Persona 5 Royal Review – Taking Your Heart With Style

Persona 5. Honestly, whether you’ve ever heard of the Persona series or not, there’s a good chance that you might’ve seen an ad for Persona 5. And in fact, many reviews (for better or worse) can’t help but compare any RPG to it. And today, we’re diving into the extra-special Royal edition, released on the PlayStation 4 in 2019, three years after the original (which was retroactively named Persona 5 Vanilla). Or, arguably at least, the definitive way to play Persona 5, in my opinion.

A Long Road of Development

Persona 5’s development lifetime is an interesting tale. It was first announced for the PS3 in 2013 with a late 2014¬†release date, but unfortunately, plans for that ultimately fell through and the game was delayed multiple times…from 2014 to 2015…then late 2015…I remember following the news and wondering whether Persona 5 would release at all. But finally, in September of 2016, Japan was graced with the game on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

Initial teaser art for when the game was coming for the PlayStation 3.

The west got the original Persona 5 some months later in 2017, but there was one big problem with it…and that was…the translation. It was heavily criticized by the community about it being full of typos, grammatical mistakes, which prompted even a fan to create an entire website that highlighted every single error and mistake that was made with it.

That’s not to say it was utterly unreadable, but the release of Persona 5 Royal had its localization completely overhauled from the original PS3 release, and added in much needed quality of life improvements when it released in Japan in 2019, with an international release in 2020, which many would argue it to be the definitive way to play the game. And this is the version we’re taking a look at in this review.

Recount Your Story

Persona 5’s Royal starts with a nameless protagonist, though he has several “canon names”…it depends on who you ask. After returning home from school, he witnesses a woman getting harrassed by a drunk man. As he tried to help her, he pushes the drunk man away, which causes him to hit his head. In a fit of anger, the man ends up accusing the protagonist of assault, and sents him to a one-year probation period with a relative in Yongen-Jaya.

…and start from the beginning we shall.

There have been numerous incidents of strange mental shutdowns and psychotic breakdowns occurring in Tokyo, with no one knowing as to why they’re happening. It doesn’t take long before a strange app gets installed into the protagonist’s phone, and he gains access to a supernatural reality called the Metaverse, where everything is warped. The school he suddenly needed to go has turned into a weird castle.

As it turns out, what he just stumbled on is called a Palace, a cognitive location that is resulted of a person’s distorted desires. According to the talking cat Morgana, if a person were to steal a Palace’s main core, they would trigger what is known as a “change of heart”, where the Palace’s owner would confess to their crimes, and atone for their sins.

Now, of course, what I just said is a gross simplication of the story, but the protagonist and his friends are part of a group known as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, whose objective is to change the hearts of criminals, and figure out the truth behind these strange incidents.

A Tried-and-True Formula of Gameplay

When it comes to gameplay, Persona 5 has several different facets to it. Because remember, the protagonist is still on probation, so he is expected to go to school at morning sharp every day, to serve his probation period. However, at night is when the real fun starts, as they storm into the Palaces and defeat the Shadows inside.

Right, where is my cheat sheet for today’s classroom question…

Each of the Palaces have a gimmick and puzzle that sets them apart, and sometimes, you’ll be required to investigate and make changes in the real world so that the cognitive thoughts of the Palace’s owner alter so you can move forward. And there’s also a catch. At any given moment in the story, you’ll be given a deadline to complete the mission, and if you do not clear it, the game will immediately end with a bad ending, so time management is crucial.

And Palaces aren’t just the only place you’ll have to explore, for there exists a dungeon known as Mementos. Think of it as the general public’s palace. Looking back, Mementos sort of feels like the Tartarus dungeon in Persona 3, where the more you progress, the further down you will go, and the game expects you to go as deep as possible, so don’t dally and think you can completely ignore it.

Thankfully, Persona 5 Royal has added so many quality of life improvements that make the game a breeze when compared to the original, such as the addition of Showtime, a sort of all-out attack where two party members combine together and deal massive damage.

