Persona 5 hits different when you play the JRPG on Nintendo Switch

The Phantom Thieves relaxing at Cafe Leblanc
(Image credit: ATLUS)

Imagine this: you come home after a long day, and you’re greeted by the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans and the gentle chatter of customers. You live on the top floor of a coffee house run by your guardian. You’re hungry, so fix yourself some curry and let the day’s tribulations fall away. It’s cozy and safe here. This is Leblanc, the central location in the hit JRPG Persona 5 Royal, and it’s home. 

Persona 5 Royal is a game about movement, fluidity, and change.  The game’s protagonist, who goes by Joker, is wrongly accused of a crime and placed on probation. Plucked from his old life, he’s thrust into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Initially, it’s overwhelming, but soon you get a sense of the city as you explore the busy promenades and dingy side streets. 

In this spirit, developer Atlus places a strong emphasis on travel. Your friends have preferred places to hang out, and all the different neighborhoods boast specific shops and benefits. Every district has its own distinct personality: Shibuya feels like the pulsing heart of Persona 5’s Tokyo, while Kochijoji feels more laid back and slightly seedier than its flashy cousin. The districts are characters in their own right, the feel of the real-world locations lovingly recreated in digital form. 

Kasumi posing dramatically

(Image credit: ATLUS)

In Persona 5, you lead a group of teenagers into the minds of the teachers at your high school with the help of a mysterious app. These subconscious mind palaces are twisted dungeons representing the adults’ deepest desires – it’s all very Jungian philosophy.

In one particularly memorable palace, you and your pals infiltrate a casino where every game is rigged against them. Joker and the gang have to sleuth their way through the back rooms and reverse the odds by hacking into the casino’s servers. Without spoiling too much, this process beautifully mirrors the psychological traumas of the palace’s owner. It’s high concept as heck, but it makes for a great story.

As each day draws to a close, you must confront the fact that time is finite. It is precious and must be spent well. This is the secret sauce at the heart of the Persona 5 gumbo.

When you’re not delving into the psyches of nefarious adults, you’ll be deciding how to spend your days in Tokyo. Every little decision here affects the protagonist’s stats and relationships, sometimes in a big way. You can hit the batting cages to increase your Proficiency stat or hang out with Ryuji to become closer friends and increase his skills in combat. I’ve spent in-game weeks playing darts with Haru or going to the public baths with Yuske. Though, for everything you choose to do, you turn down other friends and acquaintances. As each day draws to a close, you must confront the fact that time is finite. It is precious and must be spent well. This is the secret sauce at the heart of the Persona 5 gumbo.

Sitting in a small cafe in Bristol while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I fired up the game. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me how playing Persona 5 on the portable Nintendo Switch might enrich this emphasis on location and time. Little did I know that by choosing to play the game in this sleepy little coffee house, I’d find a reason to fall in love with Persona 5 all over again.

Take your time

Counselling with Maruki

(Image credit: ATLUS)

As someone dealing with Long Covid, getting to play Persona 5 Royal from the comfort of my bed is a strong tick in the plus column of the Switch port. However, portability offers more than that. 

Persona 5’s Metaverse encourages you to think about the game’s locations in terms of their physicality and what they represent in the minds of the people who frequent them. The mind palaces you enter are often built from locations and objects you see in the game’s real world. The physical and subconscious worlds aren’t separate but interlinked, informing one another. When you complete a dungeon and steal its host's twisted desire, they become a changed person. After defeating the boss of the first palace, representing a gym teacher’s lust for his students, he realizes the abuses he’s committed in the real world, resigns from the school, and hands himself into the police.

This is part of what makes the locations in Persona 5 so distinctive. When you venture into Leblanc for the umpteenth time after a grueling day at school, you, the player, can practically smell the coffee. I didn’t expect the portable version of Persona 5 to work this magic on the physical locations in which I played the game. 

Underneath the Mask 

Joker at the School Festival

(Image credit: ATLUS)

While killing time before a doctor’s appointment in Bristol, I settled down in a modest cafe on the outskirts of town. With little else to do, I fired up my Nintendo Switch and played some Persona 5. Once Joker returned to Leblanc at the end of the day, I realized that the coffee smell of the real cafe was transporting into the virtual one; it was as if I were sitting in Leblanc. At that moment, Persona 5 Royal made me sit up and look around me with new eyes. 

This sleepy little Bristol coffee house is likely special to many customers. To the young girl and her father who came in after the end of the school day, it could be a sanctuary, a place for them to bond. For the elderly couple at the table ahead of me, it may be a place where they can have a cheap but comfortable afternoon tea together. For the owners, it is a business but also more. From the attentive way they bussed the tables and prepared the coffee, I could feel their pride and joy. It is their Leblanc. This realization gave me a whole new appreciation of this place and the people who inhabit it. 

Joker may be something of a blank slate, but at his core, he is empathetic – literally and figuratively capable of taking on the burdens of others. It is through this empathy that he forms relationships with his friends. In letting me take the game out into the world, Persona 5 Royal’s message of connection rang truer than it ever did playing on a TV at home. It may not have changed my heart, but it certainly raised my Kindness stat.  

Cat Bussell
Staff Writer

Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on,, and, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.