PERSONA 5 ROYAL / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: ATLUS / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: 31ST MARCH
The most recent entry to the Persona series, Persona 5 was immediately labelled as one of the greatest role-playing games of all time when it was first released in 2016. Seeking to improve on an already impeccable title, developers Atlus have refined some of the game's mechanics, revised the dialogue and almost doubled the length of the game by adding a ton of new content.
The opening hours of P5R pose way more questions than answers. Who's this masked man and why is he in a casino filled with monsters? Why are massive traffic accidents happening all over Tokyo, injuring dozens of people at a time? What's this weird app that keeps appearing on your phone? Why are you suddenly held captive in an otherworldly dungeon, trying to escape with help from a talking cat? And why does that man wearing a crown and robe (and nothing else but a pair of tight bright pink briefs) bear a striking resemblance to your pervy PE teacher?
The pieces eventually start to fit together, but things continue to get even crazier over the course of the game's 100 or so hours. By day, you're a regular teenager, going to school, doing chores and building relationships, but when night falls, you'll be invading the psyche of wrongdoers, stealing treasure, fighting monsters using all kinds of crazy weapons and magic, and restoring balance to an unjust world.
P5R's turn-based combat allows players to perform melee attacks, special “Persona” moves, and shoot a limited amount of bullets. Extra mechanics like knockdowns and hold-ups add scope for more tactical manoeuvres, like questioning nearly-defeated foes to gain extra rewards and new attacks. New skills are earned as you go along, through winning battles and by improving relationships with other characters, ensuring a constant stream of increasingly flashy attacks throughout the game.
The production values are, put simply, some of the highest we've ever seen. Everything looks bright and crisp, with tons of memorable locations and characters, and the animated cutscenes are particularly outstanding. The audio is similarly excellent, with an incredible Japanese-tinged pop/rock soundtrack and top-notch voice acting. Everything looks and sounds perfectly designed, from the enemies and environments all the way down to the text boxes!
Speaking of text, there's an awful lot of dialogue to get through, to the point where you occasionally feel like you've been playing for a couple of hours and still haven't had a fight yet. Thankfully, the story is so well-written that it keeps pushing you on to see what happens next, and there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments to keep you on the edge of your seat. It's a crazy tale for sure, but it's easy enough to get into and will quite possibly make you want to track down some of the previous Persona games to see what's happened in the past (although it's not necessary to have played any of them to enjoy P5R).
New players have got an absolute treat in store with this one, and there's plenty for returning players to get their teeth into, including a brand new character, an extended story mode, a new location and a wealth of new items, weapons and abilities. As a re-release P5R does everything right, serving as an outstanding introduction to the world for newcomers and a fantastic reason to revisit if you've been here before. Things do take a fairly long time to get going, so more impatient players might want to consider their options, but it's a journey well worth taking. Honestly, it's impossible to find any faults with P5R at all. A*, double distinction, full marks!