Persona 5 was one of my must-play video games of 2017. It was a game that I put nearly 100 hours to complete the story my first playthrough and I had a blast doing it from start to finish. It was a game that had so much depth, amazing music, visuals, and fantastic characters, and that’s not even half of what made the game so much fun. When Persona 5 Royal was announced, I was pretty excited to dive back into the game once more. While it was released in Japan back in October as Persona 5: The Royal, I’ve made sure to avoid all spoilers with success, so how is Persona 5 Royal?

Three years later, I find myself falling in love with the game all over again as Persona 5 Royal packs in quite a bit of new content that makes the game feels even better than the original. These changes aren’t minimal at all either and almost change the tone of the game right from the start as Kasumi Yoshizawa (one of the two new confidants added to the game) makes her appearance, which was a nice surprise. Add the facts that the game features new scenes, new mini-games, new endings, and the addition of a third semester featuring a brand new palace means there is a lot to look forward to the second time around.

Take your Heart!

Persona 5 Royal follows the events of a group of students who find themselves surrounded in a world of corruption where rotten adults get away with evil deeds. To help them along the way is Morgan,  a strange talking cat who is knowledgeable in the Metaverse. Together the group known as the “Phantom Thieves,” led by the protagonist who goes by the code name Joker, steal the hearts of the wicked, which causes them to have a change of heart. This leads the wicked to confessing their crimes. However, as the popularity of the group grows, they are pulled into a sinister plot that goes beyond what they ever thought possible as someone else is using the Metaverse for their own evil plans.

The game follows the original story perfectly while changing things up a little. There is plenty of new dialogue that was added to incorporate the new characters as the story proceeds. They include Kasumi, who plays a pretty important role as the story progresses as you start spending time with her, and also Dr. Maruki, a psychologist who is brought in to Shujin Academy to help the students who were affected by the events following Kamoshida’s change of heart and confessing what he had been doing to the students. Not only do you gain new abilities as you raise your confidant levels with both characters, but you get to learn more about them while also gaining bonus HP and MP.

New events have been added to Persona 5 Royal, showing the team spending more time together, new cutscenes, and plenty of brand-new completely voiced dialogue. This includes Goro Akechi, who is a divisive character. While I was never a fan of him, he actually gets more time in the game, and he also becomes accessible much earlier in the experience, which will make many Akechi fans happy. I actually grew to like the character a little bit more than I did originally.

The one thing I loved about Persona 5 Royal was that it wasn’t predictable. There were always twists and turns that kept me engaged to the story, and the third semester just adds to the overall experience. I won’t spoil anything, but Maruki and Kasumi play a huge role in what happens. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming at all, nor did I expect the giant twist. Overall, I was pleased by the buildup and conclusion, even if I was less than pleased with the new true ending compared to the original true ending in P5.

Now, let’s talk about the new and improved mechanics added to the game. Palaces have been slightly reworked. Players can now find items called Will Seeds. By collecting three of these Will Seeds that have been hidden throughout the Palaces, you are rewarded with a special accessory that when equipped will unlock a special skill for your character, which can be very useful. Joker can also use his grappling hooks to access new locations. This feature does feel a bit forced at first, but later on, you can actually use it to ambush enemies from a distance while also activating a status affect at the start of battle.

Mementos play a huge role and that gets an upgrade as well. Not only have floors been expanded, but from the first time you enter Mementos, you are introduced to a new character named Jose. Jose is a strange boy who asks the Phantom Thieves to the collect flowers they come across as they traverse Mementos. In exchange, he will trade the gathered flowers for items, and as you delve deeper into Mementos, he adds to his offerings. Additionally, Jose will set up a little game for his new friends as he incorporates a stamp rally to Mementos, where you will be able to collect stamps that have been scattered around to change the properties of Mementos to increase EXP earned, money dropped by shadows, or improve the items you collect. It’s worth it, trust me, as I was able to gather a lot more money faster, which helped me max out my confidants much faster and get the best equipment in the game as quickly as possible.

A few of the boss fights have been revamped as well to give them a lot more character. Kanashiro now summons servants to set up his Spike attack. To counter this, you need to take out the servant as quickly as possible in order to stop it from dealing massive damage. The fight with Madarame, which was my least favorite boss battle in the entire game, adds a new element after taking down the painting. This makes it a much more challenging fight, but in a good way. The fight with Kaneshiro has been tweaked, so that you tempt the greedy bastard from using his most devastating attack, which I found pretty amusing. And in the fight with Kunikazu Okumura, he now summons a robotic version of his daughter, Haru, to aid him. I was really happy that the developers decided to add to these boss fights rather than leave them as is. It really added a lot more enjoyment to the battles, while making them, in most cases, more challenging.

