Why watch this half-assed adaptation when you can just experience the real deal for yourself? And from the looks of P5: The Royal, it looks like we’ll get to experience the real deal all over again! Man, are you guys excited? Well, let’s talk about that for a bit. Yeah, I saw the teaser. It was yet another announcement for a future announcement. Atlus is overdoing it at this point. Nevertheless, I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t going to play P5: The Royal. There’s going to be yet another overpriced collector’s edition, and you can bet your damn ass I’ll be preordering it as soon as I can. Obviously, the best case scenario is that we get a FeMC to follow in Persona 3 Portable‘s footsteps. It would be nice to see the game from a different perspective, especially if the hypothetical FeMC isn’t as brash or arrogant as Ren. If this comes to pass, however, I hope they let you romance the female confidantes anyway, because… I honestly don’t really care for any of the male characters. Ryuji’s a well-intentioned dumbass, but he’s still a dumbass. Yusuke is kooky, but kooky isn’t boyfriend material.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I kinda doubt that we’ll get a FeMC. It’s much more likely that she’ll be P5‘s Marie, which… makes me shudder in more ways than one. Please, just don’t make me read bad teen poetry again. Or go through yet another stupid dungeon without any of my equipment. If all we get is a new Marie, I’ll be happy as long as Akechi doesn’t get to come back to life, because fuck that guy. And fuck everyone who defends a serial killer just because he had a last second change of heart. And no matter what happens, I certainly hope that Atlus goes back and fleshes out Haru’s arc, because she pretty much got screwed by being introduced so late in the game. Alright, enough about P5: The Royal. Let’s get to this final episode of a rather half-hearted adaptation.
— So to take stock, even though Shido went on TV and confessed his crimes to the entire country, society isn’t changing as the Phantom Thieves had hoped. It makes sense that Shido’s co-conspirators wouldn’t admit defeat just because their leader was taken down. I do like this part. Furthermore, the masses continue to throw their support behind Shido, because… well, a lot of people just like strong leaders. A lot of people tend to naturally gravitate towards populism and fascism. A couple years ago, maybe this would’ve been hard to believe, but thanks to the likes of Trump, Duterte, and Bolsonaro, we can’t help but accept that this is the sad truth of the matter.
— So is there anything that the Phantom Thieves can do? After some exposition, the kids decide to do what they’ve always done: change people’s hearts. But this time, they’re going up against the entirety of Japanese society, so it’s right back to Mementos. Not only that, there’s a whole ‘nother dungeon at the bottom of Mementos. At this point in the game, you’re probably nearing the 100th hour if you haven’t already careened passed it (especially if this is your first Persona game). I don’t think Persona 5 wears out its welcome because it’s too long. Rather, the problem is that the storytelling gets incredibly lazy near the end. When you subject the gamer to nothing but huge chunks of exposition followed by dungeon crawling, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. Like its predecessors, P5 adheres strictly to the well-established formula: everything must take place within a single year. A school year, to be exact. But while P3 gave itself the month of January to wrap up its final arc, P5 goes even further. Christmas Eve ends up being your deadline. A lot of story ends up being kinda crammed into one place. If P5: The Royal is a director’s cut, I do hope you get an extra month or maybe even two.
— About Mementos, I don’t mind that the “optional” area is tied into the main story. I just wish, however, that P5 had proper postgame content. There’s a secret boss that you can unlock after beating the game, but that’s it. And in general, the P3-P4-P5 trilogy just lacks this sort of thing. It’s not like SMT: Deep Strange Journey where you can fight several super hard bosses in new game plus. Granted, the trilogy has a lot of replay value as long as you don’t cheat. Therein lies the problem. People love to be efficient as possible, so they’ll use guides in order to help themselves max out as many confidantes as they can in their first playthrough. But if you do this, you diminish the quality of your second playthrough. C’est la vie.
— Anyways, the kids go through the final dungeon and realize that the masses want to lock themselves up. Freedom is a burden. People are often paralyzed by indecision if you give them too many choices.
— Eventually, the Phantom Thieves reach the very bottom of the final dungeon, and they are greeted by a giant Holy Grail. And before you can even blink, the kids get knocked right back to the real world. In the game, you actually get to fight an unwinnable battle. No matter how much damage you do to the boss, the masses heal it right back to max health. I guess we just don’t have time for that in the adaptation. The Holy Grail just magically turns golden.
— All of a sudden, the real world starts to merge with the Metaverse. What does this mean? Apparently weird skeletal structures and a conspicuous red liquid that isn’t blood starts pouring from the sky. Why? I dunno. This part doesn’t get explained very well. The final boss says that the human world deserves ruin, but he never elaborates on what ruin truly entails. And at the end of the day, it just sounds like he wants to rule the world so…
— And for some reason, the masses don’t seem to mind that the world has gotten all freaky and such. They just accept whatever comes their way. The only people who don’t accept their new reality are, well, your confidantes. I guess you give them the power to remain rebellious.
