Atlus Studios’ “Persona 5” has been a game Nintendo fans have awaited to make its Switch debut. Ever since the project’s main character, Joker, appeared on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as the game’s second downloadable content (DLC) fighter. Fans of the long-standing Japanese role-play game series have been excited by the prospect of more “Persona” content launching on the hybrid Nintendo console. Sure, there have been titles such as “Persona 5 Strikers” that have come out on the Switch since Joker’s reveal, but nothing from the mainline series has followed since.
Alas, Nintendo announced the release of three Persona titles coming to the Switch on the June 28 edition of the company’s “Direct Mini” event; “Persona 3,” “Persona 4 Golden” and, of course, “Persona 5 Royal,” which came out recently on Oct. 21 with much fanfare.
As someone who only owns a Switch and thus, solely plays silly Nintendo games, I have never had the opportunity to experience “Persona 5,” or any “Persona” title, for that matter. However, I have always heard only positive affirmations about “Persona 5,” so I have been interested in playing it for quite some time. Thus, when I heard the game’s remastered port was arriving on the Switch, I knew I had to experience it myself.
Just as a quick disclaimer, I have yet to fully complete the game, nor do I anticipate finishing it any time soon. I say this not because I believe the quality of “Persona 5 Royal” is poor, but because a walkthrough of the game’s story mode takes an estimated 100+ hours to complete. As of writing this review, the Switch port came out a little over a week ago, so I think it is fair to say that it would not be feasible to dedicate such an ungodly amount of time to it. Instead, I will be discussing this title based on the more reasonable 10 or so hours I have spent playing it so far.
If I had to describe “Persona 5 Royal” in a sentence, I would say it is a cross between a superhero story and a spy thriller. The game puts the player in the boots of Joker, a reserved high school student who is expelled from his academy, being framed for assault after trying to intervene on a man harassing a woman. Now, given a criminal conviction, the story’s protagonist is sent on probation to attend Tokyo’s Shujin Academy. However, something is odd with Joker’s new school. On his first day of classes, the game’s quiet lead gains access to “The Metaverse,” which has no affiliation with Mark Zuckerberg. Instead, it is an alternate plane of existence full of peculiar Palaces ruled by callous, immoral individuals embodying faculty members of Joker’s new school. In reality, these people represented are coldhearted and not that different from their “Metaverse” counterparts. Throughout the game, Joker gradually amasses a group of misfit students who dub themselves the “Phantom Thieves,” each of which can command formidable beings known as “Personas” to battle shadowy foes in the “Metaverse.”
Since hearing about “Persona 5” in high school, I have been familiar with its soundtrack, which does an amazing job of illustrating the game’s different circumstances and capturing the mood of each scene flawlessly. My favorite track, and easily the song I have played on repeat the most is “Beneath the Mask” by Shoji Meguro. It is a suave, jazzy tune that keeps the player entertained and amped up, providing an excellent combination of a classy guitar beat with sassy saxophone accompaniment. Fortunately, this track is played in the game’s main hub, so the beautiful melodic instrumentals are present throughout the game.
One of the main qualms with the Switch is that it is an underperforming system that cannot run larger software at a suitable framerate or provide crisp graphical presentation compared to its competitors, Xbox and PlayStation. This is not the case with the port version of “Persona 5,” as it looks outstanding and runs with barely any bugs or framerate issues. Each character is given distinctive and expressive designs that shine through in the various 2D animations that accompany dialogue. The game alternates between 2D cutscenes and 3D playable sections, which evoke the same flamboyance as the flat illustrations that compose the former.
Character personality and distinction is crucial in a role-playing game, and “Persona 5” juggles these traits perfectly. Even after playing only a fraction of the game’s story, I can recognize key differences between characters and their unique motivations. The depth of the script is part of “Persona 5’s” appeal, offering diverse relationships between characters and how they interact with each other. So far, I have been introduced to just a percentage of the game’s cast roster, and because so much time has been spent to build their respective personalities, each character already feels fleshed out and three-dimensional.
Being that “Persona 5” is a Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG), it is to be expected that a lot of time was spent to construct a vast turn-based system. Despite how intuitive the controls are, Atlus Studios formulated a thoroughly intriguing combat engine. Each foe the player confronts has a different weakness and it is up to the player to determine the most efficient means to defeat them. I like how unpredictable these confrontations feel as a result; it adds an extra sense of realism and makes the player really think about creative ways to defeat each enemy.
If it is not clear already, I am really enjoying my time with “Persona 5” so far. Despite experiencing a fraction of the JRPG’s story so far, I can tell that it is deep and moving, dedicating as much time as necessary to craft developed and distinct characters. Other factors such as its superb graphical presentation, catchy soundtrack and critically thought-out turn-based system all contribute to the game’s exceptional experience that makes the long wait for mainline “Persona” titles coming to the Switch worthwhile. I cannot wait to play more of “Persona 5” and get glued to the characters and their respective interactions even further.