After spending 105 hours with my fellow Phantom Thieves and stealing the hearts of Japan’s most corrupt individuals, I walked away from Persona 5: Royal emotional, satisfied, and with an even greater appreciation for the masterful presentation and game design Atlus have infused into every single second of this 100 plus hour tale.
Everything about the original Persona 5 is preserved perfectly, with some quality of life improvements and tweaks to make everything you choose to do in your life as a student, meaningful and worthwhile. New additions add even more to this already packed experience, making Persona 5: Royal the definitive way to play Persona 5 and one of the best JRPG’s available on PS4.
Persona 5: Royal PS4 Review
A More Refined School Year
When it comes to this review, I am not going to spend much time explaining the mechanics of the game other than when it is necessary, or else this review will be 5,000 words long. If you need a refresher or a rundown of how Persona 5 works, you can read our review of the original game from 2017 here.
The core plot and storyline of Persona 5: Royal is mostly left untouched. After being placed on probation, you move to Yongen-Jaya and are placed with your new guardian, Sojiro Sakura. Shortly after arriving, you enrol in Shujin Academy and begin a new school year. On the way to your first day of school, you and the school troublemaker who you just met, Ryuji Sakamoto, accidentally stumble into an alternate reality known as the Metaverse, a cognitive world formed of palaces, which are the manifestations of an individual’s distorted desires and twisted thoughts.
In the Metaverse, you meet Morgana, a talking cat who claims to not be a cat, and from there you investigate the Metaverse further, forming the Phantom Thieves, teaming up with new members, taking on ever more distorted individuals, alongside spending your days living out your daily school life, filled with all the drama, awkward conversations, and dread of schoolwork that comes with it.
The eight palaces from the first game, as well as the final level, are all still present, with the perverted High School teacher, Kamoshida kicking, things off, before moving onto greater threats as the game progresses. Although these palaces have been streamlined slightly, with smoother difficulty curves over the course of each one and altered layouts, such changes make for a far more enjoyable infiltration than they did in the original Persona 5. I can’t say for sure whether or not the palaces feel shorter, but I definitely got that impression with the first four or so.
Either way, the changes made to the layout and the new paths granted thanks to Joker’s new grappling hook, make traversing each palace far more interesting, as you look for hooks to latch onto in order to reach new platforms housing treasure chests or the new optional collectible Will Seeds, which provide accessories for you to equip onto any of your party members.
All the boss fights with the Palace Rulers at the end have also been altered in some way, making them more enjoyable to fight as the Phantom Thieves use unique tactics and opportunities. They are no longer the drawn-out, back and forth, turn-based battles that would go on for 20 minutes or more you would find in the original, with each one having a unique gimmick or puzzle.
When not infiltrating palaces you can also spend your time trawling through the randomised dungeons beneath Tokyo, known as Mementos. Mementos has seen a number of significant changes, which offer up more for you to do whilst down in the subway tunnels. At the end of each floor and scattered on podiums throughout each path of Mementos you can find a Stamp to pick up, with bunches of Flowers lying about the dungeon.
Both of these currencies can then be given to a new NPC known as Jose who rides around in a cart, randomly showing up as you progress through the 66 floors. In exchange for the stamps, he can adjust the cognition of Mementos, allowing you to earn increased experience, money, or items from battles, which makes farming far more enjoyable as you are able to tailor the experience to your needs.
Even if you leave Mementos, those stamps will remain with you; however, Flowers are lost upon leaving, but they can be given to Jose in exchange for items, such as large SP recovery pills for your whole team, or the ability to induce fear or confusion to your foes within a battle. Both of these are nice extra objectives that make Mementos remarkably more interesting and fun to explore than it was beforehand.
Atlus has also made dozens of quality-of-life improvements to the social RPG aspect of Persona 5: Royal. Character’s individual perks for spending time with them and ranking up their confidant status have been changed in some cases to make them more interesting or to utilise some of the new features mentioned above. I particularly enjoyed the changes that were made to Akechi’s Confidant ranking. You can hang out with him to level it up here and spend a lot more time getting to know him than you could in the first game.
Smaller tweaks, like being able to track your social stats easier and more detailed descriptions and tutorials go a long way to helping new players and returning ones understand everything there is to offer. Oh, and Morgana isn’t constantly telling you to go to bed, and you can read a book in your home after you have visited the Metaverse.
More New Content Than You Have Time For
With how much that has been refined in Persona 5: Royal, you might think there isn’t that much new to do. Well, you would be mistaken. A brand new location, Kichijoji, has been added, which features a jazz club to invite friends and potential dates to, while a second-hand clothes shop to sell old and unwanted protective gear, a temple to meditate and relax at, as well as a few other smaller convenience stores can all be found.
