Video Games: ‘Persona 5 Royal’ Review

Poster of Joker for ‘Persona 5 Royal’. Copyright goes to Atlus.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Persona 5 Royal’ has been out for a while now but, to be honest, I was really on the fence about purchasing it. I love ‘Persona 5’, it’s one of my favorite games, but a lot of companies re-release games with only a couple added perks at full price as a cash grab. I see these re-releases as both a huge waste of money and a really transparent and frustrating effort to make the most money for the least amount of effort. That said, ‘Persona 5 Royal’ advertised itself as something completely different. It promised two completely new characters with gameplay attached to them, a deeper connection than was previously available with Akechi, and an entirely new palace that would provide hours more of gameplay. All of that on top of getting rid of some of the more frustrating gimmicks in ‘Persona 5’ and overall upgrading the original experience. Still, even that couldn’t fully convince many fans to pay full price for the new version of the game. I still wasn’t sure about it myself. But recently I decided that I should just try it out and see what everyone was talking about. Did it exceed my expectations or let me down? A little of both, but mostly, I very much recommend it if you’re a ‘Persona 5’ fan! Let’s get into all of it. SPOILERS ahead!

Gameplay: There’s a few major gameplay changes throughout ‘Persona 5 Royal’. The one I noticed right off the bat is the upgrade to the guns. Instead of only getting so many bullets to use before you have to rest to replenish them, ‘Persona 5 Royal’ replenishes your stash each battle. So guns are actually useful now! Staying with in-battle changes, you can now unlock showtime attacks as the game progresses. These are tag-team attacks between two characters that each have fun animations and deal tons of damage. I loved almost every showtime attack, but the Akechi and Joker attack specifically blew me away. Also, baton passes are now available right off the bat, which is really nice considering it’s one of your most useful skills. And, of course, there are new personas to discover if you so choose. Moving on to palaces, every single palace has been reworked. In some palaces, more annoying or frustrating segments have been cut down. I really appreciated that Okumura’s palace spent less time having me solve the “which robot has the keycard” puzzle. Palaces also have new enemies or fight segments, such as the new second part to Madarame’s boss fight. There’s also a grappling hook function in palaces that takes you to new locations. Usually this is used to help you find will seeds, another new addition to palaces that you can collect to get a strong item or ability.

Moving on from palaces, let’s talk about the day-to-day gameplay. Firstly, Morgana makes you go to bed less and the game gives you more time overall to work on your confidants and stats. I was able to max out all my stats and complete most of my confidant rankings by the end of my play through this time around. There’s also new locations to explore and take your friends to, such as Kichijoji with it’s new jazz bar and darts/billiards hangout spot. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are more options to increase your stats, there are more interactions via post-hangout calls to help with your confidants, and there are even specific functions that will give you suggestions. Two other major changes belong to the Velvet Room and Mementos. Mementos is larger and now has a shop where you can alter Mementos for more XP, items, and the like. Meanwhile, the Velvet Room will go on high alert so the player can create more powerful but at times more randomized and risky combinations. If all of this wasn’t enough, they also rebalanced confidant abilities and persona abilities as well. There’s a whole lot of new going on here, but keep in mind, the base game is still the same. All of these new additions simply make everything more player-friendly. You won’t find any major changes to the story or the palaces until later in the game, where Maruki’s palace comes into play. Maruki’s palace is probably my favorite one. It’s hospital-like design is interesting and the new music in this section has some of my favorite pieces in the entire game. Plus, this palace has my favorite puzzles. I loved finding each new video room to watch more of Maruki’s backstory, I loved guessing which survey answer Maruki would want me to pick, and I even enjoyed the color puzzles. This palace is well worth exploring.

