Atlus confirmed that Persona 5 Royal will launch in North America and Europe on March 31, 2020. Unfortunately, this date is about as inconvenient as it could possibly be for fans of role-playing games. It’s right smack dab in the middle of two gigantic releases in the genre — Final Fantasy VII Remake on March 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 on April 16 — and the enhanced version of one of 2017’s best titles is likely to be overshadowed as a result.
RPG fanatics essentially have less than a month to enjoy Final Fantasy VII Remake, the most high-profile remake of all time, before they are expected to move on to Persona. That’s theoretically feasible, but finishing Persona 5 Royal with Cyberpunk 2077 releasing a little more than two weeks later is daunting.
Only the most hardcore of gamers are going to try to fit in all three of these titles, and that means that most consumers will likely have to throw one to the wayside. In this case, the answer is pretty obvious. Final Fantasy VII Remake has decades of nostalgia on its side and nobody is going to miss that, while CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 is arguably the most anticipated title of the year. Persona 5, for as excellent as it was, only came out two years ago and is still fresh in the minds of those that checked it out the first time. If you’re going to skip out on one early 2020 RPG, it’s going to be the one that has the least amount of new content to offer.
One of the biggest issues with going back to Persona 5 this quickly after its initial release is that it’s an extremely long game. Even rushing through the game on its Safety difficulty mode and skipping most side elements is likely to fill up at least 60 hours. Royal makes the game even lengthier, and it’s pretty much a guaranteed 100-hour (or much longer) journey if you want to actually play the game the right way and experience it as intended. Anyone that wants to get Royal out of the way before Cyberpunk 2077 releases will have to somehow fit 100 hours of gaming into just half a month — unlikely.
Also hurting the enhanced release is that we already know what it has to offer thanks to its being out in Japan already. The game is largely the same as the original release, with most of the new story content coming near the end of the game. With no way to skip ahead, like players were able to do in Persona 3 FES, gamers will have to get through a lot of stuff they’ve already done to experience what’s new. Even Persona 4 Golden had the excuse of coming four years later and being on a new system.
That’s not to say that Persona 5 Royal isn’t worth playing, though. It just doesn’t make itself accessible to those with limited free time and lacks any new content that makes it an immediate must-play. As seen in the release date trailer, all of the additions are nice as the new character, her palace, the PS4 Pro support, and the new area to visit all have value. They’re just not the strongest case for spending another $59.99 on it. Players won’t be missing out on anything if they prioritize the two other big RPGs and circle back to Royal once it receives a price drop.
What makes this all a bigger bummer is that December 2019 through February 2020 are pretty much empty of big RPGs. These types of gaming lulls during the holiday season are perfect for long role-playing games, as players have enough free time to actually play them.
It appears that the localization is just requiring a lot of effort, as the Japanese version of Persona 5 Royal came out on Oct. 31, 2019. That’s a perfect release date as players have all winter to get through it. The west won’t have that luxury. Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers, a Musou spin-off from Koei Tecmo and Omega Force, is also out on Feb. 20 in Japan. A worldwide release date has not been announced yet.
Persona 5 Royal looks to be the definitive edition of one of this generation’s best RPGs, and it is releasing at the worst possible time. By releasing in-between two of the biggest games of the year (that also happen to be in roughly the same genre), players will be forced to choose between them. And since Royal doesn’t provide a streamlined option for just jumping straight into the new content, players who have already played the original are more likely to pass it up in favor of new experiences.