They laughed when I preached how Persona 5 Royal would come to the Nintendo Switch. One said the console couldn’t handle it. Another commented how Atlus wasn’t about that life. The rest just smiled and waved quietly in the corner. Right before hope turned into despair, SEGA/Atlus revealed the mighty news. Now let’s dig in and see if the Nintendo Switch version of the game lives up to its name.
You’re slammed with the hammer of justice after playing hero. Now you’re forced to walk the path of rehabilitation. Persona 5 Royal brings back the original story with a third semester and additional content. It shows you how unfair the protagonist’s life is and how corrupt adults can be in society. But you’re no longer entirely powerless. With the newly found powers bestowed upon you, you’re given the ability to change the hearts of these adults and force them to confess their crimes.
The opening puts on a fabulous, cinematic show foreshadowing the mess you will get into. The story progresses by interweaving various segments set in the past as the protagonist is interrogated. It’s an exhilarating concept that eventually grows irritating through its overuse of flashbacks. A lower number would have been perfect, but this was foiled by too many pieces trying to catch up to the present.
Besides strengthening your bonds with various characters, the plot has you break into Palaces from revolting adults to steal their treasure and change their hearts. It’s not difficult to hate the majority of villains in Persona 5 Royal. The writing heavily focuses on giving you a negative opinion about most. This helps amplify the rush of emotion that flows through your veins during a character’s transformation scene. You can feel how they have had enough and are ready to fight back.
The additional third semester wraps up the story. I can see how it leaves more to be desired for those who paid full price for the original game, but it can be considered one of the best “cherry on top” endings. I would have traded the extra romance episodes for an additional villain and a new Palace. This way I could have squeezed some extra usage out of the strong Personas I worked hard to build. You do get locked out of the Velvet Room challenges after being prompted to save.
Persona 5 Royal is all about strengthening bonds with characters and rebelling against the corrupt. You will have to live the daily life of Joker, the protagonist, by attending school and answering quizzes, hanging out with friends, and deciding how to spend the rest of your day. The activities you partake in increase your social stats, opening accessibility up to further engagement with the cast of characters.
There’s always something to do in Persona 5 Royal. Your ability to manage time wisely will be put to the test. Choose to work at a store and earn some money, grow stronger bonds by hanging out with characters, build up your stats from partaking in specific activities, head into Mementos and tackle requests, or just sit back and relax with one of the various mini-games. The game will continuously count down to the next “game over” screen, putting a limit on your actions.
The number of options can easily feel overwhelming at the beginning; however, methods are introduced to alleviate this. Some of the activities aren’t just for show. I was surprised when I could play baseball—and yes, I sucked at it. Even though there’s a lot to do in the game and multiple deadlines to monitor, you can take your time with it. There’s an ample amount of time provided. The gameplay loop does feel stretched out and repetitive, but this also contributes to the generous amount of time you’re given.
Persona 5 Royal has fantastic dungeon crawling. Each dungeon, known as a Palace, is themed after its owner and does a stellar job representing how the Palace owner feels. Navigating through these dungeons doesn’t feel bland, either. An example of this is the unique, creepy statue from the first dungeon of its narcissistic owner. Each Palace gives off a distinctive feel and some puzzle elements help make exploring the dungeons refreshing.
The enemies roam the map with their Shadows disguised. Engaging them in battle reveals who you will be up against. You can face them head-on, sneak past them, or ambush them to steal the advantage. If caught, the stronger Shadows will chase you down until you decide to put up a fight or successfully get away. All of the dungeon-crawling mechanics work pretty well. While you won’t be able to revisit cleared Palaces, Mementos, the largest Palace belonging to no one specific individual, satisfies most additional dungeon-crawling itches.
While I see how it can bother some, I did like the little commentary when going from area to area. It made me feel as though my teammates were right behind me and had my back. I was not a fan of sitting through the group meetings, though. Thankfully, that was optional. The last annoying bit is having to leave the Palace when things start to heat up, but it’s not something I’d bite off the developers’ heads for since the plot explains why it’s done.
Turn-based combat in this game is presented phenomenally, from the protagonist’s pompous expression during the turn-waiting screen to Personas materializing to attack. There’s a wide range of skills to use and a decent number of strategies to devise in a party of up to four characters. The only setback that bugged me a bit was the limited skill options of recruitable characters.
