Persona 5 Royal is an overwhelming experience, at least in my 26 hours of playtime so far. Joker might be your everyday high school student, but he’s also a phantom thief capable of stealing hearts, a problematic lady’s man, and friends to so many people that every evening feels like an avalanche of commitments I must remain faithful to. The second classes finish for the day, I’m bombarded by texts from my homies asking to hit the palace or hang out in the city, or my questionable doctor who totally wants to fuck me despite being a high school student.
Tokyo is my oyster, and there are moments where I need to sit back and take it all in. When it comes to JRPGs like this, I know there are comprehensive walkthroughs out there listing all the decisions you could possibly make and the best ways to reach maximum confidant ranks and obtain all the best relationships and bonuses before the final dungeon arrives, but this adds a rather robotic structure to an otherwise freeform experience. This is my first proper time with the game, so I’ve decided to ignore all possible guidance and jump in unawares.
Screw the completionist angle, I don’t care if I miss entire character arcs and quests in my ignorance, because that is precisely what makes Persona 5 such a joy to play. To live life to the fullest is to not know what awaits you, and aside from the looming Palace deadlines that drive the narrative forward, the majority of evenings are mine to orchestrate. I tend to finish school and check my messages, often ignoring multiple requests to go dungeon spelunking unless my soon-to-be boyfriend wants to practise track or eat ramen together. After that I open the map and scan through all possible locations, seeking out social links to advance or optional activities that aren’t just about killing time, but actively benefit Joker as a person.
Yes, there is certainly a method to my strategy, but it’s discordant and changes on a whim. If I arrive home at LeBlanc and Sojiro needs a hand or another text asks me to flirt with dodgy older women in Shinjuku bars, who am I to say no? Persona 5 doesn’t want you to become a creature of habit, and it is so much more fun if you aren’t.
Treat each day like a blank slate, sequentially building on certain tasks while also casting your net wider to try out new things. It sucks that the second you commit to a certain activity that portion of the day is basically over, so I tend to run errands before landing at a social link or particular business to get everything I can out of the dwindling hours.
That’s what makes all of them so precious though. There’s a risk I will miss the chance of a lifetime by deciding to eat a big burger or have my fortune told in a dark alley. As superfluous as certain parts of this game might seem, all of it matters and builds to a greater whole.
Loading screens are always telling me to take my time, and Persona 5 becomes so much better when doing just that.
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