Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Having stolen the hearts of thieves and the title of 2017 game of the year, Persona 5 Royal is an enhanced and reimagined form of Persona 5. With loads of new content and re-worked quality of life features, it gives both fans of the original and those who’ve been thinking about it a good reason to jump in especially with everything currently happening in our real world.
2017 has been a great year for gamers, and as we sit around the one-third point, there are already some Game of the Year contenders starting to shape up. Right now, Persona 5 is the leader in that race, and for me it’s not even close. Memorable characters, an engaging storyline, fantastic systems and fluid combat all come together to create a fantastic experience.Nick 2017 Persona 5 Review
When the original announcement stated that Royal would be a separate instance from the original and that certain elements wouldn’t / couldn’t carry over, some people were a little less than impressed. Being a bit like Persona 3 FES or Persona 4 The Golden, Persona 5 Royal adds in new dialog, adds in new features, and unlike Persona 3 PSP which added in a female protagonist to play as, P5 has added a new character to the roster that gets embedded into the already existing story. While this alone could amount to why there’s a new version to start from scratch, with the tons of other changes including new parts to dungeons and new features to Mementos, it’s worth starting back up from the beginning.
On its original launch, Nick and I shared progress updates for about maybe the first ten hours as I went through the introduction and the first dungeon. Unfortunately after that point, I got busy with other titles and have since just wanted to go back and restart from scratch. Having amazingly been given this chance, there were several features that were immediately noticeable while others felt so integrated I had to look up the checklist of new features to see if they had been there in the first place. Overall, a lot of smaller ticket items will just blend in but some of the bigger ones really come out to play starting between the 25-40 hour marks depending on how much time you’ve spent doing what until the start or end of the third major Palace Dungeon.
Not holding anything back, the newest member of the Phantom Thieves shows up to lend a helping hand in the opening sequence which on its own was already hosting a bit of the change in direction. Acting as a bit of a tease, and not wanting to spoil any more of it, it isn’t until much further down in hours that you actually get to start spending time getting to know this person alongside the others that you’ve befriended through school, part time jobs, buying “weapons” or lab experiments with the doctor that sells you healing items. While things are expensive and while you may want to get a job to fund your piggy bank, if you’ve already played any part of Persona 5, you’re in for a bonus and getting 50,000 Yen to start off? Made the opening Palace a little easier to get started.
For the most part, things are playing out the same. You get up from Monday to Saturday, you go to school, you can do something after school, and eventually once you get the keys to where you’re staying, you can head back out into the evening. What you do in this time is generally up to you. Hang out with friends. Hang out with other people like the Doctor to increase your Persona ranks of that specific type. Challenge yourself to eating a gifreakingnormous burger. Go to the batting cages. Catch a movie. Work out. It’s a simulation of time management and it’s time that should not be wasted as you need to get smarter, faster, stronger if you’re going to survive the real world as much as the shadow one. What about Sundays you ask? Those are entirely up to you!
While managing your time, reading books, playing games and learning how to make coffee in the real world, you’ll also be dungeon crawling into the shadow’s realm. Now whether you’re exploring someone truly awful’s Palace to give them a change of heart or you’re diving into Mementos to explore the depths or perform smaller changes of hearts, aka side quests, the premise is about the same. You uncover the map in order to move forward, you defeat shadows, you level up your characters and you acquire new Personas which in this case, are masks to be worn. Now while sharing a lot of similarities, there’s a distinct difference between exploring a Palace or diving into Mementos.
Inside of a Palace you’ll be sneaking through trying to not raise the alarms. If you’ve spotted, if you’ve accidentally moved into a security camera or tripped a sensor, the alarm rate will go up. The only way to bring it back down is to defeat enemies by sneaking up on them and not being noticed. In Mementos however, you’ll be driving around in a large “van” that can crash into shadows and if there’s enough of a level difference? Take them out entirely without having needed to fight. Moving into one of the smaller newer features, is that now when you’ve finished a battle? It’s one press of a button to get back to the action instead of one for the exp, one for the money, one for the items. Even levelling up is a quick screen before getting you right back and into it.
Before you get experience though, you need to beat up some shadows and this too has seen a bit of an upgrade. Taking a little longer to get to as it only starts to show up in the third Palace are Showtime attacks. These are over the top cinematics in which parts of your team perform crazy stunts in order to damage the entire enemy retinue. These cost nothing to do so there should never be a hesitation to perform them. What’s the catch? Showtimes show up when they show up so they should really not be one of those things that you bank on for defeating tougher foes.
Compared to Showtimes though, while it may not seem like it’s a big thing, guns now basically have “infinite” ammo as they’ll refill as soon as the battle is over, not once you’ve left a dungeon so you don’t even need to craft it anymore. Using firearms should really be brought into the mix for your approach alongside elemental attacks as they now basically cost you nothing in order to help you get the upper hand in battle.
Persona 5 wasn’t a short title and having added even more content in? Persona 5 Royal is going to take a lot more time than its predecessor even if you have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing which leads into one of the last two things that are going to be worth your time. The first of these is that each Palace now has new rooms that can be discovered that contain seeds of the palace owner that when combined can give some pretty neat items. More than that, when you pick up these seeds you’ll get some SP back which is often one of the reasons to call a dungeon session to a halt because no one wants to tackle foes on martial might alone.
The other feature that makes things interesting is that there’s now someone that you can meet up a resident of the area named Jose. Riding along on his own little car / kart, you can trade newly acquirable flowers to Jose for items of varying degrees. While this itself is neat, it’s the other feature through Jose that can make Mementos really worth spending time inside. Now available on each floor are stamps that can be collected in order to permanently increase the rates of acquiring experience, money and items.
Finally, the last little neat feature is a location called the Thieves Den which is accessible from your main menu and it lets you deck it out with Personas, Bosses or locations that you’ve explored. Paying for these though is not going to be “cheap” as you need to complete challenges to gain the currency required. Bonus? Most things aren’t that expensive, but you’ll really need to go out of your way to complete the challenges if you want to add more stuff for your den or unlock artwork that you could use as wallpapers for your PSN themes / Profiles. If none of this is your thing? Then there are some card games that can be played against your fellow Persona users to wind down from a tough dungeon crawl.
And ALL OF THIS is wrapped into an amazing blend of story, characters, music and visuals that sing so well together. I think it goes without saying, Persona 5 Royal is a shining example of what both an RPG and a revamp of an already stellar RPG should be. With the plenty of amazing dialog, emotions, environments and the general crazy that comes with a Shin Megami Tensei, the return of the Phantom Thieves may yet again steal away that Game of the Year title as right now? It’s currently mine!Score: 10 / 10