Persona 5 Royal review: Phantom Thieves steal the spotlight on Switch

An image of Joker, the protagonist of Persona 5 Royal.Atlus

Persona 5 Royal is finally being released for current-gen consoles, including the highly anticipated Xbox, PC, and Nintendo Switch versions. With all the enhancements and additional content in Royal, there’s truly no better time for new players to get their hands on one of the most engaging JRPGs of all time.

The success of Persona 5’s original worldwide release back in 2017 did wonders for the IP in the West. As a result, what was once a niche spin-off of another niche series, now stands alongside the likes of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts as one of the most celebrated JRPG franchises in the world.

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An enhanced edition of the game, Persona 5 Royal, soon followed in 2020. Royal features an abundance of new content, as well as quality-of-life improvements that make it the definitive Persona 5 experience.

In coincidence with the franchise‘s 25th-anniversary, P5R has finally made its way to Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC – meaning that one of the most stylish and captivating JRPGs of the modern age is now more accessible than ever.

Personal 5 Royal key details

  • Price: £54.99 / $59.99
  • Developer: Atlus
  • Release date: October 21, 2022
  • Platforms: Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.

Persona 5 Royal trailer

A royally captivating story

Artwork of the members of the Phanton Thieves from Persona 5 Royal.Atlus
The Phantom Thieves are an extremely lovable cast of characters.

Persona 5 Royal kicks off much in the same way as the original game – with the protagonist, Joker, recounting the events that led to his involvement with the notorious Phantom Thieves, and his subsequent arrest.

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As the clock winds back the player begins to experience the events of the past six months through a dense introduction that gradually eases you into the gameplay staples of the franchise.

In this initial flashback, we learn the Phantom Thieves aren’t quite as villainous as they sound – in fact, they’re simply a group of students that Joker met after he was charged with an unjust crime and sent to Tokyo’s Shujin Academy.

The teens soon discover that they have the ability to enter the Metaverse (no, not that one) – a place where a person’s distorted desires are realized in the form of a Palace – and vow to use this to change the hearts of the corrupt adults in society.

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With an ensemble cast of ten, it’s perhaps a small miracle that every member of the Phantom Thieves is wonderfully fleshed out with a distinct personality. From your best bro Ryuuji to the analytical Makoto, the mysterious Morgana, and the athletic Kasumi (a new character exclusive to Royal) each member has a heartwrenching backstory that reaffirms their reason for joining the group. Altogether, the Phantom Thieves are an extremely likable and human (aside from the cat-like Morgana… but don’t tell him we said that) cast that is a joy to spend time with.

Take your time

Joker and Ryujii interacting in Persona 5 Royal.Atlus
The social link system in Persona 5 Royal can earn Joker new skills that can be utilized in combat.

Taking your time in Persona 5 Royal is actively encouraged, by both the core gameplay and the “Take your time” message Joker displays during loading screens.

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The most unique element of the Persona games is the calendar and social link systems. You’re left to your own devices every day once school ends and the majority of that time can be used to further your relationships with your party members and important NPCs alike. Each social link has unique confidant abilities that are rewarded to the player whenever their bonds strengthen, and these skills will often benefit Joker in combat.

Battles take place during Heist segments when the Phantom Thieves explore their target’s Palace, steal the treasure within, and ultimately change their heart. Persona uses a traditional JRPG turn-based combat system where players control up to four party members.

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By calling on the power of their Personas, the Phantom Thieves can execute magic-based abilities during battle. You can also perform melee attacks, use slingshots and guns, and hold up enemies with the threat of an “all-out attack” – a powerful group finishing move.

Joker also has the ability to recruit brand new Personas which can be fused together to create even more powerful creatures. Recruiting becomes available in combat once you hold up an enemy, you’ll be given the option to negotiate with them, and if they like what you have to say they may join you.

Fights are swift, stylish, and fun overall, and P5R is able to deliver a refreshing spin on turn-based combat.

Outside of infiltrating palaces, battling shadows, and bonding with your teammates, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Whether you want to commit to studying in the school library, catch a movie at the local theatre, or spend some time at the batting cages, there’s more than enough to keep players entertained.

Style and substance

The combat screen in Persona 5 Royal.Atlus
Everything from the combat to the loading screens is stylish in Persona 5 Royal.

Combat isn’t the only thing that looks stylish because the entirety of Persona 5 Royal is graphically stunning.

Everything from the loading screens to menus oozes with style, and the vibrant color palette, creative Palace themes, and unique character designs all combine to make the world of Royal pop off the screen.

The Nintendo Switch version of Royal, which I played for this review, looks fantastic and runs very well. Performance-wise, the game runs at a solid 30 FPS and the loading times are next to none, you’ll never be waiting for more than a few seconds in-between areas. Textures do feel slightly muddier and less refined than the previous PlayStation 4 release due to the Switch’s limited capabilities but the game is still a visual treat whether you’ve got it docked on the big screen or at your fingertips in handheld mode.

Bound to steal your heart

An image of Joker and Morgana.Atlus
Persona 5 Royal is one of the best JRPGs of the decade.

Overall, Persona 5 Royal is one of the best JRPGs of the decade. Its unique and compelling gameplay loop alongside stunning anime-inspired visuals and a killer soundtrack all combine to make Altus’ greatest triumph yet.

Royal is still the definitive Persona 5 experience. The novelty of being able to pick up and play it anywhere due to the portability of the Nintendo Switch is a huge comfort.

Verdict – 10/10

Persona 5 Royal is simply a must-play for any JRPG fan, and couldn’t be a better place to start for those who have yet to delve into the genre.

If you’re a fan of lengthy RPGs full of interlinking systems and somehow haven’t played yet, we implore you to join the Phantom Thieves — they’re bound to steal your heart.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch