I’ve been putting my time into Persona 5 Royal before it releases on my birthday tomorrow. As my birthday gift for you, I thought something useful is just what to expect, possibly in more specific terms, from Royal. More specifically, I wanted to outline the changes Atlus has said they’re making to the game and explain in a little bit more detail what that means and how that affects the Persona 5 experience.
I’ve decided to break these expectations into three main categories: the big “back of the box” changes and they actually translate to, the changes that people who played the Original Persona 5 would probably want to know the most, and then some specific mechanics that stood out to me. I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible, and I’m going to avoid any detail that I think would hurt a first time or returning player’s experience.
The Big Changes in “Royal”
First it’s worth explaining what “Royal” really means in Persona 5. For those who are new to the Persona series, or haven’t seen this in another JRPG franchise, Persona 5 Royal is a remake of Persona 5. Instead of changing things from the ground up, Royal instead injects more detail, alters certain aspects, and changes the original story, typically to include the new characters in the cast.
Persona has done this multiple times before. Persona 3 was re-released as Persona 3 FES with additional content. Persona 4 was re-released on PS Vita as Persona 4 Golden with tons of additions and redone voice acting. In both these cases, and including Royal, the biggest addition and change is more time. Persona 5 Royal does also include more days you get in the world, but many additional quality of life changes, updated dungeons, and a lot more.
Two new major characters are added in Royal: Kasumi & Maruki. You meet them pretty early on in the story, and they play a role throughout the game. For anyone who played Persona 5 before, these are the changes that will affect the whole game, not just late game. I appreciate how well these characters are integrated into the themes of P5 too. To me,the story makes less sense without them. That’s how positively I feel about these two additions.
Akechi, a character with a deep relationship to the protagonist in the original game, has been given an entirely new confidant relationship. Confidants are the characters you grow and spend time with, and before Akechi’s ranking to ten progressed with the story. Now the player has to spend time with him, which amounts to a completely different series of scenes and nature of your relationship with Akechi.
I bring this up because while Kasumi and Maruki are truly brand new, Akechi feels brand new in this game. This relationship gets a lot of love, and anyone who felt like they didn’t get enough of Akechi in the original game will be very pleased with everything done with Akechi.
While I have a lot more to go over, I want to say these three are some of my favorite characters in all of Persona. I adored them, especially Kasumi, who specifically added something to Persona 5 that was very much missing before. These three relationships alone add enough for a new playthrough, I think.
Whether this will be your first run with Persona 5 or you’re returning, the dungeons have been revised to mix things up. The biggest inclusion is a grappling hook for the player, which opens up new traversal options in specific places with grappling points. Also, three new collectible items have been added to each dungeon. Called “Will Seeds”, if all are collected they can be traded for a powerful accessory.
Of all the changes in Royal, the dungeon updates are on the weaker side. While the changes to enemies, encounters, and getting around some areas was updated in a really fun way, it didn’t amount to that different an experience. This is where I think the majority of changes fall flat in Royal, and it just amounts to about the same experience. Without ruining anything, I love the completely new areas you get to explore in the Metaverse, but the dungeons that thave gotten slight changes here are more of the same. A lot of rooms have been updated, so the ultimate feeling is like you’re somewhere you’ve been before, but it looks different, like a different branch of the same hotel you’ve been going to for years, but if you didn’t like the dungeons before you certainly won’t now.
All of the things that worked for these dungeons before still do: the style, music, and charm are off the charts as they were before. The new areas added with the collectibles do end up being the most interesting new additions, but while almost every other part of Royal got some facelift, everything in the dungeons feels the same.
A change that does help Royal is that all the boss fights have been updated, and typically this amounts to a new phase of the fight. While sometimes this can actually be very difficult, I really liked the increase in difficulty, and it often took me off guard to see the sometimes completely new sections each fight had. New and old, the bosses give the best challenge in the whole game, and overall are much better this time around.
Improved Visuals & New Music
I was very surprised to see how improved everything is, visually, in Royal over the original. I’m very versed with how the jankiest parts of Persona 5 looked before, but any flat texture from before has been updated and enhanced for the 4K output of PS4 Pro. Persona 5 is still a very stylized game, and I think if that style doesn’t work for you you’re really not gonna be sold with the changes here, but it was cool to see everything run better and look better. It helps push the visual style from ten to eleven in a lot of cases, with the colors popping across the sea of style already on display.
There is also new music and a new opening scene, and while all these things are going to err more on the subjective side, I feel the way about the new music I do about much of what’s added in Royal: if something intangible was missing before then it’s there now. While a lot of the music doesn’t hold a candle to some of the highlights of the original soundtrack, they are well complemented here. There are a lot of new sounds and songs for the new characters that help differentiate what was pre-existing, and for a game as long as Persona 5 is they are well spaced apart in the new content.
