Persona 5 Royal: Here’s why you should buy this $60 150-hour game a second time

When we first reviewed Persona 5, we gave it one of our few perfect 10/10 scores, and to this day we stand behind that. It was a masterfully designed game, with an additive core gameplay loop, a compelling story, and well over 100 hours of content. And we weren’t the only ones to give it such accolades. Aside from its numerous other high and perfect scores, Persona 5 has been spun off into anime, manga, side-games in different genres, and it’s protagonist Joker even made it into Smash Bros as DLC.

So if Persona 5 is nearly perfect how do you improve on perfection. That’s what Atlus set out to do with Persona 5 Royal.

A port?

For those of you who don’t follow the Persona series or Atlus in general, Atlus has a habit of remaking and re-porting their big name RPGs with a ton of extra content. Many times they will feel like entirely new games. Many times they will actually be entirely new games, nearly doubling their play length.

Persona 5 Royal is that port for Persona 5. Now, many of you might be confused about that. Persona 5 came out on the PS4 and Royal is a PS4 game as well, so it’s not really a port, is it?

Well, the original Persona 5 was actually developed for PS3, and it released on PS3 in addition to PS4 in Japan. We simply didn’t see the PS3 release stateside. Yes, it’s a little strange to think that the original Persona 5 was meant for less powerful hardware, but here we are.

Persona 5 Royal is essentially the actual “port” to PS4, taking advantage of everything the console has to offer including optimizations for PS4 Pro. It’s the game that Atlus would have designed if they started the project on PS4 in the first place.

And holy heck, have they outdone themselves. If you are writing this game off as Persona 5 with some extras, you are dead wrong. The amount of extra content borders on the absurd. Let’s put it this way, after diligently fast forwarding every bit of text and skipping every scene I had already experienced in the original, I still ended up with a 100 hour save file when I got to the place where Persona 5 originally ended with new content alone!

And this isn’t even the end for Royal. If you meet some prerequisites you will continue on well past the end of the original into a new semester of school, with completely new content. That means new palaces, new bosses new villains, new plotlines, confidants, side-quests and so much more. They pretty much tacked a new Persona game onto the end of an existing Persona game.

So what is all this new content? Well, buckle in because we have a lot to cover.

Persona fusion

Let’s start with the basics. There’s new… pretty much everything. That means new personas, new persona abilities, new weapons, armor, accessories, and items. Particularly interesting additions include accessories that give you access to new spells and skills, which effectively allow you to spec your party members into multiple elements, something that just wasn’t possible before.

Persona fusion itself has received a couple new upgrades. Now each persona comes with a “trait,” a passive skill that confers a bonus like, increased damage, decreased SP cost, increase chance of status ailments, and so on.

There is also a new mechanic called the “fusion alarm” which triggers after you have successfully won a streak of battles. The first fusion you make during a fusion alarm will have heavily boosted stats. The second you make will always be some sort of fusion accident. This essentially allows you to always choose to make a fusion accident happen, which is nice because many players got through an entire run of Persona 5 without ever encountering one.

Even better, if you use a persona that you fused during a fusion alarm in another fusion during the same alarm, you’ll get a special component persona that isn’t particularly great in battle but is amazing when fused. For example, my very first fusion accident had evade skills for literally every element in the game.

There are so many other new elements to just the Velvet Room. You can now fuse personas with personas of other players over the internet, and you’ll get special skills for doing so. You can now do advanced 3-6 persona fusions without needing those personas in your party. So long as you have fused them once, you can then fuse them directly from the registry.

Skill glitches will sometimes make your skills level up to more powerful versions when you inherit them during persona fusion. You’ll also get new rewards for filling out the compendium, Caroline and Justine have new fusion quests for you to undertake, you can use the fusion alarm to upgrade your ability to itemize or strengthen a persona, and so much more.

And this is JUST the extra content in the persona fusion system! Do you see now why you can easily play for 100 hours experiencing new content alone?