— One by one, the entire party starts to fade away. This is due to cognition… or so the story claims. Thanks to the evil Holy Grail, the masses no longer believe that the Phantom Thieves exist. As a result, they’re disappearing from the world. I dunno, this part doesn’t fly with me. Yeah, sure, the Phantom Thieves might not exist, but Ren does. Ann does. Ryuji does. So on and so forth. They all exist as individuals within their communities. For fuck’s sake, Makoto is the student council president. Why would the individual disappear completely just because their alter egos are no longer being acknowledged? Whatever.
— Ren ends up back in the Velvet Room where Igor expresses his dissatisfaction at the main character’s failure. The old man then tells Justine and Caroline to execute the prisoner. In the game, you get a very brief battle against the twins. You can’t do anything against them, but thanks to your indomitable will or whatever, they can’t kill you. And eventually, they wake up to the truth and realize that they’re actually one personality torn asunder. In the adaptation, the fight doesn’t occur. They just tell you to fuse them.
— And after fusing the twins, you get Lavenza. Now, I don’t dislike Lavenza. I’m just disappointed that fusing two lolis together gets you another loli. Obviously, I was hoping for another Velvet Room attendant along the likes of Elizabeth or Margaret.
— Finally, Igor reveals his true colors… in that he’s not really Igor. If Persona 5 is your first Persona game, then this twist doesn’t really mean much to you. But longtime fans of the series know what Igor is supposed to sound like, so it was definitely cool to see the real Igor come back. But I guess the story gives you plenty of clues. The obvious one is that Igor would never say, “Welcome to my Velvet Room.” Furthermore, the fake Igor never once performs any of the fusions. He leaves that to Justine and Caroline.
— Ren is then told to find his friends, because they’ve lost their will to continue. As a result, they’re trapped in their own mind prison. In the game, this is one long sequence where you have to talk to each person one-by-one, listen to their insecurities, pump them up, listen to them being all inspired, rinse and repeat. Thanks to the adaptation cutting corners, we don’t really get that here.
— So we get exposition from Morgana, then even more exposition from Lavenza. Igor created Morgana to help Ren, yadda yadda yadda, there was supposed to be competition to see what to do with the world and this is why Ren and Goro were chosen, but the evil god reneged on the agreement, blah blah blah. Great. Again, I don’t personally think that Persona 5 is too long. The problem is that the storytelling sucks at this point in the game, which is why we just want the game to be over. That’s the problem with plot twists, though. You gotta make sure that nobody in the audience is left behind, which often amounts to long, tortured exposition. As a result, there’s something beautiful about P3‘s elegance. Pharos lets you know what’s up, then you spend the final month coming to grips with the cold, hard truth that death is an inevitability. That’s it. You don’t sit around for an hour and listen to characters tell you what’s really going on.
— Finally, the Phantom Thieves are on their way to fight the last boss (for realsies this time). In the game, you get a mini-dungeon of sorts, but it’s relatively painless. It’s pretty much a straight shot from the bottom to the top. Along the way, you’ll fight mini-bosses, which we don’t get to see in the adaptation. This is fine, though. The mini-bosses are kinda like callbacks to the mainline SMT games since you’re fighting angels like Gabriel, Raphael, etc. Makes you think you’re about to face off against good ol’ Yahweh or one of his buddies like Merkabah. This wouldn’t have made much narrative sense in the adaptation.
— Once the party reaches the top, the Holy Grail immediately goes into his truth form and reveals himself as Yaldabaoth. In the game, you have to fight the Holy Grail briefly, but this time, you figure out the obvious solution: prevent the masses from healing him. Oh well.
— The adaptation does a good job of giving us the sense of scale, though.
— So what do I think of this stereotypical JRPG final boss? Eh. It’s not as cool as Nyx Avatar. Obviously not. Nyx is the embodiment of death. Mankind is literally wishing for death in P3. As for Yaldabaoth, he’s… what? Mankind’s distorted desire to be ruled over? Ehhhh. Plus, the final boss music just isn’t as fucking cool as “The Battle for Everyone’s Souls.” Not even close. Hell, it’s even worse than whatever we got in P4, which I can honestly barely remember. I dunno, that whole epilogue with Izanami isn’t remotely memorable to me.
— There’s also the fact that Yaldabaoth isn’t very hard, but I guess this isn’t really a fair comparison. After all, P5 is my umpteenth SMT game. I know all of the series’ tricks and quirks by now. On the other hand, you can’t actually control your party member’s actions in original P3 and P3: FES, so there’s a bit of artificial difficulty to deal with. You’re hot, Mitsuru, but you’re so dumb in battle.
