Like Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden before it, it’s Persona 5’s turn to get the customary mid-life upgrade. The original version became my favourite game of all time when I first played it back in 2017, but if the early hours are anything to go by, Persona 5 Royal might usurp the original’s crown once I’ve reached the credits over 100 hours from now.
See, with a game so long, I wasn’t prepared to try and review it in time for this issue – that would be crazy. Instead, I thought it’d be worth giving my first impressions, and asking the question: is it worth buying, especially for people who have played the original?
The short answer is yes. Many of the changes that P5R implements show up later in the game, much further than I’ve got so far. However, it’s no spoiler to say that there’s now an extra semester’s worth of content, with an extra palace, and confidant links to level up. Making choices throughout the story will decide whether you unlock that extra stuff, but be aware of what characters are saying, and you should get there no problem.
Asking players to get through 100+ hours to find something new would be a very risky move by Atlus, and thankfully, they haven’t done that. The base game was already stellar, but Royal’s changes nicely tweak the formula to make it more accessible for newcomers, while making things more interesting to veterans. Palaces have been reworked to make use of the new grappling hook, which opens up alternate pathways for eagle-eyed players and sometimes lead to a new collectable called Will Seeds. Bosses have more phases, and more closely resemble the character’s personality and distorted desires that formed the palaces in the first place. There’s a whole new area to explore: Kichijoji, complete with a bar where you can play darts and billiards. There are so many more little changes I’ve neglected to mention, but rest assured; this is not the same game with a slightly different name.
It all culminates in the definitive experience of my favourite game ever. Atlus has a habit of improving on mechanics that I already thought were excellently done, and it’s happened again with Royal.
The game still has the issues that have plagued the franchise for years, chief among which is the excruciatingly long time it takes to get going and let you run free through the streets of Tokyo. P5R hasn’t addressed that famous hurdle, but I urge you not to let that stop you from experiencing one of the best JRPGs of all time.
Everything good about the original game is still here, so if Forge did more than five stars, this game would certainly qualify based on what I’ve played so far.
I’ve got so much more to go, but I can at least say that I’ve been falling in love with Persona all over again. The characters, music, and style that made the original so good are back in full force, and the promise of more content later down the line will keep me going.
So back to the original question. Is this worth another buy? Well, I’d say it doesn’t matter who you are, the original is an absolutely fantastic game, and Royal only makes it better. This is the best version of one of the best RPGs ever, and I think that’s worth an extra 50 quid. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got another 100 hours of game to get through. See you on the other side, Phantom Thieves.