School life

Another major part of Persona 5 is the daily life simulator, and this too has been completely overhauled. First of all, your schedule is a lot more flexible. Aside from the fact that you have a whole other semester of time to spend, the game is also much more lenient with your time. Morgana never tells you to go to bed anymore, meaning at the very least you can read or watch TV before you hit the hay, even during metaverse raiding nights. While most confidant conversations transpire in the exact same way they did in the original, now they come with extra phone conversations, which give you extra chances to raise your affinity, which allows you to complete them in far less time.

You’ll need this extra time for the new confidants that the game has added: Kasumi Yoshizawa, Maruki Takuto, and Goro Akechi. Akechi you might remember as an automatic confidant from the original Persona 5. Now you actually have to go out of your way to spend time with him, and if you do you might even be able to keep him in your party for longer than usual, wink, wink.

Takuto and Yoshizawa are just completely new characters, and they largely play in to the events that transpire after the meat and potatoes of the original game, but they are integrated into the original story as well. In fact, Royal goes out of its way to smooth Persona 5’s story over, with late game characters like Haru coming into play slightly earlier, just so they don’t feel like they come out of left field.

Akechi’s plot has also totally been rewritten. In the original, his confidant automatically raised as you went through the story but now you have to work for it. What’s interesting, though, is that you get to actually see his opinion on the Phantom Thieves evolve based on how much you interact with him on your off time.

The plot in general has been rewritten to include more of the new elements that Royal has to offer. You’ll have to stop by some new areas that might end up being palaces. You’ll take trips to Kichijoji. Takuto is your school guidance counselor and will make appearances during class time, sometimes even asking you class questions. In fact, a lot of this new content is integrated so seamlessly into the original plot, it’s kind of hard to figure out when you should be fast forwarding. You’ll be blazing through a scene only to see a new character come in and you’ll fumble with your controller trying to go back to see what you missed.

There’s just so much to do here. You can play darts with your friends to increase their combat abilities. You can sell unidentified clothing to a special shop to get rare prizes. You will be called in for special events to your part-time jobs every so often.

Luckily, the game actually adds a lot of quality of life improvements to make its content easier to navigate. In addition to seeing what other players did in their free time, you can have the game suggest something for you to do as well. It will always give you three options, one which will raise a confidant, one which will raise your stats, and one which will let you go into a palace or mementos. Honestly, if you just follow these recommendations you will max most of your confidants, but you’ll still have to do a lot of planning yourself if you want to see all the extra content.

Phantom life

Then there are the many changes that have been made to battle and dungeon crawling, which might just be the biggest changes of all. But before we get to them, let’s talk about some tangential combat related abilities that you’ll come across in free time.

First of all, all your confidant abilities have been shifted. Many are just given to you from the start. For example, you just start the game with baton pass for everyone. Other less useful ones have been omitted from the game entirely while important game defining abilities, like the ability to switch your party mid battle or to raise affinity without spending free time, are now unlocked earlier in confidant trees. Any confidants that have lost abilities have had their abilities replaced with even better ones. For example, now every member of the Phantom Thieves just gets some new ability to replace baton pass.

It probably goes without saying that every palace and floor of Mementos is filled with brand new shadows to fight, but it’s also slightly easier to fight them. You get a ton of new abilities that let you see weaknesses right off the bat, and while this might seem like it makes battles trivial, Atlus went out of their way to make enemies a bit more interesting this time around.

For example, you’ll encounter enemies who have a weakness but have a barrier too, causing you to use barrier removal spells first before proceeding to knock them down. You’ll encounter some enemies who have high resistance to the thing that knocks them down, and low resistance to something else that keeps them standing and fighting. You’ll even encounter some special enemies that automatically counter you, can’t be negotiated with, and when you defeat them they explode, allowing you to take down the opponents in a chain reaction similar to geo tiles in Disgaea.

