Persona 5 Royal
Once more, the king of JRPGs, both past and future, captures our hearts.
Once more, the king of JRPGs, both past and future, captures our hearts.
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Review game Persona 5 Royal, Once more, the king of JRPGs, both past and future, captures our hearts.
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Persona 5 Royal is a prime example of how to elevate an already fantastic game to new heights. It’s not just a typical “game of the year” edition with a few tacked-on extras. Atlus has significantly improved, refined, and expanded almost every aspect of their 2016 (or 2017 in the US) JRPG masterpiece. I was astounded by the amount of love and care that went into every old and new turn in the story throughout the course of the more than 130 hours that I spent exploring urban Tokyo and the fantastical worlds of people’s imagination.
Having played Persona 5 twice through the original version, I can say that Royal’s changes have had the biggest and most immediate effect on combat. Even though it’s difficult to maintain the interest of traditional four-person turn-based battles in the modern era, Atlus is the best in the business at doing so. Atlus has completely rethought the function of guns in your arsenal, in addition to accurately rebalancing abilities and enemies throughout the game. Instead of only refreshing at the start of an infiltration, bullets now refresh after every battle, albeit at the cost of having less total ammunition. In early areas, this feels almost unbeatably strong, but with time, it makes guns a much more reliable and versatile tool, not something you save for really difficult opponents.
Seeing Makoto and Haru double elbow-drop a prophecy come true never gets old to me. Another great addition are showtime attacks, in which two of your party members combine for a devastating super finisher. The extravagant and incredibly clever animations elegantly showcase the individuality and connections of your party guests. Watching Makoto and Haru double elbow-drop a prophet of doom in a flamboyant, funny homage to professional wrestling is something I will always find entertaining. Showtimes can occur at any time, but they are more likely to occur when you’re about to defeat an enemy or when your party is in serious danger. That enhances the drama and unpredictable nature of particularly fierce battles at precisely the right times.
Additionally, the game introduces a volatile version of certain enemies as new encounter types. More powerful than their normal form, they deal massive damage to all of their allies once defeated, often ending the battle with a single blow. They also launch a devastating counterattack for every hit they take that doesn’t finish them off. This encourages you to switch up your usual tactics and adds some spice to areas where you might have to fight a lot of similar enemies in a row.
Fusion is much more exciting because of the risk and reward component. The velvet room has also been improved. There’s a chance that completing a typical encounter in Igor’s sanctum will set off a fusion alarm. When it’s active, any personas you fuse will emerge more powerful than they otherwise could be, and you might even be able to replace their weaker abilities with stronger ones. However, if you use the gallows excessively during an alarm, strange things could happen. I decided to take a chance and got a copy of Phoenix, which was hilariously nearly useless because it had no attack, support, or healing moves but was full of incredibly powerful passive skills. The risk and reward component adds excitement to fusion. With the incentive of powered-up personas, I found myself using the Velvet Room much more frequently than I would have otherwise.
If you’re a seasoned Persona 5 player, the amalgamation of these additional battle and progression alternatives may render certain sections considerably more manageable than they were in the initial release. You can still expect a serious challenge from the new and improved boss fights, even on normal difficulty. And perhaps you recall our former comrade, The Reaper, the semi-secret foe who is meant to be the Joker’s greatest test? He is immune to the Despair debuff in Royal, so you can’t kill him the corny way by sparring with him on particular days. This indicates that eliminating him is actually the hardest thing you can do, and when I succeeded in doing so, it felt incredible.
It felt incredible to defeat The Reaper, who is undoubtedly the hardest task one can attempt. A third semester featuring a new palace, a new section of the Mementos mega-dungeon, and a new heart to steal has significantly expanded the already amazing story. Overall, it is slightly longer than the earlier palace story arcs, but not significantly. I can’t really say much more about the new plot without giving away major spoilers, other than to say that it pits our group of Phantom Thieves against an incredibly intriguing new foe who differs greatly from everyone else they’ve encountered in terms of goals, motivations, and ideals. Persona’s in-depth, thematic examination of human society and the dangers of the psyche keeps posing difficult and pertinent questions about suffering and justice that made me reevaluate my own beliefs. A game truly rises to the occasion when it isn’t afraid to go there. All of this builds to an epic, action-packed, multi-phase boss fight that will test every skill you have and act as a fittingly dramatic conclusion to everything you have worked so hard to achieve thus far.
