Windows Central Verdict
Persona 5 Royal is one of the finest JRPGS Atlus has ever produced, and thanks to the visual and performance boost of the Xbox Series X|S, it is better than ever. While I do have minor misgivings about the game's pacing during the opening act and its difficulty quirks, it is nonetheless a must-play for any JRPG fan on Xbox.
+ The gameplay loop of maintaining a high school life while being a crime-fighting vigilante is engaging.
+ Its cast of characters is charming and unforgettable, with intriguing backstories.
+ The combat system is deep, with multiple fun mechanics to play around with.
+ The presentation has significantly improved thanks to the Xbox Series X|S port's 1080p resolution and 60fps upgrades.
− The plot takes several hours to set up the world and characters.
− Getting a "game over" if the main character dies in battle while your party members do nothing to revive them is an annoying and non-sensical way to increase the difficulty.
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Out of the many sub-series within Atlus' long-running Shin Megami Tensei franchise, none are more popular than the Persona series. What started as a series of humble JRPGs, where teenagers fought to save the world while balancing their school life, slowly grew into a worldwide phenomenon thanks to the release of Persona 5 in 2016 (and its subsequent enhanced version, Persona 5 Royal, in 2019).
This game was critically acclaimed for building upon its predecessors' storytelling and gameplay tropes while sporting an incredibly stylish anime aesthetic and the highest production value of any Shin Megami Tensei game to date. As a result, this game pushed the Persona series games into mainstream stardom to the point where some would argue it has overshadowed the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games it spawned from.
I personally never played Persona 5 when it first came out, as I moved on to other JRPGs after finishing Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 on the PlayStation 2 in the late 2000s. However, thanks to Atlus providing me a review code for the Xbox X|S port of Persona 5 Royal, I was given an opportunity to finally give this game a shot. After spending weeks playing it, I was so glad I waited until now to experience this game. Not only is this Xbox Series X|S port the definitive edition of Persona 5 Royal, but it's also one of the best JRPGs I have ever played on Xbox, period.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible thanks to a review code provided by Atlus. The company did not see the contents of this review before being published.
What I liked about Persona 5 Royal
Let’s start with discussing what the Xbox Series X|S version adds to Persona 5 Royal compared to its previous PlayStation 4 iteration. It features the same content as the PlayStation 4 version, including the base game, the extra storylines, the new dungeon, quality-of-improvements, revamps to the combat system, and all of its DLC bundled together like cosmetic outfits and extra Personas to summon.
|Category||Persona 5 Royal|
|Release date||Oct. 21, 2022|
|Platforms||Xbox, PlayStation, PC,|
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
The only additions Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S bring are an improved resolution of 1080p and a 60fps boost upgrade. These may not seem a big deal at first, but they go a long way to enhance the highly stylish anime aesthetic this game strives for. Watching the game’s over-the-top Showtime attacks during battle and cinematic in-game cutscenes go from 30fps on the PlayStation 4 to a crisp 60fps on Xbox Series X was a spectacular feast for the eyes.
Persona 5 Royal already had a top-notch presentation from its detailed anime visuals, in-genius character designs oozing with symbolism, stellar voice acting, and fantastic music. But thanks to the performance upgrades from the Xbox Series X|S port, this game has never looked better.
Break free from the shackles of corruption
Persona 5 Royal is set in Tokyo, Japan, and is rife with turmoil and corruption. The populace is gripped by a string of unexplained cases where people suffer from psychotic breakdowns or die from mental shutdowns. In the middle of this chaos, various individuals of Japan's elite or criminal underworld are using their power and social status to exploit the innocent for their own gain without facing the consequences of their actions.
Enter the Phantom Thieves, a group of teenage vigilantes sworn to reform this decadent society by using their "Personas," supernatural manifestations of their rebellious spirits, to rob criminals of their selfish desires and force them to confess their sins publicly. As the Phantom Thieves take down more bad guys, more mental shutdowns are occurring at an alarming rate, and dark forces are mobilizing to oust the true identities of the Phantom Thieves and destroy them.
Persona 5 Royal is a fun, coming-of-age superhero tale of young outcasts rebelling against a corrupt society laden with gripping action, fascinating world-building, and many funny and heartfelt moments of levity. That said, the story isn't afraid to tackle serious and dark topics like abuse, trauma, corruption, suicide, the Seven Deadly Sins, depression, and many more. As per series tradition, Persona 5 Royal expertly conveys these themes through visual story-telling and Jungian-style symbolism to create memorable and wild character designs and set pieces.
The story does take a while to get going as it spends the first several hours establishing the world and characters. However, once those necessities are done, the plot starts to kick off, especially during the third act, where the Phantom Thieves' ideals are put to the ultimate test.
What sold me on the story is, without a doubt, the Phantom Thieves themselves. These kids are a fun bunch of likable misfits with charming personalities and interesting backstories.
