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Persona 5 Royal – Honest, Independent Review

This is my review of Persona 5 Royal, the updated version of Persona 5 that came out last week. Since the game obviously includes Persona 5, which was an instant classic by any measure, it’s a great game by default. The additional content adds new and improved features on top of an already incredible game. But this isn’t a review of Persona 5 — we already know that game was amazing — it has to be a review of the new Persona 5 Royal content itself and, more specifically, the cost of accessing all that new content.

Let’s start with the good. Persona 5 Royal adds a ton of new content and features to an already beloved title, and it is certainly the definitive version of the game. It adds an additional chapter following the final events of the original, it adds new party members, new equipment, new personas, new confidants, new locations and even a darts mini-game. All of these features are great.

The additional chapter and the new characters are obviously the biggest draw. The new final chapter of the game is, in my opinion, its best chapter. The dungeon is intriguing and well-designed. It’s thematically interesting, narratively interesting, and its level design and puzzle mechanics are engaging.

Without spoiling anything, in the last chapter, you take on probably the most compelling and sympathetic villain the game has to offer, and, unlike most other palace bosses, you learn a substantial amount about the palace ruler’s backstory and motivation. It features an interesting section that again, without spoiling anything, has you solving ethical dilemmas as a sort of puzzle, which is something I quite enjoyed. Thematically, the palace has to do with psychology, which is perfectly in-line with the nature of Persona 5 and its themes as a whole.

The story of this final section is definitely well worth playing through. It’s my favorite chapter of the entire game, and it doesn’t feel superfluous at all. During this section you also get access to Akechi and Kasumi.

Somewhat surprisingly, Akechi is awesome and Kasumi is sort of dead weight, both story-wise and gameplay-wise. Akechi in this final chapter has given up all pretense of being a good guy and joins your team as a totally psychopathic pseudo-Batman, and his dialog interplay with the other characters is a real delight. Mostly because it’s usually Akechi saying something totally psychotic, like you’d hear from a bandit in Borderlands (“EAT THEIR FLESH MAKE A SKINSUIT” — he doesn’t really say that, but that’s the sort of thing he says), and the rest of the team is like “Uh… what?” I didn’t expect this at all and it was pretty funny. I laughed out loud a couple of times. Akechi is just so weird and intense and no one treats it as normal like you might expect. Even in the game they’re like “Holy shit”.

Meanwhile, Kasumi is sort of a bland character throughout the game and, even after her plot twist (which is semi-interesting), she remains a bland character. Her confidant story is also not very engaging. The actual twist itself aside, they decided to re-use almost exactly the same backstory as another major character in your party. I’m not going to spoil it, but it seemed lazy and not very creative to me. They could have achieved the same twist with a better surrounding narrative. I found that I didn’t care about her at all. She had no personality traits whatsoever beside being polite.

Gameplay-wise, neither Kasumi nor Akechi come on board early enough to customize them or to take advantage of the new Jazz Club (where you can increase party member stats and teach them new Persona skills), so their skillsets are locked in stone. I was hoping maybe you could take them to the confessional in the church and maybe relearn some earlier skills for better customization but, nope, Kasumi doesn’t have anything useful on offer and Akechi isn’t an option there.

The lack of customization for the skill pool really sucks for Kasumi because she doesn’t learn Bless Boost, so, unlike every other character that gets both a Boost and an Amp skill for their element, Kasumi’s Bless Magic is unavoidably the weakest magic in the party. This is made worse by the fact that you’re most likely rocking a decked out Kaguya on your main character, making any bless spells on your team redundant.

So Kasumi really only fits in as a physical attacker. In that role, she’s actually fairly decent. Her unique skill, Masquerade, is probably the strongest physical attack in your party. But, while she gets that, making her modestly stronger than other physically focused characters, the other physical characters have a ton of new utility. Ryuji gets a party-wide Charge, Yusuke gets a party-wide Heat Riser, Akechi gets Debilitate a devastating single-target Almighty attack.

As a result, Kasumi has a pretty mediocre skillset and there’s not much you can do about it. She has one good physical move, weak magic, and no utility. Her trait (chance for allies to not be downed when hit by weaknesses and crits) is nigh-useless by the time you get her. For someone you have to wait the entire game to get in your party, she’s sort of mediocre overall, both story-wise and gameplay-wise. Still, she can put out some pretty good damage alongside Akechi when being supported with Ryuji’s new party-wide Charge skill, and you can equip her with an accessory to give her access to some kind of utility, like healing through the Salvation spell, which is what I did.

