Persona 5 Royal Review – You Don’t Have to Steal My Heart, I’ll Give It to You

    Title: Persona 5 Royal
    Developer: P-Studio
    Release Date: March 31, 2020
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Atlus
    Genre: JRPG

When it was initially released several years ago, Persona 5 took the gaming community by storm. The JRPG had so much style and substance as players took on the role of the phantom thieves, a group of high schoolers who took on corrupt authority figures by stealing and changing their hearts to reform society. What’s not to love?

Long time fans of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise are familiar with the Atlus style of the re-releases. In the past, the publisher has released newer versions of older titles with balance updates and expanded endings or entirely new scenarios. The other Persona titles have also received expanded releases on other consoles, so Persona 5 Royal was practically expected.

However, it was baffling that Atlus would develop an updated re-release so close to the original game’s launch, as all of these other titles were on newer consoles. Whatever the case may be, this just might be one of the best JRPGs ever developed.

Persona 5 Royal plays identically to the original game in that you have to manage your time working on your relationships- sorry, “confidants,” to attain helpful perks and skills while getting the phantom thieves’ physically prepared to take down their current target. There has been a multitude of quality of life updates, with less essential skills being buffed for more versatility such as the passive instakill now giving you XP or the gun customization shop allowing players to upgrade all of their weapons instead of just a select few.

Also, you’ll want to take advantage of those new phone calls you get from your friends for social points because even with the extra time you get, there’s a vast array of extra things to do that will fill that time. On top of this, there are three new confidants, you’ll find new and updated minigames, shops with time-limited wares, and jazz for the soul (a jazz club).

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Once you’re done hanging out, it’s time to enter the Metaverse, where the combat happens. You can either enter a palace, a building formed from someone’s distorted desires, or Mementos, the cumulation of humanities’ attractions. Completing palaces advances the plot while venturing into Mementos allows you to complete sidequests and change the hearts of smaller targets.

Within these locations, you’ll find shadows, manifestations of human desire and emotion which function as the monsters that you’ll be fighting. Persona 5 Royal’s combat loop is functionally the same as the original at a base level. You summon your persona, a manifestation of yourself, to use a variety of skills and destroy your foes. In typical Shin Megami Tensei fashion, you’ll be throwing out status ailments, buffs, debuffs, and of course, blasting enemies with attacks that exploit weaknesses, to get the leg up in a fight.

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Royal has added a few extra tweaks to better the combat system. Fancy new combination attacks, called Showtimes, will have your allies teaming up to pull off crazy moves that are both fun and practical. Guns now regenerate all expended bullets after each battle preventing them from being lost to the potion hoarding syndrome and baton passes. This was a technique that allows you to pass a party member’s extra turn for exploiting a weakness to someone else and can be used from the get-go instead of being an unlockable skill.

These updated systems allow you to use party members to their full potential instead of being gimped for using new characters. Baton passes have also now been buffed, and pulling them off consecutively will boost the power of the receiver, rewarding skilled crowd control play. Personas now have traits as well, passive skills with a variety of effects such as damage boosting, SP reduction for particular skills, or increased chances of inflicting a specific debuff. These traits extend to the party members, which allows you to put even more thought into creating various strategies and team compositions.

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While your party members are limited to just their one signature persona, your protagonist, as always, has several at their disposal. However, they’ll get outclassed quickly, and you’ll need to make stronger ones. This is where the velvet room comes in, and your long-nosed guide Igor will assist in fusing your persona together to create stronger ones.

The previously mentioned traits can now be inherited by a new persona as well as skills. Also, new “alarms” will give you opportunities to get rarer skills and new-to-royal accessories, which provide whichever party member equipped them a relevant skill. So, if you want Ryuji throwing heals as well as hands or Makoto pulling off powerful AoE physical attacks, then the world is your oyster.

Have fun spending ages coming up with your perfect set because you will want to be covered for as many situations as possible. To help you get used to these new features and have some extra fun along the way, are the challenge battles. These are new fights in the velvet room (with kickass music) that will score you on your performance and give out some beneficial rewards.

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The developers seem to have listened intently to complaints about dungeon design in the original game because I don’t have any criticism for them. The dungeons are more streamlined versions of the ones in the original games, cutting out a lot of flack and simplifying areas people didn’t like. This includes the boss fights, which have new and fun gimmicks that are both story-relevant, and make them more attractive, without forcing you to play a certain way.

The dungeons have also been altered, just enough to make both a newbie or a veteran enjoy them, with new fancy grappling hook sections where players can discover alternate paths and hidden rooms full of rewarding Will Seeds. Collecting all three of them within a palace will turn them into an accessory with a very useful ability.

Once you’ve completed the palace, you can bring the Seeds to Jose, a strange child who drives around Mementos drinking flowers (don’t question it). Jose will buff them into powerful items that give you even more options with your team composition. Mementos have also been reworked to make it actually fun, featuring more music, more interesting floor designs, and collectibles that you can exchange for rare items or get additional XP and money from enemies.

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Royal continues the trend of Atlus re-releases adding a cute new protagonist with the addition of Kasumi Yoshizawa, a gymnast who transfers to the protagonist’s school around the same time. A common complaint with previous re-releases, particularly Persona 4 Golden and Strange Journey Redux, is that the new characters feel merely tacked onto the original story. Well, fear not, as Royal almost seamlessly integrates each new face into the story.

Old scenes that were previously unvoiced are now voiced or have been reworked with new lines to make them better, and pre-existing set pieces are presented in my appealing way. Also, additional scenes have been added for cast members who were somewhat lacking in screentime. The game’s voice actors pull off stellar performances all around, which adds so much to the game’s numerous powerful scenes.

The game’s new story arc is impeccable, it ramps up the stakes and capitalizes upon the investment you’ve put into your relationships throughout the 100-hour game. It gave me exactly what I wanted for characters that I really liked and solidified them as some of my franchise favorites. It harkens back to story concepts used back during the Persona 1 and 2 era, something I very much appreciated. That’s not even getting into the new fights, which are carefully balanced to allow you to feel a sense of progression and make late-game fights more challenging on harder difficulties.

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Persona 5 Royal is everything I could want out of a re-release. The game’s style and charm shine brightest in this version as it made an already great game even better. The balances and new additions were based on long-time fan criticisms, and it’s evident that the developers used it as a foundation to update this adventure while still throwing in some quality-of-life changes that I didn’t know the game needed, but ended up loving anyway.

I had an absolute blast putting on my mask once again and going on heists with the phantom thieves, and I’m positive you will too.

Score:
10/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jacob Kavanagh

Staff Writer - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so he can buy more murder mysteries. @JacobPFZE on twitter