Spending time with them and learning how much they suffered at being ostracized and taken advantage of by society made me want to root for them as they plucked the twisted desires from villains' hearts. Not to mention, each Phantom Thief gets a chance to shine in the story and show off how cool they can be during a fight.
Even this game's silent protagonist, "Joker", is a fun character in his own right. Many cutscenes and dialogue options depict him as a witty and courageous rebel who will stand up for justice and his friends even if he has to break the law to do so.
Delve into the Metaverse to steal twisted desires
The gameplay structure of Persona 5 Royal is that of a visual novel high-school simulator crossed with a dungeon crawler with turn-based combat. As the Phantom Thieves, your goal is to steal the desires of criminal scumbags while making time for your civilian life by going to school and developing friendships with the populace of Tokyo.
You may be wondering how exactly the Phantom Thieves steal the villains' desires. They accomplish this by using a mysterious phone app to enter the Metaverse, an alternate dimension where mankind’s cognitions dictate the laws of reality. For example, if a person’s desires become so twisted in the real world, they manifest in the Metaverse as tangible objects called Treasures.
Treasures are locked away deep inside complex, death-trap-riddled dungeons called Palaces. These are the Metaverse’s representations of a person’s mindscape, where their ego and darkest thoughts come to life as horrifying monsters called Shadows. They are dangerous and will kill any intruder who dares to try to steal the Treasure inside.
You must use your thievery skills to infiltrate these mentally deranged Palaces, past the weaker Shadows, and defeat the Palace Ruler Shadow guarding the Treasure. Stealing a criminal’s Treasure from the Metaverse will rob them of their desire to commit evil in the real world and have a change of heart.
The Palaces of Persona 5 Royal are some of the most well-thought-out and visually striking dungeons I’ve ever explored in a Persona game. Compared to Persona 3 and 4’s dungeons, which were linear mazes, Persona 5’s dungeons are giant, sprawling labyrinths riddled with enemies to overcome, puzzles to solve, and lots of loot to swipe.
Living the double life of a high school Phantom Thief
However, you can't waste too much time exploring as you have deadlines on the calendar for each mission to infiltrate a Palace and steal the Treasure. If you don't steal it by then, it's game over. So, half of the game's challenge comes from planning your schedule between deploying to the Metaverse and spending time in the real world.
When your class is done, you are free to roam around Tokyo and visit its various shops for items and gear to prepare your party for Metaverse excursions. You can also talk with certain people within the city to build friendships so they can become your Confidants.
By building up trust with these Confidants, you will gain access to an array of gameplay features that can help the Phantom Thieves in their heists. You can also have your party members become Confidants to help them gain new abilities in battle.
Confidants aren't just for gameplay benefits. Forming bonds will let you engage in entertaining side stories involving these characters so you can gain insight into their backstories and get more attached to them as people. Though some Confidants require you to build up Joker's Social Stats through various real-world activities so he can interact with them more personally (or even romantically).
In addition to building relationships and buying gear in the real world, you can also prepare for Palace heists by training your party in Mementos. This is a dungeon separate from Palaces in the Metaverse, formed by the collective consciousness of humanity rather than a single, warped individual. Each floor in Mementos is randomly generated and serves as a training ground to level up your Phantom Thieves' abilities.
It is a strange gameplay loop to say the least, and it is one I surprisingly found myself enjoying with much enthusiasm. Persona 5 Royal often felt like a superhero simulator, one where I had to meticulously plan when the best times were to go Treasure hunting and when to spend time with my friends at school.
If I did my prep work efficiently, I was able to rob Palaces clean of any riches and defeat their Shadows while having plenty of spare time to develop more Confidants and train in Mementos, making future heists easier to pull off. Mastering this gameplay loop made me feel like a genius and even improved my planning skills in real life.
Fight back the distorted Shadows
Now it's time to discuss the turn-based battle system of Persona 5 Royal. This game has no random encounters, meaning you can choose to attack and ignore regular enemies you wish. Should you decide to engage, you can use stealth-like mechanics to hide behind corners and ambush enemies to get the first hit on them.
Like most Shin Megami Tensei games, combat primarily involves exploiting your enemy's weaknesses to get extra turns to deal more damage while ensuring they don't do the same to you. Persona 5 Royal takes this concept further by introducing a plethora of in-depth gameplay mechanics that can help you ruin a Shadow's day.
Examples include the "Baton Pass," which passes your extra turn to other party members while increasing their damage output. Shooting enemies with guns that you can augment with status ailment bullets. Or The "All-Out Attack" technique, which lets you beat up an entire group of Shadows if you knock them all down.
One thing I like about the combat system is that Persona 5 Royal encourages using status effects. Unlike most JRPGs where status ailments are very situational or in extreme cases, useless, status ailments in Persona 5 Royal are viable in most battles and sometimes essential to making particular boss fights easier.