But the story is not over yet; the third semester is just one chapter in it. The main campaign has also been greatly enhanced with the addition of two new confidants to the already wealthy cast: Takuto Maruki, a calm but quirky school counsellor, and Kasumi Yoshizawa, a bubbly and ambitious gymnast. Each has a tragically deep backstory that is incredibly intricate and full of unexpected twists and turns that were both painful and fascinating to learn about. I won’t reveal who, but one of the returning confidants from Persona 5 has had their role in the story greatly altered and expanded.
In order to counterbalance the additional time required to fully develop your relationships with these new characters, Royal has introduced a number of new ways for you to spend your leisure time. For example, every night that you go to bed without doing anything else in the evening, you may randomly dream of receiving relationship or stat points. It’s also quite satisfying to concentrate on new faces inside palaces as well as outside of them. You can permanently raise your SP and HP with Maruki and Kasumi, respectively. Kasumi can also teach you a new grappling hook technique that allows you to ambush opponents from a distance and inflict damaging status effects on them. This can be extremely advantageous against certain, more formidable groups. The fact that Kasumi can’t join you as a regular party member until the third semester is one of my only disappointments, but you’ll still see a lot of her and have a few opportunities to try out her skills before then.
An enormous improvement in and of itself, Mementos now feels so much more alive thanks to Atlus. Apart from the new area that becomes available in semester three, the enigmatic Jose has done a fantastic job of adding new collectibles and unlockables to the entire Mementos universe. When you find enough hidden stars, he can unlock benefits like increased experience points and trade you powerful items for flowers that spawn in the depths. In the original version, Memorabilia frequently felt like a chore; it was undoubtedly my least favourite aspect of the journey. Considering how much time you spend there, the fact that Atlus has brought a strong sense of life to it by introducing fresh incentives for exploration and a good measure of personality is a huge improvement in and of itself. Furthermore, Atlus has implemented a mercy-kill rule that enables players to bypass enemies several levels below them while still earning experience, money, and item drops. I spent a lot more of the 130 hours of this playthrough doing interesting and engaging things instead of grinding endlessly, which is nothing short of a godsend.
The numerous other minor and medium-sized enhancements in Persona 5 Royal are practically enough to fill a TV documentary, but these are some of my favourites: A brand-new hangout area called The Thieves’ Den will stick with you throughout game sessions. You can rewatch any cutscene, listen to the excellent new and returning music, and decorate with statues of personas you’ve unlocked. The new songs are every bit as amazing as the hits; they offer some variety and mesh flawlessly with the upbeat acid jazz that is such a significant and unforgettable aspect of Persona 5’s sound. There’s even a fantastic new battle theme that plays during ambush encounters, if you were finally growing weary of the catchy “Last Surprise”—and let’s face it, after two playthroughs of the original version, it’s hard not to be a little bit over it. This means that if you’re playing at your best, you’ll hear it during the majority of battles, making Last Surprise a welcome, occasionally nostalgic treat.
Even in well-known scenes, there is always something fresh to observe. Amazingly, new dialogue has been added to every level of every social link, so even in scenes that you may recognise, there’s always something fresh to see. Discover the brand-new free-roaming neighbourhood of Kichijoji in Tokyo, which has a jazz club and a darts minigame that lets you level up your party members’ potent Baton Pass ability. We have enlarged every one of the vintage palaces to include more secret spaces and items to discover. Every significant boss battle has had its balance adjusted and new, captivating, and difficult mechanics added. The amount of extra cool stuff that Atlus managed to fit in here is almost overwhelming. When combined, that probably makes for at least one more complete game’s worth of content.
Persona 5 was already a clear favourite to be the greatest JRPG ever created, but Royal makes me wonder what else could possibly be in the running. Polished and returned for more, the captivating narrative, endearing, multifaceted characters, and demanding, strategic combat bring with them fresh revelations and newfound companionship. There are fresh corners to discover and unexpected turns that will astound you. The touch has improved almost everything it has come into contact with, leaving very little untouched. The Phantom Thieves have taken my heart once more, and I really don’t want it back.