Not to take away too much about the current state of things in general, but now’s a great time to catch up on your video game backlog. Which is why the release of Persona 5 Royal is downright perfect, if not a little spooky.
Persona 5 Royal is an updated version of Persona 5 released on March 31. The revamped title boasts a number of quality of life changes, graphics touch ups, additional mechanics and a couple new characters in it’s latest outing. With all the lovely gaming opportunities abound, is Royal worth the replay or is it better as a first helping?
For those unfamiliar, Persona 5 Royal follows the same story of the main character (named by the player, but is referred to as Joker) realizing he and his friends have the ability to command amazing spectral creatures called Personas. Together they form a group that can steal the metaphorical hearts of generally awful people and make them turn over a new leaf. Outside of a few extra conversations between your fellows, this story is fairly untouched from the original P5.
Royal instead added a couple of new confidants to change up the pace with a mental health counselor named Maruki and schoolmate Kasumi Yoshizawa. Both characters have their own unique plot pieces added into the game, as well as bonuses their confidants can merit the main character.
In addition, there are several updates that make traversing life as a Shujin student much easier to navigate. New activities like playing darts with your friends can boost the power from the Baton Pass ability, or doing crossword puzzles can up your knowledge stat without sacrificing the entire evening to it. For those who originally struggled with the sometimes too restrictive scheduling/social stat balance of the original P5, these changes are well received.
The palaces and underground Mementos area also has several updates, which include the introduction of Jose: a new character that can issue boosts to the environment in exchange for collected stamps. This is more of a way to ease the eventual experience/money grind players may need as the story progresses. Especially given the additional time players have to play out Akechi’s confidant route or further upgrade Personas to new levels. All of these updates will be fun and intuitive for the newer player, but the real meat for returning players will be the additional story content. This is where the biggest issue with Persona 5 Royal lies.
Royal implements its biggest story injections in the latter portion of the game. To avoid spoilers, returning players should know that it will take a hefty investment of gaming hours simply to reach the more substantial chunks of new story. Kasumi and Maruki are interspersed with the main cast in between big plot points, sometimes in a very off-putting way, but they really don’t come into play until after the original story stretch (and can be circumvented entirely if you don’t watch your convos).
There are a few new character scenarios and fun little follow up conversations with your confidants, but it’s not terribly major in comparison the original. If anything it’s a little odd that there is content tacked on to boast the new characters, while team member Haru is still underdeveloped (one of the few marks against the original P5).
It’s difficult to recommend Persona 5 Royal to a repeat player. The problem is that the original game was just that good when it released, so there’s little to improve upon. The changes that have been made are positive ones to be sure, but nothing that completely upends the original experience. Kasumi and a few other story elements (avoiding spoilers) are interesting, but not enough to merit the brand new price tag. If you absolutely loved Persona 5 to a frenetic level and would eagerly replay it in a heartbeat, then Royal might be a good fit. It is most definitely an easy recommendation for players that missed the original P5 boat. For everyone else, Royal might be better at a lower price point before diving in again.
Persona 5 Royal final score: 4/5
Persona 5 Royal is currently available at $59.99 for PlayStation 4.