Persona 5 Royal on PlayStation 4
Atlus’ Persona series has made a name for itself in the past decade by selling players the ideal fantasy high school life. Take control of an impossibly charming protagonist, charm all your friends and teachers at school, and wield an incredible power that allows you to take down bad guys and save the world. The Persona series is a remarkable power fantasy, and Atlus knows it –which is precisely why it didn’t take them too long to release Persona 5 Royal, a much bigger and better version of the JRPG from just two years ago.
I won’t hide the fact that I was less than enthralled with Persona 5. While playing it for review, I thought the pacing of the main story was extremely uneven, and the main cast of characters felt like they were just retreading old ground from past games, and were a lot less interesting than expected.
With Persona 5 Royal, many of my original complaints with the vanilla experience still stand. If you weren’t a fan of how the main story was structured, or if you thought the main characters were just less developed versions of characters we’d already seen in previous games, it’s highly unlikely that Persona 5 Royal will change your mind on those fronts.
That said, Royal brings so much to the table that even a self-proclaimed P5 ‘hater’ like myself couldn’t help but be at least a little impressed.
We’ll start with the main dish: Persona 5 Royal introduces two brand new characters and Confidants that you can interact with. You have the first year honors student Kasumi Yoshizawa, who’s been billed as a new playable character in the game. She’s peppy and upbeat, and easily the most well-developed character in Royal, right next to Morgana.
The second, and considerably less well-known, addition is the school counselor Takuto Maruki. He joins Shujin Academy as a guidance counselor after the scandal that takes place with the very first main incident of the game.
I actually rather enjoyed Maruki’s introduction to the game; with Kamoshida being arguably the most detestable villain in Persona 5, and the grave impact he had on the school and its students, it made sense that the school would want to bring in a counselor to talk to the affected victims and make sure everyone was coping well with the aftermath. His presence in the story felt so organic that I almost forgot the original events of Persona 5 just saw the entire school move on from the Kamoshida scandal without even a second thought within days.
Without diving too much into spoilers, both characters proved to be really solid additions to the game, fleshing out the series’ recurring theme of facing yourself and acknowledging the different masks that people put on, along with P5’s own focus on cognitive psience research. Maruki, in particular, ends up being an intriguing and fascinating character to follow as you slowly progress through his Confidant ranks.
Kasumi, on the other hand, is pushed to the sidelines for 95% of the game. While she has been at the very forefront of Atlus’ marketing materials for Persona 5 Royal, don’t let that fool you into thinking that she’s going to play a vital role in the main events. She shows up regularly in the story events, but each time it feels like she’s about to properly step into the spotlight, the game wrenches her away, and you’re left wondering exactly when she’s going to have her time to shine.
In fact, if you’re planning on jumping into Persona 5 Royal with the excitement of having a brand new character to play with, curb your expectations right now. You won’t find what you’re looking for until the very end, assuming you’ve met all the right conditions.
That being said, the payoff for the excruciating wait for Kasumi to properly join your lineup is well worth it. While I’m not a fan of how long it takes the game to reach that point, Kasumi’s story is a gripping one that makes you want to see things through to the end. There’s a lot of new content to be excited for here, and if you have the patience and enough love for Persona 5 that you can play through another hundred hours, your efforts will be well rewarded.
Outside of the two new characters, though, there’s plenty of other tweaks and new content in Persona 5 Royal that fans will enjoy. For starters, Goro Akechi further cements himself as the best boy of the game now that you can spend time with him during the regular daily cycle.
While Akechi was already established as one of the more interesting characters of the original game, adding him as a proper Confidant truly fleshes him out more and adds to the fun rival dynamic that he has going on with Joker. Akechi gets to show off the different sides to his personality, which hit even harder if you already know how the story plays out. Look, what I’m really saying here is that Akechi is indisputably the best boy of Persona 5, and you can fight me on that.
Gameplay-wise, there’s plenty to talk about. Joker now has access to a grappling hook, which allows him to swing around dungeons whenever there are grappling points available. With the grappling hook, dungeons have also been adjusted slightly, with new rooms and areas to explore. Each dungeon now has three Will Seeds for you to collect, which reward you with a new, powerful accessory that you can equip on your characters.
Dungeon bosses also have new mechanics for you to take note of, though most of them remain largely the same. There is one exception to this rule, however –a mid-game boss who receives one new annoying mechanic that only serves to drag out the fight and seriously stall your progress. But for the most part, these new boss mechanics were fun to work around, and will help keep you on your toes even if you know the original game like the back of your hand.
