If you know me, you know I love my Persona. I have the animes on blu-ray, an art book and most recently I have the Joker Amiibo sitting atop my shelf. So naturally when the updated version of Persona 5 came out (with 4 it was “Golden”, this time it’s known as “Royal”) I quickly snapped it up. That was a while ago. Many months have passed since it’s launch. You could say I was savouring the experience. Playing a few hours here and there, I wanted to slowly process every new detail, new character and new story element. And now I’m finally ready to gush about it.
First of all, the setup. Like previous games in the series, Persona 5 is a JRPG set in high school where a bunch of students get powers and are able to traverse an alternate world, fighting shadows and saving their friends. In 5 this other world is called the Metaverse and it’s where our colourful cast of characters are able to enter the Palace’s of people, change their hearts and basically make them confess to the crimes they’ve committed. That’s the basic premise, but there’s so much more. And I mean, over 80 hours more.
From a gameplay perspective, what you get is more or less the same as with Vanilla Persona 5, albeit with a few tweaks to make the experience better. For instance, your ammo for your gun now replenishes after every individual battle as opposed to when you leave and entre the Palace. The battles themselves though play out more or less the same, you have multiple persona’s at your disposal, enemies can have a specific weakness, standard turn based combat ensues. That’s probably a little flippant, the gameplay is fantastic, I’m just eager to get onto what new things you can find in Royal.
Firstly we have the new characters of Kasumi and Dr Maruki. Both play an important part in proceedings. Kasumi is a fellow student and elite gymnast, Dr Maruki is your school’s guidance councillor who has an interest in the cognitive psience, meaning he has an interest in what you and your team are doing to change hearts. Both are equally as fleshed out, with Kasumi not able to achieve her best in the gymnastics arena and Dr Maruki almost being obsessed with completing his research papers. Both social links are integral to unlocking the Third Semester, which is where the largest bulk of new content is found. The social links being the time you spend hanging out with your friends between palace investigations. It’s important you build up these relationships if you want to activate special skills that you gain when fighting in the Metaverse. Including the other new social link, Akechi.
If there’s one negative I can think of, it’s that the new story content isn’t as fed into the main narrative quite as naturally as in Persona 4: Golden. With Golden, the new character of Marie’s arc was perfectly slotted into the story in a way that if this is your first time playing, you’d struggle to pick out anything that feels added or new. Persona 5: Royal isn’t quite like that. The bulk of the new story arc is tagged on at the end and definitely feels a lot more like a “Christmas Special” (it is set around that time of year actually). But then that’s a minor quibble when the story it tells is so, so good. A bit of advice though, make sure you concentrate on Dr Maruki, Kasumi and Akechi’s social links, otherwise you won’t get the Third Semester, and in a game this long, you wouldn’t want to play it all again (at least not straight away).
The other main new addition is the Thieves Den. A separate option on the main menu, this is essentially a space where you can design your own base, spend coins you earn by completing objectives in the main game on movies and concept art, and play a card game called Tycoon. It’s a nice diversion from the main game. And it has footage from the Persona concerts in Japan, which is always welcome.
Much like Golden that came before, Royal is the definitive version of Persona 5. If you have yet to experience it then this is the perfect way to jump in. Excellent new characters, an intriguing addendum to the story and gameplay tweaks that make the battles even better (I didn’t even mention the Showtime dual moves that can randomly trigger). The Persona series continues to be some of the best JRPG’s in the world.