Then there are the bosses, which have all been remixed in interesting ways. Kamoshida, the first boss in the game, will summon in cognition doubles of students you know to attack you. Madarame will now clone himself using a “counterfeit” ability, but the more he does it, the more the clones are flawed. Every single boss in the game feels like an entirely new and different fight. Side note, bosses also have increased vulnerability to status effects now, making status effect spells slightly more useful.

There is a lot of combat variety here, but there is also a lot more tools you can use. For example, you are now given hints on how to negotiate with shadows once you have knocked them down. This is good because a lot of the hints from the original were kind of obtuse. Your characters are now capable of “showtime” dual techs, which deal a ton of damage. These don’t even take an action, they just activate when certain conditions are met.

In Mementos, Morgana can just run over low level shadows without having to fight them. Not only is this a good way to grind, it severely reduces the amount of time wasted in levels you have clearly outpaced. There are new “flower” and “stamp” items you can collect and trade with a new NPC, Jose, who can alter the layout of Mementos, increase your rewards, provide you with rare items, and even forge you new accessories. There are even new non-combat missions in Mementos, which varies up the general pace of exploration.

Outside of Mementos, you’ll have remixed palaces with slightly different puzzles to tackle. In general, complex long puzzles have been taken out of the game and replaced with more numerous short and somewhat optional puzzles. Of course, this means you have a lot more optional areas to discover too, which could take you to new treasures including “Will Seeds” special items that restore your SP and, if you collect all three in a dungeon, give you a very powerful accessory.

Your new grappling hook (which oddly kind of made its debut in Smash Bros.) has also become a major part of palace navigation. Not only can certain confidant abilities let you attack enemies from afar with it, but you can use it to scale palaces vertically, opening up new routes that weren’t there in the original.

Palace balance has also been changed. Palaces now start with a much higher alert rating which raises faster than before, making you pay attention to it more. However, lots of other areas of palace difficulty have been smoothed over. New fast travel options have been added making it less necessary to back track in the same palace. Treasure demons show up far more often and there are many more ways to restore your SP in palaces, making you more likely to complete them in one day. Overall, playing the game just feels a lot smoother.

There’s so much more that I could mention here. There’s a new Thieves’ Den which allows you to build your own palace, play mini-games, and unlock new story content. There’s art and music viewers for asset buffs. There’s special battles against the protagonists of Persona 3 and Persona 4 (locked behind DLC of course). There’s just a ton of new content here that you’ll constantly run into.

A few flaws

There are a couple flaws to mention though. The new story content kicks in quickly, but unfortunately the tutorial is painfully long. It will be hours before you start managing your time and diving into palaces, which is something you probably didn’t notice the first time around.

While you get all the DLC from the original for free, there’s a lot of new DLC to buy. For example, there are new challenge battles that can get you rare treasures by defeating enemies with almost puzzle like solutions. However, you only get one of these to start and you need to fork over cash for more. That’s more than a little annoying.

It’s also worth noting that all the new content makes for a somewhat frustrating menuing experience. For example, every time you try to exit the Velvet Room you will be stopped and asked if you want to stick around, specifically so you can talk with the jailor twins, specifically so you can request challenge battles. You’d think this could just be integrated into the normal Velvet Room user interface for a smoother experience.

Verdict?

All of these are nitpicks though. It’s undeniable that Persona 5 Royal is the definitive version of Persona 5. I wouldn’t say that it feels like a whole new game, but it does feel like more of the same game we loves, so much more. I practically went crazy binge-playing it because I couldn’t understand how I had sunk so many hours into it while still fast forwarding through the old content. I’m looking forward to playing this again when the DLC becomes available and AGAIN for a New Game + run, where there’s even more content left to discover. That’s hundreds of hours of gameplay that I can sink my teeth into, making it well worth the price.

So should you get Persona 5 Royal? Yes. Yes you should. Doesn’t matter if you bought it before or didn’t. Doesn’t even matter if you weren’t a fan of the original. This game is simply put one of the best RPGs of all time made even better, and you shouldn’t sleep on it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about a hundred hours left to play before the new post-game content.