By Dean Moses
Game: Persona 5 Royal
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Rating: M for Mature
Video games are all about escaping, to lose oneself in epic narratives and detailed worlds. The majority of titles focus on this fantastic element—the things we can’t do in real life—yet very few demonstrate both the fantastical and the mundane, and if they did, it is not likely they would achieve such a magnificent equilibrium between the two like Persona 5 Royal.
High School and High Fantasy
Persona 5 Royal is a re-release of 2016’s Persona 5. This iteration comes bursting with tones of new features, but before we get into those, we need to understand what Persona 5 is. One of the many titles in the larger Megami Tensei series, this role-playing game/social simulation puts you in the role of a teenager who has moved to the city after some legal troubles. With his new guardian, fellow students, and teachers focusing on his past rather than his heart, you, as the player, will soon feel isolated in these unfamiliar surroundings. Thank-fully though you are not alone. On your first day of school you make friends with the one student who does not judge you, which leads to an epic journey in and of itself.
Our new friend Ryuji leads us to school; however, a gigantic castle stands in its place. It is here we realize we have entered another world, a dark version of reality where the school’s coach is king. This alternate version of the instructor reveals that he has been torturing the volleyball players in order for them to win champion-ships. This is where the unique gameplay aspects of Persona comes in. You are unable to prevent the abuse in the real world, so you must travel to this twisted reality in an attempt to change the king’s heart and have him admit his crimes, but in doing this your real life responsibilities also need to be met—a mix of high school and high fantasy.
A Juggling Act
This juggling act is a lot more fun than it sounds. In addition to studying for your schoolwork, players can partake in arcade games, hit balls at the batting range, exercise, get a part time job to earn money for extra items, and much more. The decision for each activity cannot be taken lightly, though. Every action takes up a timeslot, moving the day forward.
Seeing that you only have a set number of days to change a heart will require you to make some tough calls. Sacrifice currency in place of leveling up a character’s stats or, perhaps, spend time with a companion to increase your bond and help each other in battle.
Talking of fights, they play like a combination of the Final Fantasy series and Pokémon. The action is turn based—meaning you command every character to attack one at a time—and in the midst of it all you can persuade foes to join your team. The deep combat mechanics and enjoyable social aspects make Persona 5’s gameplay some of the most unique and enjoyable you are likely to find.
So, let’s talk about what’s new. There are some miner graphical improvements for PS4 Pro players, along with other aesthetic changes like a freshly animated opening movie, along with a different main menu theme. But the real wealth comes in the gameplay itself. Developer P-Studio has included new characters, weapons, items, enemies, a virtual museum in which to wander around and play games, two new endings, and more. Returning fans could be surprised by just how much content has been added.
Persona 5 Royal is a masterpiece in storytelling and game design. Fun, engaging, and emotional, these are marks of a true classic. It is hard to say if the new additions warrant a full $60 dollar price tag, still for new fans it is a steal. Persona is slow and measured, if you have the patience, this is a must own.