— Lots of really dynamic camera angles in this final battle.
— The adaptation just sticks with everyone’s first Persona to the very end. To be fair, Johanna is cooler than Anat anyways.
— As for Joker, he whips out Vishnu, which is like… a level 80ish Persona? So our boy has done some grinding, but not too much. Maybe he’s fought Death once. Maybe he got lucky and stumbled upon Death during the flu season. Needless to say, Vishnu is no Lucifer. I guess this makes P4‘s MC slightly stronger than Ren in hypothetical combat?
— So you beat the boss, but you kinda don’t. You don’t really have enough power… on your own. Cue the age-old anime and video game tradition of using the masses to power yourselves up. Everyone starts cheering the Phantom Thieves on. You gain so much support that the counter on Mishima’s site actually breaks. It’s incredibly cheesy, but I gotta admit I smiled during this part of the game..
— Speaking of which, Mishima is the one who leads the charge. He’s the one who rallies the masses. Last but not least, he plays a huge role in the ending, which is a nice way to wrap up his character arc. Thankfully, he’s the easiest confidante to finish. I’m always shocked when people actually fail to max him out. Plus, the benefits of is social link is more exp for a series that is a tradition rooted in grinding. I get that he’s kinda annoying, but the Moon social link has always been full of charming assholes. Yeah, even that glutton in P3. I guess it’s because they’re annoying but also pitiful.
— Side note: your confidantes only show up in this sequence to cheer you on if you’ve maxed out their social links. In other words, anime Ren has done some work in background. You just don’t get to see any of it. For instance, Ohya’s backstory reveals how her career has made her jaded and cynical. Chihaya, on the other hand, is being taken advantage of by some cult. They’re not the best stories, but a lot of content was cut out for this adaptation. As a fan, I wouldn’t mind watching some 60-episode long series that can cover everything that the game has to offer, but that sort of thing rarely happens anymore.
— Baaaaaaarf. In the adaptation, Ren hears some final words of encouragement from Akechi of all people. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarf.
— I’ve also always hated this line from Ryuji. It’s just so cringeworthy.
— So keeping in line with anime’s recent obsession with demon lords, Arsene shows up and turns into Satanael. I know nothing about Satanael. I know nothing about Yaldabaoth either. The only reason I know remotely anything about these Gnostic figures is thanks to the SMT series. God, this series loves Gnosticism.
— The real Holy Grail shows up, Morgana touches it, gives some uplifting speech, then literally uplifts himself out of this world. You’re led to believe that you’ll never see your cat buddy again. Since you’re probably only reading this post because you’ve seen the episode or played the game, you obviously know that Morgana comes back later. Two major problems with that.
— In the game, he doesn’t just disappear right away. You and your teammates end up back in the real world, which is slowly turning back to normal now that Yaldabaoth’s influence has been dispelled. Furthermore, the Metaverse goes away so Morgana supposedly has to go with it. This cutscene in the game is accompanied by a piano remix of “With the Stars and Us,” which is in my opinion, one of the most beautiful tracks in the game. Hell, the track’s name is in the title for this special! How are you going to leave this moment out? How?!
— Second, you can’t double dip like this. You can’t fool us into thinking that Morgana is gone for good, because you already did it with Ryuji. C’mon, I’m sure someone must have brought this up when the writers presented the first draft of the story. I like Morgana despite all of his annoying personality flaws. He’s far superior to Teddie. But man, I couldn’t even get myself as worked up as I could, because the writers already tried to pull this cheap shit on me just ten gameplay hours ago.
— Back in the real world, Sae meets with Ren privately to deliver the good news and the bad news. The good news is that thanks to the Phantom Thieves, society is a little more willing to think for itself. As such, she can actually try Shido for his crimes. Unfortunately, you still need stuff like testimonies in order to lock this dude away for good. Apparently, his live confession isn’t good enough. His co-conspirators will just claim that he’s crazy. Whatever, just roll with it. The point is that Ren will have to turn himself in and get sent to juvenile detention in order to finish the job. The problem (among many) with the adaptation is that Ren hasn’t formed a romantic relationship with any of the girls. What’s supposed to happen is that you tell Sae you have one last piece of unfinished business. You then arrange a Christmas Eve date with your special person (whoever it is), but obviously, you don’t tell her what you’re about to do. Nevertheless, she can feel that something is off. She can tell that you’re hiding something from her. This emotional moment is completely left out of the adaptation simply because they don’t have the guts to pick someone to pair up with Joker. Sure, some people might get mad if you “canonize” one of the girls as Ren’s love interest, but c’mon, who gives a shit? Let those idiots cry.
