Saturday, 2 Mar 2024

Persona 5 Royal Review: Perfecting one of the best JRPGs of all time

Persona 5 is often regarded as one of the greatest JRPGs of all time. Some might say it’s impossible to perfect the formula.

Persona 5 Royal disagrees.

Providing less of an expansion and more of a reimagining, Persona 5 Royal takes everything that made Persona 5 so enjoyable and creates a brand new spin on the critically acclaimed adventure.

For those that don’t know, Persona 5 Royal is part visual novel, part social sim, and part dungeon crawler. It marries these genres in one beautiful package that beautifully highlights the best of each component with ease.

The basic premise of the game revolves around a group of high school students who have the ability to break into people's subconscious and steal a treasure, which changes their target's real-world personality. Think Inception meets One Tree Hill and you're in the right ball park.

It perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being a teenager, where you find adult figures are often manipulative and discouraging. The tension and the subtle acts of rebellion encouraged in the game create that perfect sense of going through your teen years when you felt the whole world was against you.

But how has Persona 5 been enhanced in the adding of that Royal appendage?

By listening to fan feedback, seeing how they can rejig the groundwork, and adding an array of new additions to extend an already lengthy journey, Atlus has created a masterpiece.

Persona 5 Royal is a slow burn, demanding an epic amount of player time – even more so than the original version of the game.

Every story beat gets the right amount of time to marinate and settle, and Persona 5 Royal is not afraid to drag players in for the long haul with its extensive narrative – which maintains its quality through the ebb and flow of multiple story arcs.

There’s a lot of new additions added to the formula here, and each is integrated seamlessly into the rest of the game.

A new intro cinematic showcases this is a brand new experience and boasts a burst of visual flair, which has been touched up for this reimagination and now even supports 4K output.

The colours bounce vibrantly off the screen, with deep reds and dark blacks beautifully contrasting against each other in a wonderful concoction. It's got all the flair of the original, but now it's just that much prettier.

Right off the bat, the first moments of the game introduce some of the new features as if they’ve always been there.

The shiny new grappling hook is used to navigate through the tutorial section and there's a brief introduction to Kasumi – one of the new party members and confidants you can spend time with to power yourself up in the game's 'dungeons'.

Most of the major additions won’t reveal themselves till you’ve made your way through a significant amount of progress. But the journey to those points isn’t just a simple retreading of old ground.

New cutscenes have been added, the dungeons have been tweaked to utilise your new abilities, and many of your day-to-day school life experiences have been redone, teaching you new knowledge and requiring new answers.

Mementos – the procedurally generated dungeon dedicated to side quests and grinding – has also been tweaked with the ability to collect flowers and stamps that allow you to buy items and increase the dungeon's benefits, rewarding you more EXP or dropping more items.

What was one of the weaker components of the original has now been reworked to create an addictive gameplay loop that works perfectly in rhythm with the rest of the game – a huge step up from Persona 5 vanilla.

Combat has also been reworked to be more accessible. The baton pass ability – which allows players to gift their bonus turn to another character after hitting a weak spot or landing a critical hit – is available from the beginning, for everyone.

This ensures everything flows more naturally and makes the overall combat feel punchier, and reserves your pool of SP so you can navigate dungeons for longer, and in a more tactical manner.

Enemies have been tweaked to make some easier and others more challenging, and bosses have been reworked to take into account all the quality of life changes.

These enhancements make an already long game even longer, but never compromise the experience.

One of the new features is the Thieves Den, which essentially acts as an interactive Extras menu brought to life.

Here you can watch previous cutscenes, listen to music, browse concept art, or even take part in a mini game known as Tycoon – an enjoyable Uno-esque card game.

Visiting this area and seeing it morph as your story unfolds is a wonderful little addition. While it doesn’t add much to the overall experience, it allows fans to spend more time in this wonderfully realised world with their favourite characters.

New social encounters have been added as well in the form of a brand new explorable part of town known as Kichijoji.

Here you can find new ways to build relationships with your party with options such as visiting a jazz bar, playing darts or engaging in billiards. This one area is bigger than any other single area in Persona 5’s town, but still boasts the same charm and personality of the other environments.

More time has been added in the form of a new semester, too, ensuring all players get the right amount of opportunities to experience everything the game has to offer.

The Persona series prides itself on making players carefully utilise their time to build relationships, further your stats, or engage in many of the other towns side activities.

Having this extra time relieves some of the stress and allows players to play at their own pace – but never once undermines anything the game originally set out to achieve.

Persona 5 Royal Verdict – 5/5

The statement ‘you can’t rush perfection’ has never been truer when it comes to Persona 5 Royal.

The story is a slow burn, but with emotional payoffs. The enhancements and additions have been made to feel natural and fully integrated into the rest of the games systems.

Persona 5 Royal is a shining example of how to reinvigorate a game. It’s a love letter to fans and a fantastic entry point for newcomers.

Simply put, Persona 5 Royal isn’t just one of the best JRPGs of this generation. It’s one of the best games released in recent memory.

The Good:

  • Fantastic additions to an already great formula.

  • Tweaks certain gameplay elements to create a smoother experience.

  • A beautifully crafted world.

  • An emotionally resonating story, filled with likeable characters.

The Bad:

  • Length can be daunting and off putting to some players.

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