A master class in improving upon what is already great.
Persona 5 Royal

In September 2016, the original release of Persona 5 made its debut in Japan for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. It eventually had its Western market debut in April 2017. The game was developed by P-Studio and published in North America by Atlus. Despite a few minor issues, it was largely regarded as a fantastic JRPG with excellent art, an intriguing cast of characters, enjoyable gameplay, and even a rad soundtrack. Persona 5 pulled in a wealth of praise from critics and fans alike, topping off at a very respectable 93% average at Metacritic.

If it were any other game or franchise, that would probably be the end of our story. Except that the Persona titles aren't like many other video games. This can be seen with what Atlus managed to do with Persona 4 Golden. Persona 4 Golden is an enhanced version of Persona 4 that came out almost four years later. Though Persona 4 was also an already great JRPG, Persona 4 Golden proved that it's always possible to do better. Golden set the gold standard (excuse the pun) on enhanced releases of already revered video games.

Persona 5 Royal is to Persona 5 what Persona 4 Golden was to Persona 4. Though the original releases of these titles are already fantastic, the enhanced releases have elevated the games to instant classics. Persona 5 came out of the gate with a great cast of characters, very enjoyable turn-based combat mechanics, an intricate social system, and a great soundtrack. It was a game that would keep most players entertained for upwards of 150 hours in a single play through. Persona 3 is also a great game. If you're interested in the previous Persona games, check Persona 3 overview.

Persona 5 Royal

With Royal, you are looking at a game that interweaves another 30 or so hours of gameplay into the main story. There is an entirely new party member, Kasumi. An added school semester expands the story. Additional animated cutscenes have been added into the game. There is a massive new area, Kichijoji, which you are free to explore. Persona 5 Royal adds in two additional confidants. There are also the usual assortment of new enemies, weapons, armors, accessories, items, and Personas. Two new endings have been added. Around 30 new music tracks have been added with Royal. Players now have a bit more free time to interact with others thanks to a reworking of the calendar and time system. The user interface has been changed or adjusted in some areas, such as the main menu and dialogue windows. Players can now even give gifts to all of their Confidants to build up your relationship with them. Previously, this was limited to only the female Confidants.

Perhaps the most startling thing about all of the changes that were just mentioned? There are still more changes and additions that have been made. Joker now has a grappling hook that allows access to new areas in dungeons, many of which lead to the discovery of a new collectible item called a Will Seed. These seeds often provide you with unique items if you manage to find all of them in an area. Though Palaces are roughly the same layout as Persona 5, Royal does add in some new side areas in each to explore. The Phantom Thieves now have a new tag-team attack called Showtime. These Showtime attacks are very powerful and usually a bit flashy. You will probably need some of these new abilities when going up against some of the bosses. Though many of the bosses will be familiar to those that played the original game, Royal adds in new phases or mechanics for all Palace bosses. Admittedly, there are a couple of new boss mechanics that feel a bit on the gimmicky side.

The randomized dungeons from Persona 5, Mementos, are back in Royal but with some welcome improvements. In general, the floor layouts and designs are larger than they were previously. New side-quests have been added to Mementos. Players can find Flowers while adventuring through a Memento. These flowers can be spent at a new shop, also now located within each Memento. The Flowers can be used to purchase unique items from the Memento shop. Mementos now include yet another new item in Royal called Stamps. Stamps are a form of currency and can be used to purchase a few different Memento-focused bonuses such as bonus item find, bonus experience gain, or bonus money. Palaces and Mementos now have a chance to spawn more powerful Shadows (monsters) to do battle against.

In case it wasn't abundantly clear yet, Persona 5 Royal adds in a wealth of new content. It's obviously one thing to just throw in a bunch of new stuff and call it a day. Many games do that and often enough, that new content doesn't feel like it really belongs to the game. You can tell when added content is just slapped on top of an already existing experience. Persona 5 Royal's new and changed content feels like a natural addition to the game. It's often woven in nicely to the pre-existing story or gameplay mechanics that existed prior to Royal. The studio saw what worked and what didn't. They made changes to things that needed to be changed and they managed to make an already great game even better as a result. I just cannot stress this point enough.