— The adaptation then continues to disappoint me! After Ren gets locked away, he has one final talk with Igor and Lavenza where they grant him the World Tarot before disappearing entirely. Before he knows it, he’s been set free. Sojiro picks him up and they head home. That’s it. What? In the game, your friends launch a huge campaign to help free you. Not only that, every confidante you max out plays a role in clearing your name. This is the best part in the game, because all your hard work finally pays off. All this spiel about how your bonds with others will give you strength actually comes to fruition. And the adaptation just goes and leaves all of this on the cutting room floor. Sojiro mentions it like it’s no big deal. Fuck that.
— Sojiro explains that the woman who originally testified against you ends up admitting that she had lied. As a quick aside, I remember reading a whole bunch of fan speculation about how Sophia should’ve been in the game. Apparently, Yaldabaoth is just another version of Demiurge, but don’t hold me on that. I’ve tried reading up on Gnosticism, but the whole thing is kinda convoluted. To make a long story short, Demiurge is a false god who imprisons mankind in a physical world (similar to what Yaldabaoth is trying to do). Sophia (his mother) ends up giving Satanael (his brother?) the gift of knowledge, and this allows the latter to free humanity from bondage. Well, there is no Sophia in P5. Since people are still hung up on P4, they want some sort of Izanami-like mastermind behind the scenes (IT WAS THE GAS STATION LADY ALL ALONG!). This leads to some wild speculation that perhaps Shido’s victim is actually Sophia. The idea here is that her false testimony is just step one in kicking off one long and convoluted plan to put Ren in the right place at the right time to become the Trickster. Or maybe the writers just decided they couldn’t fit Sophia into the story so they left her out. Shrug. We’ll see once P5: The Royal comes out. All we know is that P5 was in development for a really long time, so a lot of original ideas might have been cut out.
— Anyways, Morgana’s back.
— Ren reunites with his buddies, but like in previous games, he can’t stick around. The year is almost over, so he has to go back to living with his parents (who bizarrely never once tries to contact him). And as expected, the adaptation doesn’t cover the Valentine’s Day scene. Depending on who you romanced, each girl reacts differently to the realization that you’ll have to go back home. I think all of the girls your age (or younger if you went for Futaba) want to keep the relationship going. Thanks to technology, long distance relationships aren’t really that painful anymore. Texting, video calls, blah blah blah. Kids have it pretty easy these days. Plus, it’s not like Ren is moving to another country or anything. Japan is relatively small, and if you stick around the metro areas, it’s even smaller. This isn’t like a long distance relationship between two people from opposite ends of a country like the United States.
— Funnily enough, Kawakami also wants to keep the relationship going. I think Takemi is the only realist, but I’m not positive on that. I didn’t bother to watch every possible scene (certainly not Ohya). Either way, you gotta hand it to the doctor.
— In the game, you get one last chance to say your goodbyes to everyone in the city. In the adaptation, we just get a montage that plays while the credits roll. I don’t mind this too much, though.
— Finally, even though we’re ready to call it quits, Ren’s friends aren’t willing to let go of him. The P3 cast didn’t really have a choice in the matter. There’s no helping Makoto or the FeMC (what’s her name? Kotone? Minako?). P4‘s cast sees Yu off at the station, but if you play Golden, he does come back to visit them in the summer. That kinda bothers me. If you romanced one of the girls, that is never really addressed in the final, final epilogue. As for P5? They’re not ready to lose him just yet. As a result, everyone decides to go on one final road trip with Ren. Unlike what we got in P4, the P5 cast didn’t get very many opportunities during the story to just hang out and be friends, so this is a fitting end.
— Whew, I just vomited over 4,000 words somehow. Despite all of P5‘s narrative flaws, I still love the game. It’s still my favorite Persona game even though P3 obviously has a much more powerful ending. The adaptation kinda sucked, though. I mean, I still enjoyed it, but as a fan of the game, it sucked.
— One final caveat about P3: if Atlus ever goes back and remakes the game, it might end up back on top. They need to fix a lot, though. Social links back then were pretty barebones and uninteresting, which really hurts because that makes up pretty one-half of the game. You don’t even have social links with your male party members. What’s up with that? Plus, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Tatsumi Port Island. Tartarus is a complete snooze as a dungeon. The game is somewhat uneventful until the final two or three months of the game. P3‘s overall theme is fantastic. But as a game, it’s missing quite a bit of what makes the future titles feel like complete packages.
— As for P4, well… it’s very fun as a game, but I dunno, the storyline just doesn’t resonate as strongly with me as the other two games. I also don’t love the cast. Fan favorites such as Naoto are actually annoying to me. I absolutely dislike Yukiko, and Rise throwing herself all over you isn’t much better. Brosuke’s an ass but his character arc isn’t as interesting as Junpei’s, and Teddie turns himself into a living caricature. The only people I can kinda endure are Chie and Kanji.