Meanwhile, Akechi gets Debilitate, Riot Gun, Megidolaon and Laevatein, giving him comparable physical damage to Kasumi in addition to a bunch of type-coverage and utility. While you can’t customize his moveset either, at least his moveset is good and it’s competitive with the other characters. He fits right in to most parties and carries his weight pretty well. Definitely the better of the two new characters.

However, both of these party members add a lot to the game and both of them are a big part of what makes the new finale such a blast to play.

The Jazz Club is another new element that adds a lot to the playthrough. As you might recall if you played Persona 5, your party members by the end of the game just absolutely pale in comparison to what Joker is capable of with his customized endgame personas like Kaguya and Yoshitsune. This relegates them to being useful almost entirely based on their ability to support Joker with buffs and debuffs. This is still the case in this game, but due to the Jazz Club, the new will seed accessories, and the 3rd tier personas, they’re all generally a lot more useful.

As I mentioned, Yusuke gets a party-wide Heat Riser, Ryuji gets a party-wide Charge and Akechi gets Debilitate. Additionally, Ann gets a party-wide Concentrate, and you get accessories from will seeds that give any character a version of Charge/Concentrate that can be cast on Joker. Ryuji with his party-wide attack buff, party-wide Charge and the Concentrate accessory became the ultimate supporting character in my party. Using the benefits of the Jazz Club (which raises your party members’ stats), I was also able to get Ann’s SP and Magic stat boosted up high enough to be a fairly decent damage dealer.

The Jazz Club also gives Futaba the ability to lower enemy stats and use her abilities more frequently, so even your support character gets some nice buffs.

Speaking of things that used to be useless and are now useful, there’s a new system that allows you to burn incense to increase Persona stats, even if they’re at max level, so low level weak Personas are no longer arbitrarily top tier. High level Personas like Satanael and Lucifer finally earn their rightful place at the top of the tier list.

So all that stuff is great. The additions are all great. The game is still a masterpiece of style and storytelling. But I hesitate to recommend Persona 5 Royal in this review because of the nature of how all this new content is delivered.

First, you’re paying full price for what is essentially a DLC. What would cost you $20, maybe as much as $35 for another game is costing you $60. Compare this to how Borderlands 3 has managed its DLC. It’s roughly the same amount of additional story content, it costs like $20 max, and you get a bunch of the update contents patched into the base game for free. So there’s the price point of it, which is way off. You do get all the original DLC for free, which is pretty nice. That makes it all probably worth a $35 value proposition.

Second, you have to play through the entire game again and you get basically no benefit whatsoever from having a cleared Persona 5 save. You get 50,000 yen. Nothing. For comparison, endgame encounters give you like 80k per fight. You don’t get to fuse Satanael on your first playthrough, even after the original final chapter. You don’t get any of the post-game bonuses (like the key items that boost confidant bonuses). Nothing.

You’re starting completely from scratch and this is not a short game. So if you just want to play the bonus content, you’re looking at 80 hours of skipping through cutscenes. This game took me 6 full days to plow through. Do you understand? This is my job. I write for this website. It took me over a week playing this game full time, just to get to this bonus content so I could review it and write guides for you guys.

And this is not my first time through Persona 5. I played through twice the first time it came out. So this was actually my 3rd time through, and I had to play most of the way through a 4th time to unlock Satanael a second time and fight the super bosses. So you’re looking at 4 full playthroughs of Persona 5 if you want to experience everything this game has to offer. How absolutely disrespectful of everybody’s time. Do you understand? Each playthrough of this game takes like 90 hours. So I’ve now played 400 hours of Persona 5 to experience 100 hours of content. Not okay.

So to conclude this review, how would I rank Persona 5 Royal? I mean, it’s excellent. As a standalone game, Persona 5 Royal is probably the best jRPG of the last 10 years, altogether. That’s if I’m rating it as the complete, holistic package. But that’s not what Persona 5 Royal is. It’s a DLC pack for Persona 5 that, while being excellent, costs twice as much as what it should cost and erases your progress.

If this was a $60 new game or a $35 DLC where you could pick up and play from your existing save, I’d say it was a home run. But because of the drawbacks it’s really hard to say it deserves an A+ grade, even though the content is A+. I’d give it a B overall. However, if you’re never played Persona 5, then as a standalone game, it’s an A++/S rating.

Anyway, that’s my review of Persona 5 Royal. Check out the Games Section for more content like this, and be sure to check back on the site for more content related to Persona 5 Royal.

Author

  • Ryan Night

    Ryan Night is an ex-game industry producer with over a decade of experience writing guides for RPGs. Previously an early contributor at gamefaqs.com, Ryan has been serving the RPG community with video game guides since 2001. As the owner of Bright Rock Media, Ryan has written over 600 guides for RPGs of all kinds, from Final Fantasy Tactics to Tales of Arise.

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