The constant pressure to be productive in Persona 5 Royal

There’s an ever-present comfort that welcomes me every time I return to Cafe LeBlanc in the evenings. One that smells as fresh coffee mixed with curry, the menu specialty that would raise customers’ eyebrows anywhere else but here. A feeling best illustrated in the old couple that have been regulars for years sitting at the same table, asking for the usual each time. For both the protagonist and myself, this is home. But I never get to enjoy it.

Compared to its predecessor, Persona 5 Royal does the unthinkable: now the 16-year-old main character isn’t forced to go to sleep at 7pm almost every day. This means evenings are free to tackle however you see fit, even after spending hours inside a palace fighting shadows. Naturally, this in turn means there are more places to visit and activities to invite your friends to. Pool, darts, a jazz club. It’s great.

When I first played Persona 5 in 2017, I fell in love with its digital routine. The back and forth of hanging out with friends and taking part in activities that later benefited me during my heists inside adults’ distorted realities was truly engaging. I became fond of the “take your time” premise it evokes. But I quickly realized it doesn’t hold the same meaning in Royal. There is no real penalty for overworking yourself with this new freedom, and as with any other JRPGs, you end up filling every possible slot in your schedule. As someone who has a tendency of using breaks to try and complete something from my endless backlogs and to-do lists, even more so in lockdown, I saw my habits reflected in this routine like a mirror.

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