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Persona 5 Royal

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A.
Release Date: March 31, 2020

About Andreas Salmen

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PS4 Review - 'Persona 5 Royal'

by Andreas Salmen on April 1, 2020 @ 12:01 a.m. PDT

Persona 5 is a JRPG about the internal and external conflicts of a group of troubled high school students - the protagonist and a collection of compatriots he meets in the game's story - who live dual lives as Phantom Thieves.

Buy Persona 5 Royal

Ask people what they consider to be the best JRPG of the current console generation, and chances are that you'll hear Persona 5 a lot — and rightfully so. After years of development, Persona 5 was released on the PS4 two years ago, and it has since been showered with accolades for its charmingly executed mix of JRPG, life sim, and visual novel. The overhauled re-release, Persona 5 Royal, is a definitive edition with quality of life improvements and new content, including reworked story beats and a new party member and dungeon (palace). How well does the definitive edition hold up for those who have already experienced the game, and does it justify the $60 price tag? After sinking over 100 hours into Persona 5 Royal, I'm exhausted but happy to say that it wasn't in vain.

If you're new to Persona, the gist is that we control a high school student who is wrongfully put on probation for assault and must switch schools. Moving into present-day Tokyo, our character has to grapple with a new home and environment while simultaneously awakening to a special power that grants him the ability to wield personas, which are manifestations of the heart and rebellion of an individual. Think creatures like Pokémon but more intricate and less cute. They are powerful beings used for combat, and they're bound to you. While your party members will only wield one, our character can wield multiple, capture new ones in battle, and even create new ones.


Eventually, our protagonist discovers the metaverse, an alternate dimension where the distorted desires of humans can form palaces. Stealing the treasure from a palace triggers a change of heart in its owner, causing the culprits to turn honest. Together with friends from school, we establish "The Phantom Thieves" in an attempt to reform society and rid Tokyo of grown-ups and their distorted hearts. I won't go into more detail about the story because P5 Royal follows the general story trajectory and gameplay loop of Persona 5, so if you're interested, be sure to check out our Persona 5 review.

P5 Royal doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it makes it run and turn smoother in many regards. If you've played the original, you'll notice the more polished presentation and technical improvements. It's an undeniably stylish game, but the character models and UI look sharper and better. The loading times in the original weren't overly long, but the load times in P5 Royal feel snappier, and moving across areas or dungeons takes a brief moment to speed up a notch.

As far as gameplay goes, fans will feel at home because everything is here and working well. P5 Royal is still all about balancing school and your private life while also acting as a Phantom Thief and stealing the hearts of dangerous criminals. It's enticing because everything is interconnected, and you'll always progress in some way. There's an abundance of activities and a limited amount of time to participate, forcing you to make decisions about how and where to spend your time. Every day has two time slots that can be used to improve your social skills, meet confidants, visit a palace, work a part-time job, or run other errands, such as the creation of items and tools. Social skills are required for some activities or advancing a sub-story with your confidants.


Minor tweaks to the combat result in a very familiar but much improved system that works as advertised. It's a standard turn-based affair where we and three party members battle other personas with our gun, magic and physical attacks. Every participant has strengths and weaknesses toward elemental damage, and certain afflictions can create weaknesses, or technical damage. This is the same as it's always been, except guns are more useful. Previously, guns were harshly restricted in ammunition, which would only refill when leaving a palace. Now your ammunition is refilled at the end of every battle. Hitting an enemy with a weakness enables follow-up attacks and a "baton pass" to hand it off to a party member, who gets additional bonuses. If you're able to continuously hit weak spots and hand off your turns, you may even get a free attack. This system can be upgraded for additional perks and technical damage, and there are also new personas to collect.

The most prominent change is probably the introduction of Showtime Moves, which are powerful attacks that see two party members pull an elaborate stunt with a chosen enemy. They are triggered randomly, but when they trigger in a tough fight, they can take a chunk of health at once.

