Persona 5 is one of those installments that struck a critical hit on not only fans of the series, but people who fancy RPGs in general. While the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series has been growing in mainstream popularity since Persona 3 on the PlayStation 2, its felt like some of the more recent entries have received the most vocal accolades. Persona 5 Royal is in an odd spot. It’s an ultimate edition of the game with an expansion that might call to mind the extra content in Persona 3 FES or Persona 4 Golden, which might make people wonder if they’re ready to go all in again for “just another semester.” But in reality, there’s tons to do here and how much has changed sneaks up on you.
Persona 5 Royal starts with a tease of things to come. You know there’s a whole new heroine in the game, Kasumi Yoshizawa. The opening heist kicks off in a similar manner, with Joker on his own to distract from the rest of the Phantom Thieves. What changes is he runs into Kasumi while attempting to escape this palace, and she helps him dispatch some foes while reminding him “don’t forget the promise we made” and saying she’s “in no position to interfere” since she’s not one of them. Then… you don’t see her again for a while. You’ll run into her on a train. You’ll see hints of her and other future characters, like Akechi and Haru. But your game mostly proceeds the way you remember it.
Except once the basics are let in, more feature start creeping up on you to let you know that yeah, there’s way more going on in Persona 5 Royal than you’d expect. If you decide to have your school test answers on hands right away, you’ll find your first question isn’t asking about what a soul is made of. Instead, it has to do with the Devil’s Dictionary. When you head into Shadow Kamoshida’s castle, you’ll be using your grappling ability to get Will Seeds from new areas, face stronger than usual enemies, and rappel to higher ledges. You’re more active. Eventually, you’ll meet the new school counselor Takuto and… well, let’s just say you will 100% want to max out that new Social Link.
Many of these just… make sense. There are so many quality of life adjustments in Persona 5 Royal. I don’t want to go to bed, Morgana. I want to brew some coffee or hang out in my room boosting my stats. There are more options for building up your allies, like by heading to an aquarium when trying to connect or playing darts to build up the Baton Pass. A lot of Kichijoji’s new locations make sense too, both for getting new relationship items or equipment or, if you find yourself using a lot of magic in battle, meditating at the temple to boost your SP. Going to the club to have a drink is great too, especially if you have someone who you aren’t using as much and need to level up.
Other bits feel a little like the best kind of fanservice. If people liked Goro Akechi and felt like they needed more time with him in Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal has that covered. You can spend more time with the Velvet Room attendants. There are other events that are more present or fleshed out, and the activities and details in the newly added area feel like they build on what not only players might have wanted, but the Phantom Thieves as well.
But more importantly, after everything that has happened in February and March 2020, Persona 5 Royal feels like the sort of game we need again. People’s normal lives have been disrupted and there’s a lack of control over the circumstances around us. Even though many elements here are the same story again, though Akechi’s confidant line is more interesting and there are additional bits added here, there’s a comfort in having an improved version of something we already know we’ll enjoy. Especially since it offers us control we don’t have in our daily lives and a sense of structure that being bound to homes might have disrupted.
In a way, all of the little things add enough to make it seem reasonable that an existing Persona 5 save couldn’t just be added and used with Persona 5 Royal. Yes, it is an incredibly meaty game. But while it might take a while for a lot of the new features to start creeping in, they subtly come up. By the time you fight Kamoshida’s Shadow, you’ll better understand how more refined it all is. It is a big ask to go through everything again, but the careful execution and the extra character interactions will be worth it for those who consider this their favorite installment.
Persona 5 Royal will come to the PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe on March 31, 2020. It is already available in other regions.