Three years ago Atlus released Persona 5 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 and it turned out to be one of the best JRPGs that I’ve ever played. I really couldn’t find much with the game that I didn’t like at the time outside of a couple minor things. That’s why when Atlus announced that they were making an improved version for the PlayStation 4 called Persona 5 Royal I was left pondering how they could possibly make Persona 5 better than it already was. Well now that I’ve played through this new version I was surprised not just at how good the new content was but how some other new additions made the original experience better in ways I didn’t even think of.
To start off I want to mention that most of this review here will consist of what I said about the original Persona 5. Later on in the review I’ll specifically mention what is new about the Royal edition and how it turned out. While other well-known Japanese RPG’s have moved to a more action-based combat system Persona 5 sticks to the turn-based battle system. You have a pretty large cast of characters at your control but all of them are interesting and fun to get to learn about as the game progresses. This game has a ton of story and I won’t spoil it for others but the basic premise is you play as some High School students who live alternate lives. Their alternate lives consist of them becoming a group known as the Phantom Thieves in an alternate world where they set out to take down some pretty horrible people. The main cast though have some luggage themselves as they all come from different backgrounds so while they are considered the heroes they have some dark or rebellious elements to them as well.
When you aren’t taking down corrupted people you basically play the life of a high school kid. You can explore Tokyo, attend class, hang out with friends and much more. The game has a calendar system built in and it’s really up to you to decide how you want to spend your time. You can hang out and play a game with a friend one moment and jump into a dungeon as a Phantom Thief the next. Doing certain jobs in the game reward you with boosts to your stats while spending time with your friends allows you to learn more about them and level up something called the Confidant system. Doing this can give characters new abilities during battles. If you like romance in your RPG’s then make sure you pay attention to the Confidant level of females in the game. Raising it allows you to enter a relationship with certain characters which I mainly did with Ann. You can romance more than one girl but it will have consequences so keep that in mind. There is much more to the whole hanging out with friends such as the fact that so many things factor into who shows up and when. Things like the weather, time of month, time of day and more all play into this. Another interesting thing I liked about the game is the online features that allow you to see what other players did at certain points. You can see what other players spent their time doing during the day and when in class you can see what answers other players gave when asked questions by the teacher. This game is really deep and I loved that about it.
So let’s talk about the other side of Persona 5 Royal and that is the Palaces and the actual turn based combat. During the game you have to go after targets which involves you entering these palaces in order to reach a treasure and steal their heart. Palaces are huge dungeons that require quite a bit of time to finish and there are seven of them in total in the game. If you don’t have a lot of time you can take breaks at certain points by finding a safe room. There is some puzzle solving and such involved in these palaces as well as you’ll come across locked doors and traps to conquer. You’ll even open up short cuts that lead back to areas you’ve already been. Traversing these dungeons ended up being just as fun to me as all the other elements of this game.
While exploring enemies can been seen roaming about and if you utilize the stealth system and sneak up on them you can get a surprise attack in on them when the battle starts. Of course you can also just stealthily avoid them and keep on your merry way if you choose. When it comes to the fights themselves you have your standard turn based combat but with some interesting systems in place. Identifying elements that enemies are weak to is key as you can then use that element to do more damage. The Baton Pass allows you to use an attack an enemy is weak to and then follow it up with another free attack. The Hold Up mechanic happens when you take down every enemy in the battle with things they are weak to. You then can do several things such as try to get money or an item out of the enemy, try to convince them to join you, or go in for the All Out Attack. This is an over the top stylish attack that ends with the character striking a cool pose. Yes, the combat isn’t reinventing the genre or anything but it’s all super slick and it feels really great. When you reach the Bosses at the end prepare yourself for what will probably be a long grueling fight. These bosses take a huge amount of damage to bring down and dying will result in you having to start the fight over from the beginning.
I spent over 100 hours in my playthrough of Persona 5 Royal and there is a lot that I haven’t even seen. That will require more playthroughs which I’m definitely considering with how much I loved this game. When it comes to the visual presentation it looks really good as you can tell from the screenshots. A great art style a lot of times can be more important than pure technical specs and Persona 5 Royal has the great art style in spades. The characters, costumes, environments, enemies, personas and more all look great and stylish. Story is told through text boxes as well as spoken dialogue and the cutscenes themselves are like watching a great anime. The sound is another stellar element of this game with the soundtrack being an exceptional highlight. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Jazz music but Persona 5 Royal might have just made me one. The dialogue can be heard in either English or Japanese and both are delivered really, really well.
New to Persona 5 Royal:
So what exactly sets Persona 5 Royal apart from the original game and makes it worth checking out? Well quite a lot to be honest. Atlus went back and not only added brand new content to the game but also made some nice quality of life changes to enhance the base game. The biggest pieces of new content include the brand-new playable character Kasumi and an entirely new palace. Something I have to mention though is that most of the actual new content can’t be experienced until late in the game so if you played Persona 5 before you’ll have to replay a good chunk of it before you get to the new content. That wasn’t a problem for me since I loved the original game so much and was glad to experience it again but I could see how it might bother some people who just want to get to the new stuff. When I did get to the new content I was very happy with both the palace and Kasumi’s character. She makes a great addition to the cast and fits right in with the rest of the Phantom Thieves.
Another cool new addition is a brand-new area called the Thieves Den. This is more of a personal space for you to decorate with all kinds of cool stuff. This can include artwork, statues, videos, and much more. Then there is the new part of Tokyo that you can explore complete with a brand-new darts mini-game that you can play. As for improvements to the base game one of the best is that you no longer are forced to go to sleep quite as often. This of course means that you have more time to do other activities. There are new flashy team up attacks in battles, confidant rewards have been better balanced, a grappling hook that makes exploring palaces much better and opens up new areas, improved boss fights, and all of the original DLC for Persona 5 is included here.
Three years ago Persona 5 sunk its hooks into me and kept me playing for well over 100 hours until I rolled credits. Now three years later Persona 5 Royal has done it to me again. While much of the experience was the same Persona 5 game I had already played some nice new changes made it better in ways I didn’t know I wanted. Not only that but the new content such as Kasumi, the new palace, and new places such as the Thieves Den and new area of Tokyo made it all worth it. If you’ve played Persona 5 before then you’ll have to judge for yourself if playing though much of the same content is worth it again for you. If you haven’t played Persona 5 at all yet then fix that mistake now and buy Persona 5 Royal.
*Persona 5 Royal is available now on PlayStation 4. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
Persona 5 Royal$59.99
- Same great 100+ hour JRPG with tons of new content and improvements
- Over the top and stylish art style
- Turn Based Combat has a lot of depth and feels perfect
- Great Plot that touches on real issues
- Prior Persona 5 players may not have the time to put in to get to the new content