, and the gymnast Kasumi Yoshizawa will help increase mobility when moving through the palaces. Some of these characters are only available for a limited time, so I highly recommend completing Takuto Maruki’s, Goro Akechi’s, and the aforementioned Kasumi Yoshizawa’s quests as soon as possible. Some of their quest stages are tied to story progression, so you won’t be able to get to trust level ten right away. However, believe me, it is worth it.
As in the previous parts, the main character can start dating one of the female characters of the game (yes, even his own teacher). When you reach trust level nine with one of them, the game will give you a choice – enter into a romantic relationship or remain friends. In fact, the game doesn’t limit you on the number of relationships, so you can date even all the girls in the game at the same time. However, as it should be expected, at a certain stage of the plot, this will go sideways for the unfortunate Casanova. Therefore, I advise you to be careful!
The quest of almost every character follows a certain formula: introduction, further meetings, requests for help, final meetings. At a certain level of trust, you will have to go on Mementos and change the heart of the person who is bothering your loved one. All other stages take place in the “real” world.
What fills up my soul is passionate music
It’s time to talk about what makes this game truly unique – the design. Visually, the game is very stylish – all effects, art and textures are extremely professional and very recognizable. The Personas themselves stand out the most in quality – each of them is unique and based on various creatures from mythology or historical characters: some of them are easy to guess, such as Thor, and some will shock you. The visual style of the game maintains a very fragile balance between seriousness and outright trash, which makes Persona very different from others.
Music is a great addition to the visual style. The unsurpassed soundtrack constantly changes styles, from jazz to electronica, and the beautiful songs performed by Lin Inaizumi will stay in the memory for a long time. A standing ovation to Shoji Meguro and the entire sound recording team: the soundtrack almost single-handedly elevates this game to the level of a masterpiece. Also, Royal has voiced most of the dialogue, so you won’t have to sit in silence most of the time.