My favourite location in Kichijoji is the Darts and Billiards arena, which you can invite members of the Phantom Thieves to. Darts quickly became my favourite activity in the entire game, with its intuitive and comfortable controls.
Playing darts also buffs the much improved Baton Pass battle mechanic. Each member of the Phantom Thieves now starts off with the Baton Pass by default and playing darts will increases their amount of SP and HP, as well as increasing the damage they deal when they are passed to. On top of that, whilst you are in a battle, each of these stats will increase as you pass to a new member of your party, eventually allowing you to cast a skill without using any SP if you are able to pass it to each member of your party within a turn.
Another new combat feature is the flashy, over-the-top, yet incredibly fantastic Showtime attacks. These are unlocked as you progress through the game and they involve two members of the Phantom Thieves teaming up to deal a large chunk of damage to an enemy, all within a cutscene that matches and sometimes exceeds the presentation seen in the rest of Persona 5.
For example, one Showtime attack has Morgana offering Ann a bouquet of roses. Ann then subsequently pulls a pair of SMG’s out of the flowers and begins to shoot the enemy, whilst twirling through the air. The attack is then capped off by Morgana throwing a giant ass bomb at the enemy as it suffers a hilariously entertaining death. Showtime Attacks mix ridiculous scenarios with the gorgeous animation, colours, and style that Persona 5 is known for to create some gorgeous ten-second sequences that you won’t skip even after seeing it for the tenth time.
Persona 5: Royal also adds in two new Confidants for you to rank up Kasumi Yoshizawa (A new Phantom Thief) and Taruto Maruki (a councillor at your school), but I will get to them in a little bit as they play an important role in the extra semester you can play in Persona 5.
Finally, the other major change is how the Velvet Room works, which allows for more flexibility in terms of what Personas you can create and the bonuses you can give them. Aside from new Personas that can be fused from all the returning guillotine methods, the Velvet Room can sometimes undergo a Fusion Alarm, which will allow you to fuse stronger Personas, with moves they usually can’t learn. Personas can also be infused for rare items too, though this comes at the limit of only being able to use each guillotine method once or twice or else your Persona might be lost or turn into something else than you originally intended.
Welcome To The Phantom Thieves
As mentioned above, both Kasumi Yoshizawa and Taruto Maruki play a pivotal role in the new sections of the story. Kasumi is the new member of the Phantom Thieves and fills a similar playstyle to Akechi, focusing on Bless skills. However, she doesn’t become playable until the third semester, which takes place after you complete Shido’s palace in December. For those who haven’t played Persona 5, that is incredibly late in the game. We are talking the final 15 hours or so of a 100-hour game.
On top of that, the third semester of the game is entirely optional and easily skippable. Because, as I found out, in order to unlock this new story content, including the ability to have Kasumi join the Phantom Thieves, you have to ensure Maruki’s Confidant rank is at 9 by the time he has finished his employment with Shujin Academy. If he isn’t rank 9 by then, you will be locked out of the new story content and the game will end in the same way as the original Persona 5.
This very specific condition isn’t signposted very well and I was a tad disheartened when I discovered that I wouldn’t be able to witness the new content when I originally thought I would. This is the only negative thing I have to say about Persona 5: Royal and it more came from my own ignorance of Maruki than any fault with the actual game. Although, I feel like his importance could have been hinted at more, as he is treated with a similar level of importance as Kawakami. He is mentioned a lot and thrust into a few scenes, but the game never presents him as a pivotal main character.
However, if you do meet those conditions, the extra semester includes an entirely new palace, as well as a number of genuinely earth-shattering, wacky, and strange events that have you question what you experienced beforehand. These events can lead to one of two new endings only obtainable through this path, adding some encouragement to replay the game, which I intend to do.
The Best Of The Best And One To Never Forget
The emotional story and the connection you feel to every single person in Persona 5 is all retained here. The ending made me tear up once again and by the end of the game, I felt like I was leaving behind friends I had spent years with, growing up, bonding with, learning everything about them. Persona 5: Royal’s narrative and the connection you feel to the people around you makes it one of the best tales in gaming.
The experience is then made even better by a number of vital quality-of-life improvements, streamlined gameplay sections and more to do and see in Tokyo. The sheer amount on offer here and the replayability afforded by that choice gives you hundreds of hours of content.
Persona 5: Royal is better in practically every single way. It is the definitive way to experience this masterpiece that will be lauded decades down the line. It’s worth playing again just to hear the stellar music again. Not only is Persona 5: Royal one of the best JRPG’s on PS4, it is straight-up one of the best games on PS4 and shouldn’t be missed by anyone.
Persona 5: Royal releases on March 31, 2020, for PS4.
Review code provided by publisher.