Atlus has come to be known for taking a full experience and putting some extra polish on it a few years later and the Persona series happens to be the best example of this. The company has released enhanced versions of nearly every mainline Persona game, twice for Persona 3 in fact, and they have returned once more to give Persona 5 a touch-up. Now while it may have seemed a bit early for such treatment, what with the original releasing in the West three years ago, have the improvements made in Persona 5 Royal taken this already amazing RPG one step higher?
Now before we go any further, it is worth noting that if players want to know most of the story basics as well as the original gameplay mechanics then our original review covers that plenty, and instead we will be focusing primarily on the new content added into Persona 5 Royal in an attempt to try and keep things a bit more concise, especially since there is a surprisingly large amount of content added into this release of the game.
Set in modern day Tokyo, Japan players take on the role of the nameable protagonist who has found himself on the wrong side of the law. Convicted of a crime you’ve been placed on probation and kicked out of school with your family sending you away to the only school that is willing to take a convicted criminal such as yourself. From here the story is told through a series of flashbacks after players are given a brief look at their future with the focus initially spent on introducing the character to the way the world works and unfortunately your new school as well as most of your fellow classmates are more than willing to remind you of your criminal past. By joining together with other outcasts from society the player learns of a different realm that allows them to tackle the flawed personalities of those who have come into power.
It doesn’t take long before players will begin to notice a few subtle differences and additions to the storyline throughout the initial case featuring the Phantom Thieves as the newly added Kasumi quickly makes some appearances and is introduced to the story in a small manner while other characters that make their debut later in the game also begin to make a few side appearances far earlier than before as well. Joining Kasumi is a school counselor that, in retrospect, was shockingly absent in the original game by the name of Takuto Maruki who takes a personal interest in the plights that the protagonist and his group have suffered. It is also nice to note that, like previous enhanced Persona games, the Velvet Room attendants once again are given some more interactions as Justine and Caroline can now leave the prison and interact with the protagonist alongside their previous interactions involving the Strength arcana, allowing for perhaps some of the most humorous moments in the game depending on location.
That being said, players will still find that the story tends to follow mostly all of the same beats as the original, especially through the first “heist target” as the story and new additions begin to open up a bit more after that point. For the most part, the core storyline remains the same as before, not that this is a bad thing by any means, with the newly interwoven characters and plot points feeling like seamless additions to the overarching plot though some of the bigger changes won’t be mentioned here as they are quite spoilery in nature but let’s just say that the writers have done a great job with these new characters and the expanded interactions players can have with the original characters and “confidants” this time around. This extra content, and its focus on giving players a slightly different perspective at times, makes an already stellar story even better, though it is worth noting that it is entirely possible to miss out on the bulk of the brand new content if they don’t interact with the new confidants enough.
Outside of the story enhancements a number of improvements have been made to the various gameplay aspects of Persona 5 Royal. These come in the forms of both brand new additions as well as improvements that were made to previous mechanics though it is worth noting that those who want a challenge, or are replaying through Persona 5 Royal, may want to bump the difficulty above Normal as nearly every enhancement has made the game easier.
The most simple and obvious addition comes in the form of a grappling hook that Joker is given partway through the first Palace infiltration. The grappling hook allows for players to navigate through some locations a bit easier as players can use it to reach new heights that have been created with new secrets to be found. Most of the grappling hook’s uses come from basic exploration and occasionally can be used to avoid some Shadows but generally it is used to uncover secrets in Palaces. These secrets have also been increased a bit as now every Palace features three “will seeds” that are manifestations of the Palace’s owners power and provide a bit of an SP boost when discovered though if all three are located, they will fuse together to create a powerful accessory that will help the Phantom Thieves in future fights.
Speaking of battles, most fights are also far easier now as players continue to have a number of tools made immediately available to them right out of the gate this time as well as some never-ending resources. The player’s entire party immediately has access to the Baton Pass mechanic allowing for attack strings to quickly demolish foes if properly planned and ammunition in firearms, which used to be limited and required a resource to refill, now refills after every battle. Eventually players also gain access to powerful “Showtime” attacks that feature two members of the Phantom Thieves teaming up to deliver an extremely powerful and incredibly flashy or outlandish attack.
Not only have the Palaces themselves been given a bit of revamp but Mementos itself has also seen some new additions. While still randomly generated players will now meet with Jose, a strange little child that travels the depths of Mementos for research. Players can trade flowers obtained simply from driving around for powerful healing items that are useful in Palaces or even general combat and obtain Stamps from certain locations in Mementos that can then be used to increase things such as how much experience, money, or items, are given by enemies. These stamps can be adjusted at the cost of flowers and can make grinding for certain difficult fights far easier than before.
For the most part shadow recruitment is still performed in the same manner as players must knock down all foes to trigger a “hold-up” and succeed in negotiations with their target of choice but it is once again made a bit easier. While previously players had to pay close attention to a shadow’s personality, Morgana now provides a quick tip as to what type of phrases the player should say to recruit a Shadow making things a bit easier this time around. Plus, if you already happen to have that Persona instead of simply leaving the fight the current Shadow will instead apply extra experience points directly to that Persona. Even fusion has been given a bit of a revamp as, after the player has slain enough Shadows after a certain point in the game, an alarm will trigger in the Velvet Room signifying that the next two fusions will not only be stronger but will have a high chance of causing an “accident” that creates a random, generally better, Persona compared to what the player was aiming for. That isn’t to say everything has been made easier, as boss fights have been changed up a bit to keep players guessing, new Disaster Shadows that counterattack every blow have been added into random fights, and certain Shadows refuse to negotiate now unless they have been struck with certain ailments on-top of being knocked down.
Outside of the new additions to the various aspects of the Metaverse players will find that there are now a number of new things to do in the real world as well as a new explorable location named Kichijojoi has been added into the game and with it come a number of new side activities that players can enjoy with their fellow party members and confidants. This includes things like an odd little darts mini-game that can be used to strengthen the aforementioned Baton Pass and even a jazz cafe that can be used to power up additional elements of the player’s party members. There is also a fun little “Thieves Den” accessible through the menu that is a forgettable but nice inclusion that serves as a way to show off the player’s various accomplishments, partake in another new mini-game, and view various pieces of artwork as well as previously seen cutscenes.
Visuals & Audio
While Persona 5 already looked great when it was originally released Persona 5 Royal continues to impress with some great looking new additions to the world. All of the previous character models and standard designs remain as detailed as one would expect with the Shadows being a real delight though the background characters are still given a minimalistic design. The brand new characters fit in great with the style of the cast and don’t feel out of place and players will want to keep an eye out for certain characters making earlier appearances in the background from time to time. Combat remains as flashy as ever, even more so now thanks to the aforementioned Showtime attacks that players can trigger. The Palaces are also given a few redesigns here and there to make use of the grappling hook and add some extra secrets for players to find.
Once again players will be able to play using either the English dub as well as the original Japanese voice track. All of the voice actors and actresses appear to have reprised their roles to record the various new lines to fit into the extra content and the voice work for the new characters fits in perfectly with the rest of the cast. The soundtrack continues to be rather impressive as it features all of the tracks that made the original game such a delight to play, though some may prefer the original opening theme a bit more compared to this one.
What do you do when you decide to make an enhanced version of an already critically acclaimed game? Well you add in numerous quality of life improvements that fans may never have even known they wanted and add plenty of new story sequences alongside extra content to make the game even more of a blast to play, even if it is a bit easier as a result. Many may have wondered if an enhanced release was coming too soon but Persona 5 Royal proves that Atlus knows best when it comes to designing an amazing RPG that is a must have for those who have never played the original and an amazing revisit for those who already have.