The same “Person” – only better.

Similar in spirit

I’ll tell you right away: I love Persona 5 madly . So much so that I spent not even 120, but at least 250 hours of my life on it, in order to accurately climb every corner there, see every replica, collect every person, and then admire the platinum in the list of achievements. And it cannot be said that the fifth “Person” does not deserve this: believe me, it is not for nothing that she has a rating of 93 on Metacritic.

At the same time, it is difficult to compare it with something: yes, it is a JRPG, but it has little resemblance to its colleagues in the genre and set of mechanics and plot construction. Dungeon Crawler? School harem? An unexpectedly sincere and detailed social commentary on a whole list of problems in modern Japanese society? Everything at once, and even in impeccably stylish anime art, with a jazz soundtrack and a couple of dozen well-written characters.  

And Persona 5 Royal is just an expanded version of the original Persona 5. With a third semester added to the protagonist’s life, two new characters, revamped mechanics, and hundreds more small additions. I have already compiled a complete list of additions with detailed comments here , and therefore I will not return to them, otherwise the review will grow to wild proportions. Here – only the final opinion on the merits.

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Key rules

If you haven’t heard of Persona 5 before, here’s how it works. The main character is an ordinary Japanese high school student: he goes to school, walks around the city, communicates with friends, earns money wherever he has to – in a word, he leads the life of a classic teenager. The gameplay in the “real world” is very relaxed and reminiscent of a visual novel with RPG elements. At school, you have to answer the teachers’ questions, and in your free time, you just have to explore different parts of Tokyo, talk with colleagues (in Persona, they are called confidants) and improve social skills.

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Another thing is Metavers, a parallel world of the human subconscious, where heroes go to “steal the hearts” of villains. Spoiled adults are their targets – those who abuse their power to profit from others. Such people have a distorted inner picture of the world, and therefore their subconscious looks like a huge palace reflecting the sins of its owner. This is where the protagonist penetrates with his team of Phantom Thieves: in each such palace they need to find and steal treasure – a symbol of the dark desires of its owner. And if the theft is successful, then the villain in the real world himself realizes his crimes and surrenders to the police.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

The gameplay in Metavers is completely different: this part of the Phantom adventure is much more like a traditional JRPG with turn-based battles and a complex skill system. Here the heroes fight against Shadows – monsters born of human passions. And to overcome them, the team members use personas – mystical entities that are born in the soul of those who do not want to turn a blind eye to the surrounding injustice. Each member of the Phantom Thieves has its own unique persona, but the main character, the Joker, can have as many as you like. The protagonist collects them, crosses them, switches them in battle – in a word, the mechanics are almost like in “Pokemon” . True, if there were mostly cute animals, then in Persona the roster is more adult and frightening: from fairy-tale creatures to chthonic monsters and heroes of world religions.

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

Turn-based battles work according to the “rock-paper-scissors” scheme: any Shadow has a vulnerability to a specific type of damage. Winged enemies are usually afraid of bullets and air spells, fiery ones – freezing ones, and so on. Thanks to this, each battle is like a puzzle: you need not hit anything, but figure out what the enemy’s weakness is. And at the same time, do not get hit by yourself, because each of your persons also has an Achilles heel.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

The pleasure of living someone else’s life

Actually, in these two worlds – real and Metaverse – you have to spend all 150 hours of gameplay. And, perhaps, one of the most fascinating features of “Persona” is that being in the real world is no less, and even more interesting than in palaces. When I first got acquainted with the series, from the reviews I got the impression that the main meaning of the game is concentrated in dungeons with battles. But it turned out quite the opposite: walking in the Metavers is a maximum of 30-40% of all the time you spend in Persona 5 (and Royal too). Studying palaces dissimilar to each other is, of course, exciting, but most of all you are not waiting for them at all, but for the free time that the hero has when the clearing of the next villain’s lair comes to an end. Finally, you can freely wander around Tokyo, without looking back at the deadline for completing the mission, read books,