Each Palace has a new set of Shadows to fight. There are five different difficulty modes: Safety, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Merciless. The Merciless difficulty might seem intimidating, but battles will normally be a walk in the park if you’re like me and fight the majority of Shadows you encounter. You may not even lose a lot of progress with the generous number of save points scattered throughout each Palace.
Exploiting an enemy’s weakness or strategically downing them triggers the option for negotiation. You can recruit a Shadow through negotiation or demand something of value (money/item). Several negotiation dialogue options are presented and you must match the Shadow’s mood to successfully enroll them. A teammate will always provide a hint regardless of where you’re at in the game, making it easier to succeed in each negotiation.
I can’t say I enjoyed all of the conversations with these Shadows in Persona 5 Royal. The fixed responses just didn’t resonate with me. It felt more like a matching game rather than having the freedom to express how I felt. But what I loved most about negotiation in this game is the option to instantly recruit any previously enlisted Shadow. It helped tremendously with recruiting ’em all.
The boss battles in Persona 5 Royal do not disappoint. They are challenging and have unique gimmicks. Simply mashing A and going in guns blazing isn’t going to turn out well (at least if you’re not playing on one of the easiest difficulty modes). You don’t have to grind to overcome these challenges, but you do have to come up with a good strategy and have good Personas with decent skills to back it up.
Sometimes you will have to buff up your stats and other times you will need to guard against the opponent’s powerful strike. There is one boss that gave me a hard time and I found it infuriating, but overcoming that challenge gave me the best relief I could have asked for. If this is not something you crave, there is always the option of lowering the difficulty and rechallenging them.
There are a lot of Personas to fuse, new fusions to unlock, and unpredictable outcomes to encounter during alarms. The game makes it effortless to fuse the perfect Persona. You’re likely going to love using this game’s fusion system to strategically come up with the best skills and traits for your Personas. Timing plays a part, too, as alarms are essential in making sure most of your good skills are transferred over. Alarms aren’t too difficult to trigger. Simply head into a Palace and fight several enemies. It does feel grindy but you can nab some extra fusion materials while at it. Network Fusion also proves a great addition by opening accessibility to new, more powerful skills from other players’ Personas over Wi-Fi. I just wish you didn’t have to close the game just to reconnect if the console went into sleep mode.
The only trouble you may have is finding fusion results for specific Personas with limited fusion ingredients (e.g. Alice). There’s a high probability of playing the game without fusing some of the best Personas. An online fusion calculator tool will be required if you’re seeking specific fusions. This is because you will need to know which Personas must be summoned to use as fusion ingredients. Unfortunately, the old Personas you fused or recruited do not list themselves as fusion ingredients for possible fusions. You will have to manually pay and resummon them before seeing possible fusion options, putting more work on the player.
Graphics and Soundtrack
I was surprised to hear the news that Persona 5 Royal was confirmed for the Nintendo Switch. After hearing all of the chatter that the console couldn’t run it, I gave up hope. But I’m glad that it did launch, although some years after its prime release. Now, I know what you’re thinking—how well does Persona 5 Royal look and run on the console? Shockingly, not bad!
There are no performance hiccups while exploring or fighting. The character models look good, for the most part. Sure, Joker does get a bit blurry sometimes when he’s swinging on his grappling hook, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the experience for me. There’s also a generous number of costumes to change your characters into. What I found would have improved this was if the game had a dressing screen rather than the overworld to preview costume changes.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned, it’s like someone has cast a spell on me with their Persona. Normal fights interchange between two theme songs whether you engage an enemy normally or ambush them. I haven’t grown tired of either yet after 150 hours of playing. Some of the included costumes added different songs, but none could replace the base music for me for too long. Only the Boss battle theme songs rivaled them.
Persona 5 Royal didn’t have to steal my heart for me to enjoy the game. Although it sometimes feels padded out, it’s a great RPG that’s kept me entertained for around 150 hours. The combat is excellent with both loveable and hateable characters. Additionally, it runs exceptionally well on the Nintendo Switch. I do wish the Royal exclusive content was a bit more than what it was, but I’m confident most RPG fans who are new to the game will thoroughly have a blast.
Persona 5 Royal gets a 9/10.