Light spoilers for the third semester in Persona 5 Royal
Both versions of Persona 5 came into my life at the right times. The original released on my birthday — April 4, 2017. It was only a few weeks after I got my first freelance byline on an international site, and a year before starting Into The Spine. Persona 5 Royal released on March 31, 2020. By then I had dozens of bylines, and had traveled around the world to meet with colleagues for the first time. The Discord server I had been running for over two years, however, was about to enter its last few months.
This piece isn’t about what happened then — I already told that story — but about my own closure. While I reviewed P5 Royal, I didn’t get to see the new third semester in time. After the busy work season was over, I started revisiting the game periodically thanks to the insistence from a friend who told me I had to see the new story chapter. When I finally made it to that point, I understood why he said so.
The premise of the third semester is a fake reality. Without diving into too much detail, you see representations of perfect what ifs for your friends, living their lives with the people they had lost or the dreams they didn’t pursue. And you do this by interacting with them one by one, knowing how their story actually panned out, trying to convince them that this isn’t real — even if a part of me didn’t want to.
But it’s one of the final scenes that hurt the most, even if it perfectly encapsulated that moment in time. It took me months to finally get to the end. Once the third semester was over, I thought that the story would go back to the course of the original game. The Phantom Thieves disband, of course, but the group doesn’t. Despite the distance and differences in careers or education, they still make promises to stay in touch and see each other again soon. In P5 Royal, however, the group has a different realization. After coming to terms with the realities that weren’t, they realize it’s time to move on, both literally and figurately, with folks pursuing their own paths even if it means distancing from one another. One by one, they talk about their plans with a bittersweet excitement.
Persona 5 Royal had a multiplatform re-release on October 20, 2022. I’ve been revisiting the game on Switch, thinking whether or not I can afford to go through the story a third time. I probably won’t sit down to play it while ignoring everything else. But I’d like to revisit it periodically, and get to meet the group again. Despite knowing what happens in the end, I don’t think I’ll be making any different choices to get there.
It’s now October 30, 2022. I’ve gotten a dozen more bylines and traveled around to world to reunite with friends. Some have already moved on from games media entirely, while others are working hard every day to get to that point. But as bittersweet as it is, I don’t plan on convincing them to stay. This is the reality they built for themselves.