Persona 5 Royal Review

Persona 5 Royal is a Japanese RPG developed and released by Atlus, in 2020, for PlayStation 4. Being a re-release of 2017’s Persona 5, Royal features new features, storylines, quality-of-life improvements, and characters. This improved version of the game echoes Atlus’ previous re-releases in the series: Persona 3 FES (2008) and Persona 4 Golden (2012).

In Persona 5 Royal, you’ll play as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. This group of vigilantes becomes known for erasing the distorted desires of villainous beings. As you live your daily life in the outskirts of Shibuya, Japan, you’ll hang out with friends, enter dungeons, and even play mini-games. The social link-building, well-paced gameplay, and epic music will surely charm fans of the genre.

When I played Persona 5 back in 2018, it introduced me to an immense world. I’ve never played something so stylish, so polished, and yet, so long. Spending over 100 hours, I found it to be one of the greatest games I ever played and finally understood the hype surrounding it. This past year, I’ve beaten both Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden and admit they’re easily as engaging as Persona 5. With that said, I knew it was time to return to Shibuya for another round with Royal.

If you want to view a quick list of updates and additions in Royal, check out the list here.

Story

Persona 5 Royal features the high school transfer student, Ren Amamiya, trying to live life after being convicted of assault. Sentenced to probation he now attends Shujin Academy as an exchange student. Living at Cafe Leblanc, he must spend a year away from home while trying to manage school and his life as the Phantom Thieves.

What I love about Persona 5’s story is its ability to touch on real-life social issues. Your first villain is a teacher/coach who commits sexual abuse against female students while bullying the students on his volleyball team. You’ll fight plenty of demons, shadows, and other mythological beings. But Persona 5 does a handy job of exposing the worst of society by reforming them and changing their hearts. Of course, it’s with plenty of humorous moments along with being dead serious.

What makes Persona 5 Royal’s story especially interesting is its gray morality. The Phantom Thieves become a hot debate in society as to whether their actions are righteous or illegal. It becomes even more complicated thanks to the third semester. If you unlock the right conditions, the third semester’s story will open up. This will bring you to an even grayer area on whether it is alright to rob people of their escapism in order to pursue happiness.

Character Design

Persona 5 offers a colorful cast of appealing characters. Engaging in their social links allows you to develop your relationship and help them solve their life problems. You can even enter romantic relationships with them. The game’s writing brings the player close to the characters with such clever writing as to immerse them in the story. Their pain is your pain.

I love the character design just for how well-animated the characters are. I’m especially fond of Morgana for your being the occasionally smart-assed, sensitive cat friend. Amidst the heroes, villains, and those in-between, you’re bound to find characters you bond with. Also note that, even with as much dialogue in the game, the game cleverly paces it with strong writing.

I should also mention that one particular character received outstanding character development. While their story expired late into the original Persona 5, the 3rd semester brought forth their inner, true self in the grandest way possible. It turned a character I strongly disliked and spun a complete 180 on them in the best conceivable way.

Aesthetics

Persona 5 features gorgeous animations and visuals. It offers a robust, stylish, UI, smooth battle transitions, and feels wonderfully polished in every possible way. Persona 5 Royal now offers 4K support for PS4 Pro as well. The battle animations, anime cutscenes, and portraits breathe life into the game.

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Persona 5 Royal also boasts an exceptional soundtrack. Jazz, rock, and J-Pop all meld together perfectly. Shoji Meguro also composed for Persona 3 and Persona 4 and now brings a more smooth jazz style to P5. Honestly, this could be the greatest soundtrack I have ever heard.

Gameplay

The turn-based Persona gameplay continues its traditions here. You can attack, cast spells, gun down your enemies, and even hold them up. What I love about Royal includes some of the new improvements. You no longer need ammo for your guns, you can unleash powerful Technical attacks, and it features the new Showtime abilities which are both powerful and incredibly flashy. These become your finisher attacks that occur during a desperate situation and work to even the odds in your favor.

Persona 5 Royal rewards players who pursue building their social links. It’s incredibly beneficial to boost them with party members and NPCs alike. Whether it’s to add to your battle repertoire or so party members can shield you from lethal attacks, this game rewards the notion that you go out of your way to care about your allies.

The calendar system progression offers you a set amount of days to complete all your tasks. Knowing which social links to manage becomes entirely up to you. In fact, you choose how to spend every day of your life. Whether you want to boost a social link or boost a social skill, you can talk to allies, eat at restaurants, or even invite them to mini-games. The level of variety in this game offers you a bevy of fun activities with the dialogue that goes with it.

Also, while Persona has a history with randomly generated dungeons, Persona 5 added Palaces. These feel more like your traditional dungeons which feature puzzle-solving elements. As Phantom Thieves, you’ll also engage in stealth gameplay while you hide from and ambush Shadows.

Mementos, the randomly generated dungeon, also features a complete overhaul. In addition to new songs playing at deeper levels, you meet a new character – Jose – who shows up as a merchant. You’ll collect flowers and stamps in order to buy items and boost your EXP, Money, or Item Gain in Mementos. This alone makes it a major step up from the previous release’s Mementos.

Value

Persona 5 Royal is important for the JRPG fan, the Persona newcomer, and even the Persona 5 fan. Newer fans will certainly appreciate one of the greatest JRPGs out there while veteran Persona 5 fans can unearth dozens of hours of new content. Royal features a full-on story expansion that offers new social links, mini-games, activities, unlockables, and an entire third semester.

This comes along with various improvements to battle gameplay, exploration, and the abilities you gain. To be honest, I found Persona 5 to already be a near-perfect game. Doing the unthinkable is to polish it and add more to a game I already valued so highly.

If I had to say I had any gripes with Persona 5 Royal, it’s that it can admittedly become too easy. Even if you download the DLC Personas in the Velvet Room, that alone is not enough to break the player. You’ll still need to be on your toes so you don’t get one-shotted or ambushed.

However, strategic management of social links will allow you to gain these high-level Personas sooner. Meanwhile, your continued support of your allies, especially NPC social links, will grant you abilities that will significantly boost you against powerful enemies. By the time I finished the third palace, I was playing on Merciless difficulty and died only a small handful of times.

Despite this, Persona 5 Royal offers a level of flexibility that can enable players to become godlike or even balance their challenge. While you can, in fact, become quite broken partially due to DLC Personas, it’s entirely up to you whether you choose to or not. Even then, you will surely face challenging bosses and need to keep your guard up from enemies who can KO your protagonist in a fell swoop.

Final Thoughts

I cannot say enough good things about Persona 5 Royal. It might be quite possibly the greatest JRPG, if not the greatest game, I have ever played. The 172 hours I spent immersing myself in this experience is among the greatest I’ve ever enjoyed in a game. I’ve played countless hours of other JRPGs, including Persona 3 and 4, and I’m not sure if anything will ever be possible to top this.

Nothing feels quite as immersive as getting to live as your character, indulge in social links, and invite them to play darts or pool while boosting your stats along with them. Everything you do grants incentive and rewards the player. This includes anything from building social links to implementing battle strategies. The gorgeous, shiny graphics, the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies you, and your daily life brings immense levels of world-building within your little corner of Tokyo.

Overall, this is a must-play for any RPG fan including, again, those who played the original Persona 5. The amount of content far surpasses the price tag while the quality improvements raise the bar to the highest possible standard. With that being said, I hope you will enjoy this game as much as I did.

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