Changes for Folks Who Played the Original
These are the things that will stick out the most to folks who played this game before, but may still be helpful for newcomers!
More Freedom at Night
This is the big one, for sure. A lot of people complained about how much Morganna makes you just go to bed all the time, and it was honestly something that never bothered me. In most cases where a story event happens during the day in the original P5, you cannot do anything that evening. In Persona 5 Royal, this almost never happens. There are maybe ten total days this happens.
You don’t always have complete freedom to run around and do what you want, like progress confidant relationships, but you can almost always do something in your home of Leblanc. This means studying, reading, watching DVDs, playing games, and finishing all those activities or getting your social stats up is a lot easier. It amounts to a very significant and substantial amount of time that I can’t imagine not having now.
Kichijoji & A Ton More Activities
Somehow they put more stuff to do in this game. I cannot even fathom all the different daily activities you can do now, some of which come from Kichijoji, the new explorable area introduced pretty early on in the story. Here, there is a lounge you can play darts or billiards with comrades at. There is an actual darts mini game too, which I didn’t like at first but grew on me. Playing it levels up your Baton Pass with party members, making it more effective in combat.
Kichijoji is packed with new places to see and things that evolve on the already present mechanics, like a Jazz club you can take friends to (that has absolute killer music) and it will raise their Persona’s stats. There is a clothing store you can upsell dirty clothes you find in the Metaverse at. On top of this, there are several new activities just distributed throughout the different areas of Tokyo too, and you have more things that will increase your social stats.
Baton Pass Changes
I mentioned it above, but the Baton Pass has seen a lot of changes, including a level system where you can play darts with someone to improve their baton pass, allowing them to regain health or SP when receiving the baton. It’s also something that’s just available to the player and all characters from the moment they join your team. It’s just a combat ability, and is not tied to getting to level two or three of someone’s confidant like it was in the original P5.
This opening up of the mechanic makes it basically essential for some boss fights, and having your whole team pass the baton is no longer a rare occurrence, but something you want to do all the time because the buff for getting everyone to have it is massive and better explained here than it was before. Engaging with a Baton Pass is so much more integrated with the moment to moment gameplay of P5 that it’s crazy to think about how it was before.
While this isn’t the biggest change, it was one that turned out to be much better than I first thought. Occasionally your team members can perform a tandem attack called “Showtimes”. There are many of them through the game, and they unlock as the story progresses. I included a gif of Ryuji and Yusuke’s, which is absolutely fantastic.
What’s great is there are many more of these, they’re devastating and can get you out of a pinch, and all of them get this level of treatment. They’re easily skipped and truncated on repeat viewing, but I honestly didn’t get tired of them. They happen only ever so often, so its easy to just enjoy them as the fun surprises they are.
I am a mechanics nerd, so please indulge me here. I’ve noted a ton of more subtle changes to Persona 5 with Royal that made it a lot more fun. While a lot of these changes won’t make a ton of sense to folks who haven’t played at least P5, they are such cool changes that I want to talk about them here.
Focus on Technicals
“Technicals” are special combination attacks that are performed when you use certain types of attacks against enemies under certain status effects. They’ve never really even gotten a tutorial screen in a Persona game before, which is surprising considering they’ve been around for a while. Things like using a Psi attack against someone with the confusion status ailment will cause a technical, which has a percentage chance of knocking down the enemy (instead of a guarantee like exploiting their weakness). The technical list is a lot larger in this game, and it’s better explained early on, with the expectation of being used all the time. I found that status effects were just way more commonplace in battle too, and it added a much larger tactical layer to things.
On top of more options in combat, everything just takes more damage, including you. I found that if I wasn’t using the Buffs and Debuffs available to me, I’d be in serious trouble. This also means combat can turn on a dime at times, and you’ll be in a rough position from a single attack by enemies. It can be frustrating, and I think it was to me mostly because I had played the original P5 and this just has a very different balance to it. This generally translates to faster moving battles and combat, but I just took my time to strategize a bit more.
While I have more total to say about Persona 5 Royal after finishing it, the thing I want to impress with these changes and additions to new players and returning fans alike is that Royal amounts to what I feel is a different game than the original. If you played through the original and loved it, I cannot say enough that you owe it to yourself to see these changes. If you were on the fence before, this game is long as heck and does amount to about 30 hours longer, but is worth playing absolutely.
There is more to this than a simple “30 more hours at the end” or “two new characters.” The team at P•Studios took a long hard look at the balance of Persona 5 and really reworked it into a much more enjoyable experience with so much more to see throughout.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by Atlus/Sega.