In terms of progression, the story leads us from target to target so we can infiltrate palaces before a deadline. In addition to attending school and studying for exams, we are usually working toward a new goal, meeting confidants to level up, getting items, and grinding a few levels. P5 Royal introduces two new confidants: school counselor Dr. Maruki and recent transfer student Kasumi. Both are confidants with interesting stories and their own trauma that informs their actions. P5 struck a good balance between dark themes and upbeat sections without feeling forced or out of place, and that still holds true for Royal. More importantly, if you have not played the original version, you likely won't notice the additions of the new confidants, since they're introduced in an unobtrusive way. They feel as if they've always been there, which is essential to setting them up for the new story arc.


Some changes were made to the story and characters, but the story still isn't perfect, since the game has a habit of forcing you to go through obvious story elements and puzzles instead of letting you solve them on your own. It can also be predictable at times, and there are moments when you're locked into less-interesting story beats. It also occasionally restricts opportunities to save your game, making those longer moments not as easy to digest and enjoy. That may not be surprising since we're talking about a 100-hour RPG, but the quality and execution of the story is excellent otherwise.

P5 Royal is better and faster to play, and while the new palace and semester add 10-15 additional hours of gameplay, the rest of the game seems to progress much faster. The game makes many things clearer to the player, such as where confidants are located and which one will level up if you hang out with them. Party members are also more vocal in combat about enemy strengths and weaknesses. P5 wasn't a particularly difficult game, and Royal feels slightly easier because it's easier to navigate.

Enough about the regular world; let's talk about palaces. All palaces have been slightly reworked, and some of them have benefited from that. Bosses have different phases, and some make more sense and are more enjoyable than they were before. Things have been smoothed out, and some palace interiors have been altered. One reason for that is a new tool, the grappling hook. Its use is fairly limited, but it sometimes enables you to skip certain palace sections and to find a new special item, Will Seeds.


Every dungeon has three hidden Will Seeds, and the grappling hook is needed to find all of them. They aren't expertly hidden, but they serve as an additional incentive to explore. Every found seed restores a bit of SP, which is used for magic attacks. Once all three are collected, a special item that grants new skills is formed, and these special items can be enhanced by visiting mementos.

Mementos, which are basically randomly generated dungeons, received one of the more extensive upgrades in Royal, with better visuals and, most importantly, Jose, a new character. He usually hangs out in Mementos to collect flowers, so there is a chance to him on any level of Mementos to exchange flowers and stamps for items and to "change mementos." Changing means that we can add modifiers for more XP, money and items, which I found to be one of the more helpful additions, since it made it much easier and faster to level up. Before long, I collected a hefty number of stamps to crank up the XP modifier and then watched my levels grow, which made progressing through the story much smoother. It may not seem like much, but this alone made me appreciate Mementos way more than in its original state on P5.

Through all of these additions, the ending(s) of P5 remain intact, but new endings depend on your choices and confidant rank, so there is a small chance you may not even get to see it. If you do, it's a great addition. It adds about another month of school and opportunities to further your relationships with your confidants. If you maxed out the bonds with them, their personas evolve into entirely new forms with new skills. The star of the show is the new palace; the later sections are memorable and culminate in an epic and fun boss fight. The additional school semester and palace feel like an encore at your favorite concert. It's exactly what you hoped it would be, and it's a gloriously epic send-off.


How about all the memories? There is a new Thieves Den that lets you collect all sorts of in-game memorabilia and display it in an open space. It also offers special in-game awards for certain actions and a card game to play with your party members. I'm sure some fans will be glad to dabble with it and collect everything. It's completely removed from the actual game and can be accessed whenever you like, so there is no need to use it if you don't want to.

Persona 5 Royal does what it set out to do: Make Persona 5 a better and more rounded experience with more content. It mitigates a lot of the minor flaws but doesn't get all of them right. For the story, there are plenty of unskippable or slow areas with extensive hand-holding. Royal is an even easier experience than P5, including the Platinum Trophy, which is probably one of the easiest ones I've achieved to date. Those minor gripes aside, it's still an incredibly mesmerizing game that sucks you in and immerses you in an all-around great experience. I'm not sure I'm OK with the $60 price, though. A paid update to the original game would've been the better move here. With that being said, if you love Persona 5, you'll love P5 Royal. If you haven't played it yet, what are you waiting for?

Score: 9.2/10



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