Persona 5 Royal (Switch) Review
Persona 5 Royal’s Switch release is just as good as you’d expect. This is a game that made waves in every previous release. I’m not surprised that it hits just as hard now as it did on other consoles. The game still looks great, sounds great, and packs quite a punch with its narrative. However, while some gameplay and narrative problems have been fixed, others remain. While this is definitely a great port for a great game, it didn’t overhaul any fundamental design flaws.
That said, I’ll admit I didn’t play the original Persona 5 before picking up the re-release. But I’ll also say that it’s very hard to notice the seams. This game paints a grimly realistic portrait of life in Shibuya. In some ways, it reminds me of The World Ends with You, another gorgeous JRPG set in modern Japan. Both games even focus on the inner lives of troubled, desperate teenagers. But where The World Ends with You focuses on the struggle of self-improvement, Persona 5 Royal challenges the player to improve the whole world. All you have to do is steal a few hearts.
This game does a fantastic job of building atmosphere. Some titles build dread. Persona 5 Royal builds righteous rage—at society, at corruption, and at everyone who was supposed to protect you and chose to hurt you instead. While the execution can fall a bit flat at times, the intent is clear. And for all of its pitfalls, this game managed to stir up very real emotions in me. That is a triumph.
One Must Take Full Responsibility for Their Actions
In case you missed the hype, Persona 5 Royal is a game about doing the right thing and being punished for it. This is made brutally clear by the intro sequence and then hammered in by the rest of the tutorial. You take on the role of a high school student who tried to stop a woman from being assaulted. You succeeded… and were promptly sued by the perpetrator, who got you arrested, sentenced, and expelled. Now you have a criminal record for saving someone and a serious chip on your shoulder. And trust me, by the time you arrive at Shujin Academy, you’ll be as vengeful as the protagonist. When you’re sucked into the otherworldly Metaverse, it’s a chance to strike back at everyone who hurt you.
Maybe I should rephrase that. Persona 5 Royal is a game about doing the right thing no matter how much it hurts. Sometimes, that means you pay the price… and sometimes, it means you make someone else pay what they owe instead. But as you split your time between managing your real life and fighting the personifications of corruption in the Metaverse, it becomes clear that every action has consequences.
The game constantly shifts between playable segments, cutscenes, and animated sequences. This patchwork approach works remarkably well for tying together a title that’s part fantasy battle, part troubled teen sim. There are five difficulty levels: Safe, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Merciless. None of them affect the story and you can change the difficulty at any time. Unless you’re playing on Safe, for some reason.
Persona 5 Royal is at Home on the Switch
If you were worried about the game’s visuals, don’t be. Persona 5 Royal is stunning on the Switch. The opening sequence is especially gorgeous, of course. From the color choices to the dynamic animation to the bold use of red and black, this game is beautiful. The graphical update only makes the game’s existing style shine brighter. The in-game graphics are also great. The contrast between the real world’s drab and washed-out colors and the bright, threatening glow of the Metaverse is delightful. Comic book-style sound effects and speech bubbles invade both settings. They’re used to draw attention to items and persons of note.
The game features English and Japanese voices. These settings can be changed in the title screen, though not during gameplay. The English voices are pretty excellent, though some of the background actors can be annoying. And the soundscape and soundtrack are gorgeous, of course. The opening act of Persona 5 Royal is still a masterpiece. From the animated cutscenes to the in-game graphics to the scene transitions, it’s a work of art. I’ve never felt more tense and excited during a tutorial sequence.
The rush of running around and getting up to no good is rapidly shattered when the heist goes horribly wrong. Suddenly, you go from racing through the rafters being pursued by monsters to being tortured by the cops. As the interrogation continues, it becomes clear that something is terribly wrong with this situation. Only by retelling the story of your capture can you uncover the truth. As framing devices go, it’s a great set-up. Even the process of choosing the protagonist’s name is nerve-wracking. I’ve never played a game that packed such a punch right off the bat. Unfortunately–or fortunately–there’s a lot more to Persona 5 Royal than the opening act.
Bigger and Better Than Ever
As previous Persona 5 Royal reviews have noted, this is a long game. More than that, it’s a long game that links its plot progression to its calendar. This means it takes forever to progress. You can complete almost everything in one playthrough, but you’ll probably need a walkthrough. And even then, some scenes are mutually exclusive. This does add plenty of replay value at the cost of really slow build-up. The first four hours are mostly cutscene.
Over 40 pieces of DLC are included in this re-release, as is an entirely new story arc. The new third semester focuses on new party member Kasumi Yoshizawa while wrapping up Goro Akechi’s storyline. The grappling mechanic was also added for Royal. Plus, ammo is now restored at the end of each battle, making guns more valuable. And you can unlock the tag-team Showtime special moves as the story progresses.
In short, Persona 5 Royal adds a ton to the base game, which was already great. However, it does have a few issues. One thing I noticed is that when playing with the joy-cons in portable mode, it’s really hard to stop running everywhere. There are also a lot of loading screens, but I barely even noticed them. They’re cunningly concealed as stylistic transitions. Beyond that, my only complaints are baked into Persona 5 at its core. And Royal was never going to address the fixation on sexual blackmail or the mistreatment of Ann.
The real question here isn’t ‘is Persona 5 Royal’s switch version worth playing?’ It’s ‘is this a good place to pick up Persona 5 for the first time?’ The answer is a solid ‘yes.’ If you’ve never had a chance to play Persona 5 before, this is a great place to start.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***
- Lots of replay value
- Sounds gorgeous
- Looks gorgeous
- New content smoothly implemented
- The game is still great
- This game is long
- Minor joy-con control issues
- Rigid pacing
- Starts with 4 hours of cutscenes
- Still weird about Ann