Persona 5 Royal is an expanded and re-launched version of Persona 5, out now exclusively for the PlayStation 4 (the original version also launched on the PS3). Here’s our review of Atlus’ revised take on a modern classic.
Going with full disclosure up front, my Persona experience didn’t start until much later in the series. I had just bought a PlayStation Vita and while looking for which games to play I came across “Persona 4 Golden” as the most critically acclaimed one of them all. I hadn’t played the original Persona 4, but its Vita-exclusive version has become a bit of a golden standard for me. Yes, that pun was hard to avoid.
I’ve since played Persona 5, and was curious to see if the “Royal” version of the game would once again raise the bar on what to expect from the (core) series, which has also seen its fair share of spin-off titles (from dance games to fighters). Now that I played through it, I’m happy to say that it does, and it’s been made especially welcoming to those joining the series only now – just as I was when I picked up Golden on the Vita.
The original Persona 5 was already a large game, and most of the content in that game can also be found in Persona 5 Royal. Besides a lengthy new chapter at the end of the game, new content has been weaved through the existing narrative rather seamlessly, instead of offering generic side quests. That’s good news, because even though one of the game’s characters has also been included in Super Smash Brothers this is a game that relies on its strong core narrative. Social bonds, and the web of connections between the roster of characters, are central to the experience. Playing against a backdrop of social inequality and reforms, the story works best as a coherent whole and I’m glad they mostly enriched the narrative.
These socials bonds tie into the game’s turn-based combat mechanics as well, as strong bonds can reinforce the specific attacks you have available to you as ‘personas’ while in combat. As such, the new story content also enriches the combat experience by adding two additional characters to the roster for you to interact with and grow your combat strength through. One of these doesn’t appear until after the main narrative wraps up, but helps in terms of keeping the post-game interesting.
Persona 5 Royal also acts as an ‘ultimate collection’ of sorts, as it features all of the post-launch DLC content that came out for Persona 5. While not as impactful to the core story as the changes that were implemented specifically for Royal, these addons mean you have more optional quests to engage with and thus provide even more content in a game that already took me weeks to complete the first time around. Further extending your runtime is the option to explore various corners of the map for new collectibles, which in turn gives you access to more combat options.
However, if you’re looking for new content then there’s nothing more striking than the new palace that appears at the end of the game and lets you explore for another 10+ hours. The writing is still on point here, but what really adds that feeling of seeing something new is that there’s a different look and feel to the new area, complete with cutscenes that were developed just for the new content. None of the additions to Persona 5 Royal, from the subtle enrichment of the core game to the new chapter as the end, feel like afterthoughts – which is a huge credit to the team.
It’s an easy conclusion to state that Persona 5 Royal is the best version of Persona 5 that we’re going to get. Just as I started my Persona journey with Persona 4 Golden on the Vita, I hope people jump in with this version if they didn’t get the chance previously. It’s a bit of a harder sell for those who already played through the initial release before, but if you pick it up it’s the version you are going to wish you’d played the first time around.