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Persona 5 Royal Review: Bang Bang

/ Jun 12th, 2020 No Comments

Persona 5 Royal Review

There is a constant push and pull between video game companies and consumers over what is worth paying for and what something is worth. It is natural because capitalism… The debate always flares up when a video game company releases an updated version of their games. Should these games be free for those who bought the game already?

When Persona 5 Royal was announced, many decried it as a cash grab — the content should be given away for free to those who bought Persona 5. If it is just a new character and confidant, why isn’t a free update?

However, Persona 5 Royal is more than a surface update. It not only adds a new character and confidant, but also adds a ton of new mechanics and elements to enrich and deepen the gameplay. While it follows the same path as Persona 5, it becomes obvious quickly that it isn’t the same game and that Royal isn’t a shallow cash-in.

Once More with Feeling

In our original Persona 5 review, we discussed the story and gameplay in depth. We encourage you to go back and read that review — here we’ll focus on what’s new in Persona 5 Royal.

In terms of story, Royal follows the same plot as the original for the most part. It includes a bonus semester, a new playable character, and an extra palace along with new endings to expand the story. 

From the outset, what is most important are the two new confidants, Maruki and Kasumi (also a new playable character). You also get to spend more time with Akechi as a confidant. Pay close attention to Maruki, Kasumi, and Akechi, and make sure to level up their social ranks quickly. Main-party confidants also get additional social ranks, and after hanging out with any confidant there is a post-hang conversation. This gives you an extra opportunity to raise your affection with them.

Persona 5 Royal Review
Kasumi is a brand new confidant and playable character, but make sure to nurture your bonds with Maruki, Akechi and her over all others.

Long-time fans of the series know how important the confidant and social rank system is to the game. It allows you to build relationships and learn more about the characters in your party, but also allows you to meet an eclectic cast of characters from various walks of life. Whether it is a prepubescent arcade guru, a disgraced doctor, a disgraced politician, or a disgraced journalist, you get to meet a ton of quirky characters. The confidant system puts the RP in JRPG.

Another thing long-time fans know and new fans should learn is that a second playthrough is necessary to form the deepest bonds. A lot of this is due time constraints, but also because certain stat requirements are necessary to progress certain social links. Royal gives you more opportunities to form those MAX social ranks thanks to the extra semester, and more importantly, Joker has more options to do things at night. 

Persona 5 Royal Review
Goro Akechi gets more time in Royal.

Those times where Joker was forced to go to sleep have been eased up in Persona 5 Royal. Even if he can’t go outside at night due to fatigue, he can do more at Leblanc, including studying, reading, watching a movie, playing a game, or crafting infiltration tools. This allows you to raise your stats quicker and opens up more opportunities to foster those social links.

Persona 5 Royal still has the same captivating plot with a hell of a turn, but now it gives even more time for the main characters and side characters to shine.

Showtime!

While Royal’s new story material and characters are touted as the reason to give the game another spin, the real main event is the large number of gameplay improvements and additions. Royal is anchored by the deceptively deep, endlessly addictive, exceptionally stylish turn-based action combat. The combat is like slipping on a comfortable slipper.

It takes the ponderous nature of JRPG combat and infuses it with kinetic energy thanks primarily to its “1 more” weakness system. If you’ve played any other Persona or Shin Megami Tensei game, you’re intimately familiar with the weakness system — where taking advantage of an enemy’s weakness knocks them down and grants users a follow up attack. Used effectively, it can prevent the enemy from attacking at all.

Persona 5 takes the system further with the all-out attack mechanic. If you knock down each enemy, you can perform a powerful team attack ending in a spectacular flourish. The smartly crafted combat system contributes to the turn-based action with a fluidity. It doesn’t sacrifice what makes JRPGs great or depth of strategy to add a sense of movement, which is its greatest achievement.

Persona 5 Royal Review
While plenty has changed, what hasn’t is the deep, strategy and addictive combat.

Royal takes that core and builds upon it, turning the fantastic into the spectacular. The most eye-catching gameplay addition is Showtime, which are duo attacks between the Phantom Thieves that use a visually stunning tableau to deal massive damage to a single enemy. Whether employing Makoto and Haru’s Puroresu inspired Showtime or Yusuke and Ryuji’s action flick-esque Showtime, these attacks not only add another way to dispatch enemies, but they give the game another chance to flex visually.

Probably most striking about what’s new to Persona 5 Royal is the refreshed Palace design. While not completely overhauled, the subtle changes make a huge difference. First, Joker has a grappling hook now, which is what any Phantom Thief needs to infiltrate a highly guarded compound. Exploring has more fluidity and panache thanks to this.

Second, each Palace now has fun collectibles in the form of Will Seeds. Three Will Seeds exist in a Palace, and collecting all three grants you a useful accessory. Further, these crystalized Will Seeds can be improved into a better accessory by Jose.

Persona 5 Royal Review
New to Persona 5 Royal are Will Seeds, which are collectibles littered throughout re-designed palaces.

Wait, who is Jose? Another new addition to gameplay comes in the form of Jose, a mysterious inhabitant of the Thieves Den, a place to unlock extras using coins earned for crossing milestones in the game. Jose’s biggest contribution to Persona 5 Royal, however, comes in the form of transforming Mementos.

While Mementos serves the same functions as before, it is now littered with flowers to collect thanks to Jose. Collecting flowers allows you to exchange them for useful and rare items with Jose. Besides being a purveyor of goods, Jose will also upgrade your crystalized Will Seeds when you speak with him, making a powerful accessory even more so.

Overall

If you missed it the first time around, there is no better option than Persona 5 Royal to experience this genre defining game. However, don’t think if you’ve already sunk 100+ hours into Persona 5 that Royal doesn’t have something for you.

The main selling point is Kasumi and Maruki. However, what makes Persona 5 Royal worth the double dip is the bevy of gameplay improvements and additions. They make a huge difference in how the game plays and feels, and are well worth the price of admission.

Persona 5 Royal is a sharp reminder that Persona 5 is one of the best JRPGs of this console cycle. At its core, it retains the same addictive gameplay and compelling story. However, it expands upon its remarkable base with clever new gameplay mechanics and thoughtful story additions to make a great game even better.

Persona 5 Royal was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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Top Articles

PERSONA 5 ROYAL REVIEW: BANG BANG

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall97%

GAMEPLAY10

Combining turn-based RPG excellence with a deep strengths and weakness system makes each encounter in Persona 5: Royal electrifying. The revised Palaces have an even better design.

GRAPHICS10

Persona 5 was one of the most stylish games around, but Royal ups the ante thanks to the addition of the Showtime moves.

SOUND9.5

Royal has the same amazing voice acting and soundtrack.

STORY9.5

In terms of plot, Royal is largely the same as Persona 5, but that isn’t a bad thing. Re-living the experience is still exciting. Its turn still hits hard.

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