When it comes to the combat system, it will feel very familiar if you’ve ever played any games from the Shin Megami Tensei series, as they share terminology, and you got a turn-based system with elemental weaknesses to take advantage of. Deepening your bonds with the people of Tokyo will also grant you skills that will aid you in combat.

Targeting enemy weakness is the key to victory!

Revolutionary Graphics and Sound

When it comes to graphics and sound, Persona 5 Royal simply sets a whole new precedent when it comes to its UI/UX design, and as a graphic designer myself, I can’t help but marvel at it. The UI is beautiful, from the loading screens. Furthermore, when Royal came to the PS4, it had dropped the need to downscale the graphics for the PS3, so everything from the signs at the train station to the posters are all sharp and vibrant.

As a graphic designer, this UI is a treasure trove that must be preserved for posterity.

The soundtrack is also truly the chef’s kiss, and there’s no denying just how much it has become an iconic part of gaming in the last couple years. In particular, Last Surprise and Gentle Madman have both lit up listening charts worldwide, and it’s easy to see just how much of a phenomenon they are from their composition. It makes you truly immersed into the game, and I can’t stop praising it.

Man, even the calendar looks nice.

Over 80 Hours of Gameplay

There is a lot to do in Persona 5 Royal, especially when compared to the Vanilla game. Not only does Royal add a brand-new area, Kichijoji, for you to explore, but if you manage to meet certain conditions, the game actually has a whole chunk of a story that leads to a separate ending. While I won’t spoil exactly what exactly you see in there, I will let you in on something however, it adds a TON of hours.

When it comes to the Platinum, Persona 5 Royal thankfully doesn’t have as many tough-to-get trophies unlike Vanilla, and it’s extremely easy to even platinum it during the first run, if you know what you’re doing. However, I wouldn’t force yourself to complete absolutely everything in the first go.

As the loading screen of the game tells you over and over: Take Your Time, and explore the sights, and deepen your relationships with the characters. Overall, it took me around 85 hours to obtain the Platinum, but even after you get it, Persona 5 Royal has a separate achievement system through the Thieves’ Den feature, which is unlocked as you progress through the story. It can be accessed from the title screen, and its progression is tied to system data across all of your playthroughs. And yep, even after getting the platinum about 85 hours in, I had only 40% of all the awards.

Some people have told me that getting all these is a monumental task that takes upwards of three hundred hours.

Persona 5 Royal Has All DLC Included in 2024

As of the time of writing, Atlus has done some changes if you’re a person who bought either the digital version of Persona 5 Royal, or own the physical copy on PS5. But the main thing I want to focus is the fact that, currently, Persona 5 Royal is only available digitally with the Ultimate Edition on PS4, and the base game on PS5.

Regardless of whichever version you purchase, you have all of the DLC available to you at no additional cost. This strange change actually came out VERY recently, when at around two months after the release of the PS5 version, Atlus delisted the Deluxe and base game editions on PlayStation 4, leaving only the Ultimate Edition for $59,99.

Now, what does the DLC add to the replayability? Well, to answer that, we need to make our way to the Velvet Room. One of the main key factors of the DLC is the ability to fight against the protagonists of both Persona 4 and Persona 3, and don’t go thinking these fights will be a breeze, because they are TOUGH. Additionally, you can also dress up the characters with clothing inspired by Atlus’s own series, and even summon their Personas.

Persona 5 Royal is a Must-Play For Everyone

Be it your first ever Persona game, or foray into the series, I’d recommend Persona 5 Royal to absolutely anyone who has even a small interest in it. From its amazing soundtrack, engaging story, and beautiful UI design, I simply cannot stop singing its praises.

Persona 5 Royal was one of the few games that made me actually want to chase all of its achievements, which doesn’t happen too often, but that’s just how much I was engrossed with it. Perhaps its only downside is that its story may be a slow burn, but trust me when I say…it truly sets a pinnacle.

Joys

  • Beautiful UI/UX design
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • An engaging story with multiple endings
  • Hundreds of hours of content, even after the Platinum

Cons

  • Has a bit of a slow start at first

Persona 5 Royal

9
Excellent
Angelus Victor
PS4 version of the game used for the purposes of this review.