Persona 5 Royal Review
If this were a review of the original Persona 5, it would probably read like this: “Persona 5 is a landmark for games, standing proud as not only the pinnacle of its genre but a contender for one of the greatest titles of all time.” A perfect ten would be confidently slapped on, and that’d be that. But alas, this review is for Persona 5 Royal, a full-priced, enhanced, expanded, and souped-up iteration of Atlus’s three-year-old JRPG masterpiece.
With no cost reduction for owners of Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal must pull out all the stops to justify itself. So, does this slick lick o’ paint validate the expensive price, or has the Phantom Thieves’ latest heist failed miserably?
Looking cool, Joker!
First thing’s first: Persona 5 Royal no longer looks like a PS3 game hastily slopped on the PS4. Persona 5 finally boasts the graphical and frame-rate gorgeousness it deserves, and it looks stunning.
Beyond this visual overhaul, Persona 5 Royal comes with a laundry list of minor tweaks and changes. From The Velvet Room’s challenge battles, score-based battles that see one gaining item and equipment rewards, to crossword puzzles that increase one’s knowledge, these additions are appreciated, but not revolutionary.
Perhaps Persona 5 Royal’s best change is its handling of gun ammo. Rather than a finite amount that replenishes upon leaving a palace, Persona 5 Royal restocks bullets every battle, with the trade-off being a lesser quantity available in each encounter. It allows one to be more liberal with their shooting, heightens strategy, and gives an extra excuse to fire away (which is ultimately a whole lot of fun).
The grappling hook opens new pathways in Palaces, but said pathways primarily boil down to a means of accessing Will Seeds, collectables in each palace that reward an accessory if accumulated. Again, these additions are appreciated, but the £85 I’d poured into Persona 5 Royal’s deluxe edition continued to echo in my brain, my wallet growing ever more downhearted.
For many, Mementos was a point of criticism in Persona 5 due to its monotony. Persona 5 Royal tries to alleviate this. From varying the music, to introducing collectable flowers (which can be traded with adorable oddball, Jose, for items), they’re small strides to smooth out the repetition. Unfortunately, said small strides are for nought due to the addition of stamps. Throughout Mementos, one will encounter ‘star posts’ that grant an accumulative total of stamps. Said stamps can be cashed in to Jose in exchange for exp, financial, or item perks. But, as Mementos is randomly generated, the appearance of stamps is random too. To collect them all, one will have to traverse through Mementos multiple times, thus amplifying the tedium.
I never found Persona 5’s Mementos to be a slog, but collecting Persona 5 Royal’s stamps saw me speedily sinking into braindead boredom. What should’ve been a cool collectable quest became a stuffed lump of filler at the mercy of a random number generator.
Fortunately, Persona 5 Royal delivers something of worth in its new characters and story. From the first-year gymnast, Yoshizawa, to the charismatically kindhearted councillor, Maruki, their confidant lines and story roles are a joy. And with Akechi receiving a ‘proper’ confidant line this time around, he finally gets the depth and exploration his character deserves. These new character and story bits pave the way for this remixed re-release’s biggest selling point: the third-semester.
To nip the negative in the bud, Persona 5 Royal’s third-semester is missable should one not max the correct confidants. The fact that said confidant interactions aren’t forced, letting one lock themselves out of Persona 5 Royal’s main attraction, is a middle-finger to players (especially if they’re £85 lighter in the pocket, like one financially impulsive reviewer). Still, said foolish reviewer reached the third-semester without a hitch, and it’s incredible!
A reality-bending ending!
The new party members are a blast. The new palace is one of the best. And most importantly, the story, and confrontation against its antagonist, is the most emotionally rollercoaster-y experience fathomable. Even after Persona 5’s end of battling the God of Control, Yaldabaoth, this expansion doesn’t feel jarringly tacked on. Rather, it slots in seamlessly as a bigger and better finale.
Alas, it’s disappointing that one must invest ninety to a hundred hours before reaching Persona 5 Royal’s killer app. For those who’ve completed Persona 5 multiple times before, trudging through Persona 5 Royal is a slog, and the ten to fifteen hours of new content, whilst amazing, is too little too late.
Had Atlus been bolder and introduced Yoshizawa as a Phantom Thief at the start of the story, perhaps Persona 5 Royal could’ve truly stood as a ‘new’ iteration of the original game, with dialogue and story beats being remixed to incorporate Yoshizawa as a core character. Instead, Persona 5 Royal exists as Persona 5, with a bevvy of ‘free updates’, and a $20 – $30 DLC pack (that’s missable should one make the wrong gameplay decisions), marketed as a $60 game.
For those who’ve missed out on the original, Persona 5 Royal is a must buy, as it’s deserving of every iota of praise it’s received. But for veterans of the original, this expansion doesn’t put in the legwork to justify itself. With save data non-transferable, and no price reduction for owners of Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal achieves the impossible by being a phenomenal experience that’s remarkably hard to recommend.