Having the chance to revisit an old game with new content is usually exciting. Having to revisit Persona 5 and all the new Royal content; now that’s a treat. Similar to how both Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden expanded and improved on their base games, Persona 5 Royal looks to do the same. I gushed over vanilla Persona 5 and now three years on, I’m doing the same over Royal which adds new characters, locations, social links, an entire semester and a whole lot more.
Playing through the familiar casino scene at the start, I sighed because having seen this scene several times during my original playthrough. However, not long into the opening and new content is introduced. We meet a new face who we end up partnering with, and she brings with her a new mechanic with the grappling hook. From there, I sat up attentive and ready to see what Atlus has been working on with Royal, and honestly, the new content does not disappoint. By releasing Persona 5 Royal, Atlus succeeds at not only making a great game better but also fixing several grievances the vanilla version couldn’t shake. The result is a highly-polished video game, and one that has consumed half my allotted gaming time, with the other half going to Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
You’ll Never See Them Coming
In Persona 5 Royal you play yet another silent protagonist – a young man sent to Tokyo to live with a family friend after you’re put on probation for a crime you did not commit. The scenic change from a small town to Tokyo immediately creates a much more interesting environment to explore and socialize in, everything moves faster in the city, all the hustle and bustle just background noise to the world around you. I applaud Atlus for creating an engaging take on Tokyo, it’s exciting walking around and finding things to do every day. There’s a new location called Kichijoji that’s known in Tokyo and it’s a popular spot to visit.
Persona 5 follows a group of Japanese high school students and Morgana, a talking cat, throughout a typical year in the life scenario. Persona 5 Royal though follows the same beats but expands a lot of mechanics, fleshes out content, and introduces Kasumi Yoshizawa.
As a high school student, your job is to go to school, do your homework, complete tests during the day, after school you’re free to hang with your friends, go to your part-time job, you know, be a teenager. I’m past the age where I can relate to a teenager but spending dozens of hours as a teenager in a video game is the best way to go about relating, even if it includes diving into Palaces and talking to people’s hearts.
In between being a teenager during the day, it’s after school that the fun happens. After school, you can gather the troops and tackle the game’s dungeons known as Palaces. Replacing the randomly generated dungeons of Persona 3 and Persona 4 are now lovingly crafted dungeons that combine the style and substance of previous games with clever puzzles and shortcuts to uncover. Add in a cover system that allows you to be stealthy as you attempt the find the treasure hidden away in each Palace. Speaking of hidden treasure, a new mechanic comes in the form of Will Seeds, which are spread out throughout each dungeon. By finding the collection within each Palace, you can return the collected new character Jose – a character found within Mementos. Jose can craft rare items from the Will Seeds, which are tied to the character in which the seeds were found in.
I’m All Fired Up!
The downside of having Palaces being hand-crafted dungeons to explore is that once you’ve cleared the area, you cannot go back to it. Instead, there are Mementos, which are separate from Palaces and are randomly generated dungeons like Persona 3 and Persona 4. These are the best places to level up, find and coerce Personas to join you, and any items you might need. In Persona 5 Royal, Mementos have been expanded with larger floors to explore as well as the new stamp system. The stamps, which are found on each floor, can be redeemed for bonus experience, Yen, or items when speaking to Jose.
Battles in Persona 5 are familiar if you’ve played a turn-based RPG before, each character has their melee, ranged, and Persona attacks. Everyone on your team has their own Persona to utilize in battle, with the exception being the main character, who can use multiple Personas during battle. This opens many ways to take on the Shadows, often targeting their weakness. There are many different Personas to find and collect through various means, such as fusing them to create stronger Personas or negotiating with them during battle.
Steal Back Your Future
Speaking of enemies, the amount of detail found with each one is noticeable, the designs are fantastic and full of colour, it’s also the first time any of the Persona enemies have been in high definition, translating better than I expected. Disaster Shadows are a new enemy-type found in Persona 5 Royal that offer an exciting challenge for those who seek it. These enemies when attacked, immediately counter and hit hard. If you manage to defeat these enemies, the explore and cause damage to other enemies and drop useful loot.
Bosses have been retooled in Persona 5 Royal and now operate differently in battle. Some may come with additional enemies; others may have some new mechanics, but the biggest change is how Atlus went the extra step to make every boss feel like they truly belong to their respective palace. Each change is a step up from the vanilla game and offers new challenges for returning players.
I Won’t Hold Back!
The key to success in battle within the Persona series is to exploit enemy weakness. Combat is a challenge, to begin with, but with the main character able to switch between Personas, it all comes down to elemental weakness. A new feature that I found useful is Baton Pass, which allows you to continue your onslaught by increasing your damage output. Atlus also added the new ShowTime attacks which are powerful team moves, but they aren’t like All-Out Attacks. In this case, these are randomly occurring strikes and many of the pairings need to be unlocked by either completing a story checkpoint or maxing out social links.
One of the strongest suits of the Persona series has always been the incredible music. Shoji Meguro has once again crafted a musical score that I cannot get enough of. The acid jazz found in other Atlus games, like Catherine and older Shin Megami Tensei titles is present, as is a mixture of orchestral music and J-Pop inspired music.
After spending the last two weeks revisiting familiar places and faces, it’s certainly nice to see the Phantom Thieves again. If you’ve never experience Persona 5, there is no excuse now not to dive in. With a plethora of new content, mechanics, and gameplay changes this is now the definitive version of Persona 5 and it’s brilliant. I didn’t expect to start playing this game all over again but it’s hard to resist the charm of the characters, and with that, I’m ready to drop another 100 hours discovering all the shiny new additions.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
- A charming and brilliant JRPG
- Excellent upgrade from the vanilla Persona 5
- The soundtrack slaps
- Still not on Nintendo Switch