3 years after the release of Persona 5 Royal for last-gen systems, Atlus is about to put a next-gen version of the game, which is essentially the same product as the 2019 release, albeit with a few improvements in place. Persona 5 Royal on next-gen systems brings the framerate up to 60 FPS, which certainly helps make character animations a lot smoother – while also making the combat feel more intense and frantic.
While there are next-gen improvements to be found, the game itself is identical to the 2019 release, which improved upon the original 2017 release with additional content such as new characters, abilities, and areas. To get it out of the way quickly, the new release does not contain any additional new content – which really begs the question of who this new game really is for.
The demographic Atlus is probably going for with this new release are players who are either new to the franchise or are yet to play Persona 5 and have just gotten their hands on a next-gen console. This is a pretty smart move on Atlus’ part as it sparks interest in the franchise to a whole new section of the game community and gets the conversation going around Persona once again.
However, if you’re someone who has played the heck out of Persona 5 in 2017 and went back for some more in Royal in 2019 – there is very little reason for you to spend the full price that the publisher is asking for what is essentially a simple, next-gen patch.
Persona 5 Royal on Next-Gen Systems is a Great Deal…If This is Your First Time Playing
Full disclosure, I am positively new to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise and this was my first experience with Persona 5, and needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I can’t wait to jump back in and invade Palaces with my buddies. For some context for newbies such as myself, Persona 5 is part of the larger massively successful Shin Megami Tensei franchise that has birthed some of the best JRPGs in gaming.
This one follows the story of the protagonist, Joker, a new transfer student in Shujin Academy with a dark past as he attends school with his new mates. That is only one-half of the two games that Persona 5 really is as one has you navigating school life, complete with exams, assignments, and surprise pop quizzes while the other has you battling demonic creations in the Metaverse as they learn about Personas, Palaces, and attempt to rid the world of general maleficence.
Set in modern-day Tokyo, you, as the protagonist, are tasked with maintaining a healthy school life while also working with your buddies to bring down bad elements of society by exploring and battling demons in the Metaverse. That duality makes for some of the most fun and rich storytelling you will ever find in gaming.
The gameplay is as Solid as Ever in 60 FPS
As the protagonist, you will be tasked with completing objectives in various districts of Tokyo which open up gradually as you make your way through the game. As a student on probation, there are some limitations on the time of day you can explore these parts – but staying on your best behaviour will help relax those constraints a little bit. You will be consistently making choices – choosing what to say and levelling up your character with skills learnt through work – instead of just dumping points in a skill tree.
How that works is that if you want to get more Health Points (HP) – you’re going to have to drink protein shakes and work out in a gym. If you want to increase your Knowledge, guess what? Read a book or two during your daily train commute and study in the Library. This forms an organic gameplay loop that rewards players for putting in the work and the choice to avoid an arbitrary skill tree pay off wonderfully.
While that itself sounds pretty engaging – the real bit of challenge in Persona 5 Royal comes when the group is exploring the Metaverse. This alternate dimension is home to the deepest, darkest desires of some truly foul individuals, which means you’re going to be battling some nasty-looking creatures called Shadows. Fighting these Shadows will help you level up as you make your way through the Palaces, essentially, an area that is completely open to exploration – given you have the right skills and tools for the job.
Speaking of fighting, for those new to the franchise, Persona 5 royal has a turn-based combat system – which might be a turn-off for some players. However, stay with it long enough and you’ll find yourself wishing more games had the kind of turn-based combat such as this one. Each character has their own “Persona”, a rebellious, powerful part of their personality that can do all kinds of damage. Other forms of attack include using a Gun and Melee. The combat requires players to make the right calls to ensure that their group comes out of each fight victorious.
The core gameplay loop of Persona 5 has you preparing in the real world for these missions called “Infiltrations”, which has you plotting your way through a Palace and stealing a Treasure. How you prepare for these missions involves buying weaponry, medicines, and items, and levelling up your characters’ core skills such as HP and SP. Everything you do in the real world will have effects in the Metaverse.