Persona 5 Royal

As Royal enhances an already great gaming experience, fans of the original won't feel completely lost. There is still a lot of familiar territory in Persona 5 Royal. The game still focuses on Joker, a transfer student new to Shujin Academy. As luck would have it, Joker quickly discovers that he'll have to deal with a world full of dangerous Palaces and monsters ready to end his life. The combat is still the tried and true turn-based combat seen in Persona 5. It's honestly quite nice that this series sticks to the turn-based combat systems that I loved so dearly in older JRPGs. Persona 5 Royal's turn-based combat almost feels like a breath of fresh air at a time when so many RPG franchises have switched over to having a more action-style focus. Royal has a number of combat balancing that I feel makes the game an overall more enjoyable experience compared to Persona 5. The previously mentioned Showtime tag-team attacks are a great addition, especially since you do not need to have both characters in your active party for them to trigger during a fight. A new enemy type called Disaster Shadows have been added to the game. These foes are great at countering your attacks. However, if you do defeat them, they tend to cause a big explosion that can damage other nearby enemies. Even better is the fact that they will often drop a rare item upon death.

Persona 5 Royal still puts a lot of emphasis on its social interaction with NPCs in the world. Players will still get to seduce a large number of NPCs, should they choose to do so. This includes new social interactions with the two new characters, Takuto Maruki and Kasumi Yoshizawa. Maruki is a new counselor hired at Shujin Academy. Interactions with Maruki allow the player to get a deeper look at what makes some of the characters tick, though a big focus on these psychological deep dives actually shifts the focus more towards Maruki himself. Like many of the events in Persona 5 Royal, you'll want to make sure you budget enough time to speak with Maruki when you can so that you don't miss out on their story. On the other side, Kasumi is a new student at the school that is trying to excel at gymnastics. She feels like a natural fit with the other core characters in the Phantom Thieves, though her story does take a little bit to get going. If you didn't already know better, you would probably assume that she was a part of Persona 5 for years now for how well her story, new Persona, and new dungeon are woven into the existing content.

The Velvet Room has also received a few changes compared to the original release. Players can now engage in optional battles that lead to various rewards. A newly added random mode will sound off an alarm after you kill a set amount of enemies, which leads to changes on how you fuse monsters. This has the potential to power up a Persona fusion, but may also lead to some random yet interesting results.

Kichijoji is a new location that you are free to explore. This location is much larger than others found in the game and actually contains a number of side activities such as darts or billiards. Playing darts will allow you to enhance Baton Pass abilities (think of this as a temporary boost used in combat). These enhancements usually include better attack boosts, or things like being able to gain more experience from fights. While darts is a playable mini-game, the billiard activity is essentially a short cutscene that gives a bump to social bonds between characters. It would have been nice to have actually gotten to play some pool, but it's not something I'm going to lose sleep over.

Persona 5 Royal

Finally, I would also like to add that the English localization for Persona 5 Royal seems to be much, much better than it was in Persona 5. It honestly feels like they did a complete redo on the localization compared to the original, and in some scenes that is exactly what they did. The team even addressed a couple of the more "problematic" scenes during the localization efforts. I would almost say that the revamped English localization efforts are reason enough to make the jump from Persona 5 to Persona 5 Royal. Moreover, those of you who speak French, Italian, Spanish, or German will be happy to hear that subtitles for these languages are now included in Persona 5 Royal.

Final Say
If you have yet to play Persona 5 and are a fan of role-playing games, especially JRPGs, then you owe it to yourself to pick up Persona 5 Royal immediately. It's easily the best JRPG I have played in years. For those that have already played through the original, I fully realize you may not yet be ready to spend another $60 here. I do find it a bit disappointing that there is no direct upgrade route for those that already own Persona 5. However, I strongly feel as though the refinements, changes, new additions, and the over 30 hours of added content are completely worth the double-dip.

Oh, and for those of you picking the game up for the first time: The game does start out a bit slow but it definitely picks up and stays going strong for a bulk of those numerous gameplay hours.

5 out of 5 stars

Additional Information
  • Persona 5 Royal
    • Developed by: P-Studio
    • Published by: Atlus
  • Price: Starting at $59.99 (USD) via PlayStation Store and other retailers
  • Platform reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (exclusive)
  • ESRB:Rated Mature (17+) for sexual themes, violence, strong language, blood, drug reference, and partial nudity
  • This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.

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