This is due to the Technical mechanic. Technicals allow you to knock down an enemy and deal extra damage if you attack them with specific skills while they're suffering from status ailments. For example, if an enemy is inflicted with Confusion, you can use Psychokinesis-type attacks to knock them down, even if they have a natural resistance towards that element.
Without giving spoiler details, you can upgrade the Technical mechanic and other combat mechanics by doing various activities in Tokyo or befriending Confidants. This opens a whole new world of possibilities for creating party compositions when fighting Shadows, making nearly fight feel fresh and rewarding for being creative rather than trying to brute force your way through.
Not that brute force will do you much good anyway, as the boss fights in Persona 5 Royal can be challenging if you're unprepared. Nearly every boss has unique gimmicks and tactics which require the player to think outside the box and master the combat system's mechanics to defeat them. It is so cathartic knocking these smug Shadows off their high horse by using status effects that negate their combat effectiveness and hearing them beg for mercy as I beat them down for the all pain their real-world counterpart caused.
Embody your Personas
One last major component of Persona 5 Royal to touch on is the acquisition of Personas. Unlike your party members who have unique Personas only they can use, Joker has the remarkable ability to use multiple Personas and switch between them during combat. However, gaining new Personas is a massive undertaking that can reward you greatly if you put in the time and effort.
The first method is by knocking down regular, non-boss Shadows, and instead of pulling an All-out Attack, you can negotiate with them to become your new Persona. This is done by answering a couple of questions to please them, depending on the Shadow’s mood. If you answer all questions correctly, the Shadow will become a new Persona to use. But if not, the battle will continue, or the Shadow will leave and drop a random item instead.
The second and more complex method of acquiring Personas is the Velvet Room. This is a mysterious pocket dimension only Joker has access to where he can take the Personas he acquired and fuse them to create new ones. As you progress through the game, you will unlock new options in the Velvet Room. You can sacrifice redundant Personas in brutal rituals to level up your favorite Personas or use them to create powerful items that will aid you on your journey.
To say I became addicted to the process of Persona fusion would be an understatement. I spent dozens of hours alone in this room concocting the ultimate arsenal of Personas for Joker to use in battle. And it was gratifying to see the fruits of my experimentation pay off during boss battles as I turned Joker into the ultimate jack-of-all-trades Persona-user, capable of fending off nearly every adversary that befell the Phantom Thieves.
What I didn't like about Persona 5 Royal
If I’m being sincere, there isn't much I actively dislike about this title, as I have enjoyed practically every aspect of it. The only major criticism I have about Persona 5 Royal (and it is a complaint I had with Persona 3 and 4) is that if the main character (Joker) dies in battle, it's game over.
This is annoying and unnecessarily frustrating because if your teammates go down, you can use Persona skills or items to revive them, but if Joker goes down, they instantly give up without even thinking of reviving him.
Granted, the game does give you various tools to prevent this like for example leveling your party member’s Confidant rankings so they can acquire a passive trait to take a fatal blow for Joker or lowering the difficulty so Joker can revive himself.
Nonetheless, I still feel this is a cheap method to artificially increase the difficulty from a gameplay perspective. And from an immersive story-telling perspective, it goes against the power of friendship trope this game likes to promote by making your teammates look incompetent in battle without their leader’s orders.
I personally feel that future Persona games should take a cue from Soul Hackers 2 and let us continue a battle if the main character goes down, and the penalty should be losing access to their unique abilities. That way, you can keep the fights challenging without causing unnecessary frustration or making your party act out of character.
Should you buy Persona 5 Royal?
Overall, I absolutely adored Persona 5 Royal. The plot was engaging, the characters were fantastic, the gameplay was addictive, and the Xbox Series X|S enhancements enriched its already excellent presentation. In addition, this game is great value for your money as it will take you dozens of hours to complete or even over a hundred hours if you take your time to look for all the Confidants and find secret unlockables.
If you are a Shin Megami Tensei fan, a Persona fan, or a fan of JRPGs in general, you will thoroughly enjoy this game as it is one of Atlus’ best works yet. I’m happy I finally got to play Persona 5 Royal as not only is this one of the best JRPGs on Xbox, I believe this is a candidate for one of the best games you can buy on Xbox.
Much like how the Phantom Thieves steal criminals’ desires, Persona 5 Royal has stolen my heart, and I can’t wait to see how Atlus will top this game in the future.
Persona 5 Royal will launch on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam and Windows on Oct. 21, 2022.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal is an incredible JRPG that is a must-have for any Xbox JRPG enthusiast. It has an addictive gameplay loop, the characters are well-written, and the anime-style presentation is at its peak thanks to the Xbox Series X|S enhancements.
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