Characters:

There are two new characters, but in this section I want to talk about three of the characters. These characters are Maruki, Sumire, and Akechi. Firstly, if you want to play any of the new content, you should immediately start working to max out the confidants of these three. To be fair, you’ll only be able to max out their confidants to level 9, 5, and 8 respectively. Maruki and Akechi’s confidants will finish as the story progresses, and Sumire (Kasumi)’s will reopen for you to continue once the story progresses. While possibly frustrating, this only proves how important these three are, so let’s look into them. First, let’s talk Maruki. As a confidant, I loved him. He was awkward in an endearing way, clearly cared about all of the students, and fit the type of comforting teacher character I love to see in school settings. Before Maruki, it seemed like the game was trying to get you to embrace Kawakami as the “cool” teacher. But, let’s be real, the entire relationship with Kawakami is creepy and she has never actually seemed to care about any of the students. Maruki solves that problem. But his transition to villain is rocky. I really like the idea of Maruki using the information from his sessions to try to make everyone happier, only to become corrupted in the process. But once Maruki revealed that he had been the one to make Sumire think she was Kasumi, I liked it less. I mean, most therapists reaction to “I hate myself and I want to be someone else” wouldn’t be “Yeah, that’s probably for the best”. He used absolutely none of his training as a mental health professional in order to create his reality. He just took everyone at their word on what they felt would make them happiest and moved on. Not to mention how many times he pulled me back into a fight after I beat his boss. Sore loser much?

Sumire is next. I really didn’t like this character. Both my sister and I have listed our grievances with her on this blog before, so I’ll make this quick. Sumire, in trying to live her life as Kasumi, is a horrible twin trope. She perpetuates the idea that twins are so similar that one could plausibly replace the other. I did like that the game highlighted some differences between Sumire and Kasumi, but having Sumire continue to pursue her sister’s dream by the end instead of embracing her different ideas and interests seemed to undo all of the good. Plus, she didn’t have much of a personality. She reminded me of Haru in the way that she was nice, reasonable, and not much else. They gave her plenty of scenes, but not enough development in the actual plot. Finally, let’s talk Akechi. Akechi’s confidant really helps you get to know the guy. When it comes to the original game, I didn’t really get the hype behind Akechi. I love his English voice actor, Robbie Daymond, so I always had a soft spot for him. But he only ever seemed like either an egotistical rich kid or a psychopathic murderer. His confidant gives us more of Akechi trying to fit in with his generation as well as trying to battle with his feelings of liking the protagonist, but being so jealous of him that he hates him simultaneously. The new depth is interesting, and it lends itself well to his appearance in Maruki’s reality. Here he finally does away with the pleasantries and is his regular vain, blunt, slightly unhinged self. And it’s refreshing. You get to see his selfless acts justified by the selfish view that Akechi must protect others because they’re too stupid to protect themselves. His second death, where it’s discovered that he was brought back by Maruki and therefore won’t exist when Maruki is defeated, is heartbreaking. Especially because of how adamant he is that the protagonist shouldn’t care about his death because Akechi wouldn’t want to live in Maruki’s reality anyways. I loved Akechi, I loved his sass, and I will miss him. (Can we also talk about how Maruki brought Akechi back for the protagonist? Why isn’t he a romance option again?)

That’s it! So what are my final thoughts? I liked the new additions. I liked the helpful new features, the new music, and I really enjoyed the new palace. As for the new characters, or additions to the characters, my opinions are mostly positive. Though I don’t like Sumire, she doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out or anything. And I could appreciate Maruki despite his faults. Plus, this game gave me a whole new love of Akechi. I don’t think I could go back to playing the original game after this. But I also think that, had I never experienced this game, I would still be very content with the original. After all, ‘Persona 5 Royal’ is the same game just with added bonuses. So while it’s easy to get hooked on these bonuses, if you’re content with the original game, I wouldn’t say that you’re completely missing out if you skip over this one. Just, in the very least, look up the new Akechi content. And if you aren’t a ‘Persona 5’ fan, it’s not like this game is different enough to change your mind. All that aside, I did really enjoy ‘Persona 5 Royal’ and I would really recommend it!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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