Welcome the Velvet Room!

The Velvet Room is a staple of the Persona series. It’s where you go to not only fuse the Personas that you’ve managed to get to join your side, but also turn them into powerful items or sacrifice one to strengthen another. The Velvet room also gets some welcome changes. The first is the addition of challenge battles, which rewards players with special items based on their scores. The other is the addition of the fusion alarm. Every so often while exploring Mementos or Palaces, the door to the Velvet Room will appear randomly after defeating an enemy. The next time you visit the Velvet Room, not only will you see a funny scene as both wardens Caroline and Justine are exercising, but during this time, any fusions done will see your Persona get boosted stats and skills. They may be greatly enhanced if you take the gamble. Your first fusion will work out perfectly, but any other fusions may fail (chances are they will), and this is something to take advantage of early on in since you may get a much stronger Persona. It’s not only fusions that are affected either as Itemizing Persona’s will yield better items which can usually only be obtained via this method. However, this also has a chance of failing, so remember to save just in case.

Also, Personas now have the ability to pass on Skill Traits. This very welcome new feature lets you pass on special traits, which are very useful depending on how you plan on using a Persona. These traits include cutting down the SP cost of a type of elemental attack, improving resistance to ailments, increased damage, and many more you can explore, I found myself leaning more towards cutting the cost of SP, which made things so much easier, especially towards the end game as it proved to be more beneficial to my play style.

All-Out Attack move aside, It’s Showtime!

Let’s talk about my favorite addition to the game, Showtime! Thanks to the help of a special item that you are given by Jose at the start of the game, your teammates are able to unlock a special tag team attack known as Showtime. As you progress through the game, two members of the Phantom Thieves talk about a special combination attack, which will occasionally pop up during battle. This can come after a character is resurrected after being knocked out, when an enemy is weak or sometimes just randomly. Showtime deals massive damage to a single enemy. These are optional, but I definitely recommend watching them at least once, since they can be quite amusing with some hilarious references to pop culture. Best of all, you don’t need to have both members of your team in battle to access it. Only one of them needs to be on the front lines.

Now, the biggest addition to the game is not only the third semester and final palace, but The Thieves Den. It’s similar to a community hub that only you can enjoy and customize. While you can access this pretty early on by selecting the option either before you select load game or during the system menu in game. It’s really at the end of the game where you can really take advantage of it by using P Medals you earn as you play. Here you are able to purchase items to customize how you want your very own Thieves Den to look. You can buy various locations from the game, such as Le Blanc, the Velvet Room, Shujin Academy, and various models like Arsene. You can place them and as time progresses, the various members of the team will come hang out. You can also purchase images, unlocked cutscenes and movies from both Persona 5 games, performances from past Persona Live concerts, images and music tracks to listen to. There is also a card game you can play called Tycoon, which is a lot of fun, and I recommend trying playing since it also rewards you with P Medals.

Persona 5 was already a visually stunning game, but now that the game has been optimized for the PS4 Pro, it just looks that much better. As for the music, well to this day, I can never get enough of listening to “Rivers in the Desert” and “Last Surprise.” Those  two tracks are just amazing. There are plenty of new tracks that appear in the game, most noticeable of which is “Take Over,” which I absolutely fell in love with the first time I heard it. This song only plays when you ambush an enemy, otherwise you get “Last Surprise,” which I was fine with. It took me a little while to warm up to the ending theme, “Our Light,” but that’s only because I really enjoyed “With the Stars and Us.” Either way, the music is just fantastic and another masterpiece from Shoji Meguro.

By the end of my first playthrough of Persona 5 Royal, I clocked in just a little over 114 hours, and it was worth every moment. There were a few things I didn’t like about the final Palace’s story, but in the end, it was just a nice way to add more story and focus on Kasumi and a deeper look at her character. If it’s your first time playing Persona 5, it’s a great place to start, since you get everything from the original and more. Even the new content is set up to keep in line with what has already been established. As for those who have already played the original version of the game, is it worth spending another 100+ hours on? For me, the answer is yes, if only to enjoy the new dialogue and new content, even if it is roughly the same game. Persona 5 Royal is that exceptional.

Nuke the Fridge Score: 95 out of 100