Persona 5 Royal Review – Heart Stolen (PS4)

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I’m about 60 hours into Persona 5 Royal and can safely say it’s the ultimate Persona 5 experience. I’ve come off the back of playing the original release twice for the new game plus and it really feels like this Royal edition is the logical next step. It’s still mostly the same which isn’t a bad thing. It’s stylish as heck, with turn-based elemental battles and fun friendships but the little added flairs are a nice touch. If Persona 5 was ice cream, Persona 5 Royal is like having unlimited toppings.

For the unfamiliar, Persona 5 is the story of a teen who’s punished for trying to do the right thing in a world full of corrupt adults. He is granted the power to enter the subconscious of these adults for a chance at stealing their hearts and changing their ways. As he does this he meets other like-minded people to help him on this journey.

Even those who don’t become party members will provide benefits as friendships grow to aid you in battle and sometimes in life. It’s a game about wearing many different masks, supporting people, and exploring the potential of rebellious youth out for justice.

Persona 5 Royal Review in Progress

What Persona 5 Royal adds to this are mostly just little touches and the most notable are the new characters or changes to familiar faces. One of these is a new playable character, Kasumi. I haven’t had the chance to play as her yet but I have maxed out her confidant ranking and she gives you a slightly different look into the life of an honour student in a school desperately trying to claw back its damaged reputation. I’m curious to see how her loadout will help me when it comes time to change some hearts together.

Maruki the new school counsellor is the other main addition. He’s actually a really nice tie in because he talks about changing people’s hearts in a more understandable real-world sense. Not everyone can have some plucky teams break into their palace and steal a treasure, some of us just need therapy. Maruki also gives you the ability to grow your SP to cast more spells in dungeons and some other neat bonuses in battles.

The last is Akechi, the boy detective. So far he still seems to be playing the same role as the original game but there are extra confident missions instead of just ranking up with the story. I always enjoyed the dynamic between Akechi and the Phantom Thieves in the original release and Persona 5 Royal lets you play with that a bit more. I’m looking forward to seeing how this might change things or even just my perception of this character as things unfold.

Battling and Palace Updates

The other main change to characters I’ve seen so far is mostly just quality of life. It seems a little easier to level everyone up which is good because you’re juggling a bit more and you only have so much time. However, the best thing for sure is the addition of Showtimes. These are bizarre paired attacks your teammates will put together that can be used in battle. They’re fantastically weird and rife with anime bullshit and I love them to pieces.

In terms of other Palace based mechanics, there are a few changes in Persona 5 Royal. The most notable would probably be the grappling hook which features prominently in marketing and intro screen. This is only usable in select places in palaces so it actually is a much smaller deal than I’d imagined. It gets you to new small areas, often to find the new special collectible items known as Will Seeds but so far hasn’t done much more. Sometimes I’ve been able to skip small chunks of enemies using a grappling point but all in all, it’s a bit shoehorned in and a minor change. However, I think people playing through Persona 5 Royal as their first P5 experience probably wouldn’t even notice it as out of place.

Some palace bosses have been changed too and I think this is mostly for the best. I recall Madarame’s fight, in particular, being more tedious during the original P5 but I’m currently up against another boss which has felt bullshit levels of unfair. I’m waiting to see if I somehow beat it and realise I was the idiot but so far it almost seems like a glitch rather than intended design. These changes to bosses are refreshing though, especially for someone who’s already completed a play-through and wants things to be a little bit different.

Momentous Mementos

Individual palaces aren’t the only ones to see changes, as the collective subconscious palace known as Momentos has also been tweaked. Now you can find a kinda creepy kid called Jose who will allow you to spend currencies you can find in the twisted subway tunnels. This means among other things, my experience gained in Momentos has been boosted and so it feels more worthwhile to go explore the areas.

Abilities you gain from new confidants can also make exploring Momentos a bit easier and there are new contracts to be hunted. There’s also the alarm bell which when triggered by consecutive wins will change the status of the Velvet Room where you craft new personas. This can be done in palaces too but it’s a bit easier to do in Momentos and the results are worth the trouble.

Momentos is also where you can earn most of the points to be spent in the new Thieves Den. It’s an area outside of the game that you can customise with collectibles, jump into other characters’ models, and watch previous cutscenes. I haven’t played with it too much but for hardcore Persona 5 fans it’s a cute way to get a bit of a closer look at things and be rewarded for your trials in the world. 

Crown It

Persona 5 was easily one of my favourite games the year it released and is one of my all-time favourite JRPGs. Persona 5 Royal is essentially the exact same thing but with more and it’s apparent right from the moment you boot up the disc.

I’m not sure if playing through this 100-hour game more than once is everyone’s cup of tea but if you liked P5 and you’re up for another adventure, Persona 5 Royal has plenty of new little touches to reward your time. If you’re going in blind I am convinced this is the best version of possibly one of the best and definitely the most stylish JRPGs in modern gaming.

After Completing

It makes sense that I wasn’t too sure about the new content side of Persona 5 Royal after finishing it. Most of the new content doesn’t really fully kick into gear until after the original final boss.

My save file tells me I’ve spent 112 hours in-game but the amount of time I spent being cheesed by a boss makes me think that’s probably closer to 115. When you consider how much old dialogue I skipped through, I’d say this is a solid 120 hours for most people. I finished it over a period of 20 days, so around 6 hours a day of Persona 5 if averaged out.

