I wasn’t overly enthused about Persona 5 when it first released on the PS4 back in 2017. 2019’s Persona 5 Royal was a step up from the original and I called it the game that Persona 5 should’ve been in the first place, but still felt it suffered from pacing issues. Now that Royal is getting re-released on the Switch, this is officially my third go with this game, and everything is finally falling into place.
You see, on the surface, Persona 5 Royal seems to have everything going right for it. The UI is sleek, and for a turn-based RPG, combat is fast-paced and extremely engaging. The soundtrack is top-tier and the character designs look amazing, but the overall pacing of the story is kind of a mess. Persona 5 Royal starts off strong by having a corrupt and abusive teacher be the introductory boss, and this first arc gives you a real grasp of how the gameplay works and what your relationship with the first few characters is going to be like.
From there, however, things start going steadily downhill. The truth is, Kamoshida was and continues to be the strongest antagonist of Persona 5 Royal, and the villains that follow him just pale in comparison. Not only that, once you reach the third or fourth dungeon of the game, the story seems to really meander with no clear end goal in sight. The Phantom Thieves are here to change the hearts of “shitty adults”, yes, but Persona 3 and 4 did a great job of establishing some sort of end goal that the party had to strive towards, while 5 just seems aimless in comparison. By the time you get to the midpoint, it takes another 10 hours or so before the story finally starts to take shape, and your goals become much clearer.
But these are all old and long-standing complaints I’ve had with Persona 5 since day one. I still think the pacing takes a nosedive in the middle of the game, but having played through it again on Switch, it’s as if my mindset has totally shifted in terms of how I’m approaching it.
Let’s talk about the technical stuff first. Persona 5 Royal runs like a dream on the Switch. The load times are virtually non-existent once you load up the game, the menu transitions are still clean as always, everything just looks crisp. The only downside here is that the 3D character models do look a little muddier than their PlayStation counterparts, but honestly, you’ll spend so much time looking at the 2D character portraits during cutscenes instead that you’ll barely notice it.
When docked, the 3D models look much better, but the handheld experience is certainly no slouch. In fact, after having played it on the OLED Switch and seeing how good it looks, I’d say that Persona 5 Royal is best experienced on a portable device.
Being able to pick up and put down the game whenever I want has also definitely helped with alleviating those aforementioned pacing issues. It might sound silly, but having to boot up the PS4 or PS5 to play Persona and sit through hours of cutscenes, dungeon puzzles (which I still feel are unnecessarily bloated), and watching these characters meander through high school life felt like a huge time commitment. I find myself feeling a lot more lenient with these complaints when playing on the Switch, simply because I can disengage whenever I want by putting the Switch to sleep and just picking it back up an hour later if the mood strikes me.
There’s less burnout from playing this way, and getting through Persona 5 Royal’s tough middle dungeons and story felt a lot more digestible. I should also note that my experiences with the first four Persona games were also on handhelds, with 1, 2, and 3 on the PSP, and 4 on the Vita. The Persona games –3, 4, and 5 in particular– have always been better suited to the portable format because of the way they’re structured. It’s easy to pick up the game and just play through one school day before putting it down, or comfortably binging a bunch of story material by bringing the Switch with you to bed.
In terms of battery consumption, I found that the OLED Switch held up pretty well even for long play sessions. At full charge, the Switch lasted about eight hours before I finally put it down, and the battery was only down to around 24%.
The Royal version of the game also introduces two new characters, Kasumi Yoshizawa and Takuto Maruki, who are excellent additions to the story, and possibly even the best characters in the entirety of Persona 5. All of this is to say, it took about five years, but I’m finally starting to come around on this game.
Despite its narrative flaws and occasionally tiresome dungeon design, there’s no denying that Persona 5 Royal is an absolute dream to play on the Switch. This is still the definitive version of the game, and being able to take it on the go is undoubtedly the best way to play. If you’ve yet to dive into the world of Persona 5, this is a great time to do so. And if you’ve already played it on consoles and, like me, you didn’t really enjoy the pacing of the game but liked almost everything else about it, this could very well change your mind.
- Xbox Game Pass Adds Persona 5 Royal, Amnesia, and More for October
- Persona 5 Royal Is Getting Handsome Fox Figure by MegaHouse
- NieR Re[in]carnation Reveals Persona 5 Royal Crossover [UPDATED]
- Persona 5 Royal Reveals New Trailer & First Xbox Series X Gameplay
- Persona 5 Royal, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 3 Portable Also Announced for Nintendo Switch