Other helpful gameplay improvements and tweaks include little hints that Futaba and Morgana can give you while engaging in Shadow negotiation, as well as additional Confidant abilities that help you rank up faster, or give you an easier time in combat.
By far the biggest change in Persona 5 Royal has to be the Mementos dungeon. It was certainly the biggest point of contention in the original game, as it was deemed as being too long and repetitive. Personally I didn’t have much of an issue with Mementos, but you can bet that Atlus definitely took those complaints to heart and have given the dungeon a huge overhaul.
Mementos now features a new character named Jose, who tasks you with picking up flowers and collecting stamps while you’re exploring. Flowers are a temporary currency that disappear when you leave Mementos, but can be exchanged for consumables with Jose. Stamps are collectibles that you can turn in to Jose in exchange for his ability to alter Mementos. For example, you can trade in stamps to have him increase your item, monetary, and experience gains in the dungeon.
It all sounds simple on paper, but adding Jose turns Mementos into a very therapeutic experience –a simple dungeon crawl that rewards you constantly with money and experience, especially once you start gaining more levels and can smash through the easier Shadows quickly. The flowers and stamps help to gamify the whole Mementos experience, and I constantly found myself looking forward to diving back in between each story dungeon to farm more loot and experience. Keep in mind that I already loved Mementos in the original game, though, so there’s a good chance that I might just be crazy. I’m probably crazy.
The Mementos music even changes as you explore new areas; that’s how seriously Atlus has taken fan complaints with this aspect of the game. It’s quite impressive.
Outside of combat, Persona 5 Royal also introduces new areas you can visit in Tokyo with your Confidants. Most prominently, we have Kichijoji, which is home to a jazz club and a darts and billiards lounge. You can spend time with your Confidants at any of these facilities to improve their stats, Persona skills, and even strengthen your Baton Pass with them. With Royal, the Baton Pass no longer just increases damage; you can rank it up so that teammates can recover HP and SP with a Baton Pass as well. There’s even a whole mini-game involved with the darts lounge, you can lose hours in this game just playing darts.
Speaking of losing hours, Persona 5 Royal also adds in a new Thieves’ Den hangout where you can just spend time decorating it to your heart’s content. The Den has zero impact on the main game, though you do unlock more cosmetics for it as you progress through the story. Here, you can rewatch animated cutscenes, and even play cards with your fellow Phantom Thieves. There’s so much new random shit to do in this game and if you really get into it, your playtime will undoubtedly shoot up exponentially.
The Persona Fusion system also receives new additions, including a Fusion Alarm mechanic that drastically strengthens any Persona you fuse during that time. There’s also the introduction of Traits, which are passive skills inherent to individual Personas, and can be passed on through fusion. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time just fusing Personas in the original game, and the addition of Traits allows me to continue feeding my obsession of wanting to create the ultimate Persona that will decimate anything in sight.
There is truly a staggering amount of new content in Persona 5 Royal, and I honestly felt giddy trying to wrap my head around all of it. The highest form of praise I can give to Royal is that every single new addition and improvement helps to improve the game and make it an even richer experience. With the exception of Kasumi’s integration into the story, which could’ve been handled better, virtually every single new thing in this game has been stellar.
It’s clear that Atlus has put a lot of thought into how they can improve an already great JRPG and make it even better, and those additions work. Again, if you weren’t already a huge fan of the original game, there isn’t much here that will change your mind. The main characters are still very lackluster, and the overall theme of “all adults are shit” still gets old very quickly.
That said, diving back into the daily high school life of the ideal charming teen continues to fill me with joy as I attempt to micromanage my social calendar and make my friends love me. The additions introduced in Royal allow Persona 5 to become the excellent JRPG it was always truly meant to be, and it’s a wonderful effort that will surely be appreciated by fans.
- Story dungeons and bosses have been expanded upon to keep things fresh.
- Mementos gets an awesome overhaul to make it even more enjoyable.
- Kasumi and Maruki are great character additions.
- Lots of new activities to participate in with Confidants.
- Gameplay tweaks and improvements help make this an even richer experience.
- Kasumi’s integration into the story isn’t as smooth as it could be.
- Some of the new boss mechanics are kinda trash.
March 31, 2020