Forgive me if I’m a shapeshifter at Poe’s masquerade at this point

Persona 5 Royal Review

Once you’re introduced to the new revelation complete with Palace, the first few days are a real slog. I was pretty unimpressed as it makes you check in on each of your team members but for no reason at all disables fast travel and only lets you see one person a day. It’s a really petty way to stretch out these opening days and at the time I didn’t think it boded well for the rest of this new chapter.

Thankfully, things really do pick up. After a week or two, you’re allowed back to your routine. You can continue to level up any skills or confidants you’d previously been unable to secure while infiltrating a palace or exploring mementos just like the previous months.

It’s really nice to have this extra time and I was able to fully level up everything except for one of my bonds, sorry Yusuke. I was mostly pretty smart with my time but if I’d utilised things like the fortune-telling affinity boost or Kawakami’s night time massages earlier I think I could have done it all.

Fit for a King

The palace itself is bolstered by having to complete several levels into the new section of mementos. I felt like overall the palace was shorter and easier than the others. There are a few new enemies/personas but nothing particularly groundbreaking. Some of the lesser featured enemies are just retitled older ones like Jack Frost with different stats and affinities. It doesn’t harm the game at all but it could make things feel tacked on where they needn’t have. 

Enemies also still suffer from the same flaws that tackle all Persona games. They’re beholden to the weakness system. This means for the most part they’re all really easy to deal with until you come across that one bastard who has nothing and also for some reason won’t get hit by status effects. 

It’s always bothered me that so many boss battles pull this and end up making any strategy you’ve built previously completely worthless. Because of this, in some ways, I was pleasantly surprised by the end boss here. I don’t want to give too much away but it had me buffing, using my affinities, baton passing, and swapping out my team members throughout.

It has a couple of fake endings which aren’t of much consequence after the main battle, which is probably a bit too easy for your current level. Ultimately it was nice to beat a boss that didn’t feel like it was cheesing me and actually made me feel like my hard work up until this point had panned out. 

Old Friends and New

This extra time also let me check out some of the new features, especially in Kichijoji. This new area gives you access to the jazz club and darts and pool pavilion. The darts game, in particular, is simple but it’s also kinda fun using the motion controls to throw darts. The activities give you new ways to level up your teammates and build a friendship with them in ways that feel a bit more useful than before and are all welcome additions.

The story to this second ending is a bit of a ‘what if’ scenario but I enjoyed it. There are a few touches which tied up some things I’m glad to see get resolved from the original release. Plus, I got to see my old favourite characters in a bit of a new light (one of which I really enjoyed) as well as further explore the new ones.

Maruki and Yoshizawa are also delved into much more which was welcome after the sort of half experience we had with them earlier. Yoshizawa’s arch bothers me a little bit because while she manages to reclaim her sense of self it feels like you’re the only reason for it and that seems a bit unhealthy. However, their inclusion was enough to beef out the expansion and make it feel like a worthwhile end chapter.

The premise of it all actually had me wrestle a bit with what I’d do in their situation, which was a nice change from the usual black and white morality of the Phantom Thieves. Even after it’s all done with I wonder if there couldn’t have been a more midway option. I completed the alternate endings which are pretty much exactly the same as the original ‘take the deal’ one and it only made me doubt it further. In a way, it’s nice to be slightly unsettled. 

Majesty

The hardest thing to quantify with Persona 5 Royal though, is what it is. It really should be a DLC pack. That’s not to say it isn’t valuable, just doesn’t feel fair to have people play through what is mostly the same game up until the end chapter just for this or even to buy the game again. The story beats scattered through early parts of the game do give it more depth but it’d be a hard press argument to suggest it couldn’t have been done otherwise. I enjoyed it but am also aware that it’s not exactly the kindest move for the average consumer. 

To judge Persona 5 Royal on its own though, I agree with my initial thoughts. It’s the ultimate version of Persona 5.

I really appreciate just that extra bit of time to close off as much as possible and having the opportunity to glimpse a bit more from these characters I’d already come to love. I found that the new additions, for the most part, added to the experience without taking anything away and at worse was occasionally a tad limp.

It may not be worth dipping in for another over 100 hours playthrough for those who aren’t die-hard fans, but for those who are or anyone new to the game, it’s worth it.

was glad to spend another chunk of time with the Phantom Thieves who stole my heart.


Persona 5 Royal was reviewed on PS4 using a digital copy provided by Atlus.

PowerUp! Reviews

Game Title: Persona 5 Royal

Game Description: Don the mask of Joker and join the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. Break free from the chains of modern society and stage grand heists to infiltrate the minds of the corrupt and make them change their ways! Explore Tokyo, unlock new Personas, customize your own personal Thieves Den, discover a never-before-seen story arc, cutscenes, alternate endings, and more!

  • 10/10
    Persona 5 was already great - 10/10
  • 8.5/10
    New Story beats add rather than take from the experience - 8.5/10
  • 10/10
    More time to do everything - 10/10
  • 10/10
    Satisfying Boss battle - 10/10
9.6/10
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Hope Corriganhttp://HopeCorrigan.com
Secretly several dogs stacked on top of one another in a large coat, Hope has a habit of writing and talking far too much about video games and tech. You can usually find her whinging about how Jet Set Radio Future never got a sequel on Twitter.

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