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The Return of a Great: Persona 5 Royal

If you know me, you know I love Persona 5. It’s borderline embarrassing at this point. Three years ago, P5 entered my life and swept me off my feet. My lonely early adulthood nights were suddenly filled with suffocating style, slick acid jazz, engaging battles, and fun times with fictional friends. I beat the game once. Then I beat it again. I had over 200 hours in Persona 5 by the time I was done with it, and, even after I was finished, I kept thinking about it. When should I go back and try to beat the Reaper? Who should be my next girlfriend? How do I combine all personas? The game did not leave my mind even three years after playing it and, during my first month of quarantine, I was sent a gift from the heavens. P5R was here. I could finally play this game again.

Persona 5 Royal is a remake of the original, with more goodies stuffed inside. Enhancements to combat outshine the other additions to me; earlier access to baton passes, more personas and synthesizing bonuses and increased technical damage combinations make the battles feel more deliberate and strategic. Although I did get annoyed with the Velvet Room’s new alarm system— a new mechanic that lets you build stronger personas after winning consecutive battles— the power you could instill in your personas through this process is immense. And it’s fun to set up combinations you know are going to fail just to see what you’re going to get! I’m a big fan of the persona grab bag!

They expanded their already bustling map as well, adding new areas to explore in Tokyo. I feel like I did not take full advantage of Kichijoji in my playthrough; I never went to the temple, the one shop I frequented was the secondhand store to sell my laundry, and I only went to the jazz club a few times. But I played darts. So much darts. The rewards are great, and the system is great, gimmicky fun. I played P5R and FFVII at the same time and let me just say…I liked P5R darts better.

The aquarium at Shinagawa was a cool new place but the game never let me go there. I think I went a total of three times in the whole playthrough, once with Yusuke, once with Makoto, and for the White Day date. I was looking forward to seeing a variety of character reactions there and was bummed when it was rarely an option for my daily hangouts. It could’ve just been the way I was playing the game, but I hope more people had better luck checking out the aquarium than I did.

Speaking of hangouts, I was very surprised by the new voiced social interactions they included. Asking the voice actors to come back after three years, get back into character, and further develop their stories seems like a big task, but the cast did it so flawlessly. I loved being reunited with my friends, and this time it was longer, different and new. The cell phone conversations after just hanging out with them was a bit much, but I was impressed and overjoyed they put some much time and care into fully voicing brand new scenes. It really added to the experience of them game, especially at the end…

Then finally, there are the changes to the plot. P5R promised new story beats in its trailers— showcasing two new characters, an extra palace, and an additional semester to hang out with friends. I loved the end of P5R; I think it easily surpasses the ending of the original game. It makes more sense thematically and packs an emotional punch that its predecessor lacked. However, I keep coming back to the same question in my head. Were these plot changes worth a completely new game?

I liked Yoshizawa and Maruki. A lot. I thought they were super cool, well-acted, and added an additional layer of intrigue to an already thrilling mystery. But most of their important moments happen at the end. Yes, they are sprinkled throughout the plot here and there, but you basically play the whole original game before you get to the substance of their stories. Maybe I was misled by the trailers; I feel like we were promised more new content than we received. I did enjoy all the plot additions— there was no change I disagreed with— I just wish the new content was more equally distributed throughout the game. It would’ve been a more enthralling experience if the pacing of this royal content was balanced. And it would’ve made me feel like the game was more worth its price tag.

Long story short, it’s hard to dislike Persona 5. I love basically every aspect of this game. P5R was a great excuse to play it again but, even with the additions, I still can’t decide if this should’ve been a brand-new game or just a DLC pack. Either way, it’s the perfect quarantine game for anyone who needs to kill 130 hours since we must wait until we can wake up, get up, and get out there once again.


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