Rest assured, there are plenty of cool side activities you can engage in in the real world such as Batting Cages, Gym, and…studying in a Library. The game is an absolutely mammoth challenge, with over 100 hours of gameplay (that is only if you rush through the campaign), but given the quality of gameplay – those 100 hours are liable to rush past you.
Persona 5 is a perfect example of a game whose story can only be told through the medium of games. The gameplay mechanic helps you form a bond and connect with these characters that perhaps an anime or manga cannot achieve. Although, a case could be made that the game would also make for a pretty decent anime, illustrated by the artfully drawn and animated cutscenes.
The story follows the adventures of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, a group of school kids that engage in daring heists all over town to bring down corrupt, devious, and evil folks of society. How they go about doing these Heists is through the Metaverse, an alternate dimension that allows these characters to reach into the psyche of these bad folk and steal from their heart – their darkest desires and the root of all their evil.
Think of it as Inception, but with school kids and a thousand more demons than in Nolan’s 2010 modern classic. The game begins with the Phantom Thieves executing an action-packed heist, but it ends with the protagonist being arrested. What follows is the protagonist, Joker, recalling how they got to this point and the individuals they targeted over the course of 6 months.
From that point, the players play through the school year as Joker as he forms friendships with characters such as Ryuji, Ann, and Morgana. The group uncovers a sinister presence in the school and attempts to reveal its true face by venturing into an alternate dimension and pulling off a daring heist. As the Phantom Thieves execute said heists – they grow in power and become the talk of the town.
The questions of morality, rehabilitation, and exploration of the self are done absolutely wonderfully – which is helped in large part by great writing and solid performances across the board in both Japanese and English. There are depths and facets of the story that you need to see for yourself and while it may all seem obtuse at the start, just be assured that you are in for a massively enjoyable ride that will have you laughing, screaming in joy and also occasionally chilled to the bone with dread.
Persona 5 Royal – Performance, New Content, or Lack Thereof
As mentioned previously, Persona 5 Royal for Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S contains virtually the same game as the 2019 release which contains a ton of new story content and a nifty, new grappling hook that allows you to explore new locations. But all of that new content is already available on last-gen systems and there’s nothing stopping you from replaying that on your new console, albeit at a reduced framerate.
Essentially, what you will be paying Rs 3,499 for is the ability to play a game from 2019 at 60 frames per second. There is no free upgrade path for players who own Persona 5 Royal on last-gen consoles, which means you’re going to be paying nearly full price for a next-gen patch, which isn’t very appealing.
Speaking of 60 FPS, the game is rock-solid when it comes to performance – zero crashes, texture pop-ins or glitches in my entire time with the game. The game is very fun to play and looking at gameplay from the last-gen version, it is abundantly clear that the best way to experience the game is through the 2022 version.
Final Word – Persona 5 Royal (2022)
In my time with the game, I couldn’t remember the last time I was this excited about going to school and taking tests throughout the calendar year. The game’s core loop is one of the most enjoyable and expansive experiences that will leave your jaw squarely dropped to the floor by the number of intricate and intertwining gameplay mechanics and minigames the game throws your way.
My few complaints from the game stem from unreasonably large chunks of time between actual gameplay and the frankly absurd amount of handholding in the first few hours of the game. It won’t be until your first 4 hours of the game that you will finally be unleashed and left to explore the game any way you see fit. While I appreciate the game trying to not bombard me with 45 different things at once, I would have also appreciated it if it just let me enjoy the experience without the uncomfortable hand-holding.
There is not a lot that can be said about Persona 5 that hasn’t already been said and the game certainly doesn’t need any more glowing endorsements for it to be recognized as the masterpiece that it is. However, the game is squarely targeted to those that haven’t played it before on last-gen consoles as Atlus tries to rope in new fans to their fabled franchise.