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

It is the friends and associates of the Joker who make the world of “Persona” so alive that you simply pray that this already shamelessly long game does not end any longer. There is always a feeling that you did not have time to do something. You could have gone to Ryuuji’s best friend once again to his favorite ramen shop and listen to his stupid jokes. Or take a trip to town with fifteen-year-old hacker Futaba to see how she learns to socialize and describes her successes in gaming terms. The artist Yusuke, hovering in the clouds, is often full of nonsense, but at times he says things that are unexpectedly wise for a student. The class teacher Kawakami has so many problems and cockroaches in her head that at times it seems as if the main child in their relationship with the protagonist is exactly her. And with the young detective Aketi, the Joker has a relationship almost like Light and L in“Death Note” – after each conversation you ask yourself who beat whom in mental chess. 

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

After the end credits, you, most likely, will not breathe a sigh of relief, but discard the gamepad in frustration and ask yourself: “Damn, what am I doing in my life now?” And then, for sure, start the “New Game +”, because you did not have time to see all the content in one go.

All due to the fact that the time in “Persona” goes according to the real calendar: every day the hero gets out of bed, goes to school, and after lunch decides how to spend his free time. You can go to the Metavers – but it will take all day, and in the real world you won’t be able to do anything. You can stay in Tokyo and choose which of your friends to improve your relationship with. Or, for example, you can do your homework and improve your knowledge so that a branch of friendship with an excellent student Makoto opens as soon as possible. The clock is ticking – and all the time you have to decide what is more important now and what can be postponed for later. Perhaps, it is this feeling that does not let one get bored or relax even at the hundredth hour of the game. You are constantly forced to choose from several possibilities – and the thirst not to miss one of them goes away until the last day of the story.

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

More time for relationships …

In this regard, Royal is much more friendly to the player than the original Persona 5. It was too easy to screw up: if you didn’t understand how everything works from the very beginning, you could waste a lot of time and not even get to a serious share of content in the real world. And in Royal, several auxiliary mechanics appeared at once.

Firstly, evenings after the plot events and visits to the Metavers are now free – you cannot leave the house, but you can do what you previously had to allocate half a day for. Crafting, reading books, getting ready for school, brewing coffee that restores mana in palaces – all this can now be done without wasting playing time. Secondly, in the quick menu you can immediately see what classes and confidential are available today – it is easier to navigate through all the options at once and choose the most convenient one. Thirdly, after each meeting, friends themselves call the hero to share his thoughts or just find out how he returned home – in this conversation you can earn a few more points to their location.

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

Fourthly, the fortune teller can now once a day give the protagonist the ability to see which lines of dialogue are the most effective, so there is no need to ask what the confidant wants to hear from you. Fifthly, on days when you can get an increased bonus to characteristics on a part-time job, a message is sent from there with a request to take a shift. That is, there is a high probability that you will go to work exactly when it will bring maximum benefit.

And, of course, the biggest help is the extra month after the New Year, which appeared in Royal. The developers promised a “third semester”, but in fact it is only January, and after that the plot events lead straight to the ending. Either way, even if you wereted your time at random, there is now a chance to catch up on extra days. On the contrary, I tried to pass Royal as ergonomically as possible so as not to miss anything new, but it turns out that I could relax: by mid-December I simply had nothing to do.

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

… And less frustration in palaces

Metavers has also become much more convenient. The biggest surprise was that now in palaces you can run into weak (highlighted in green) Shadows in order to instantly kill them. Previously, this could only be done in the Mementos tunnels – a separate dungeon with procedural level generation. After such a collision, victory is counted immediately, and money and experience are awarded in the same amount as for a regular battle. Moreover, they don’t even talk about this feature out loud – I just accidentally found out that this can be done at all when I crashed into the Shadow in the penultimate palace. It’s a pity: this greatly speeds up the passage and, in addition, allows you to save mana, so that later you can spend it more generously in fights with mini-bosses. If I had known about this from the very beginning, I would probably have saved five to ten hours on these monotonous skirmishes.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

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Although I must admit that the battles have become more fun and dynamic. There are not many new Shadows in Royal, and in one palace there are still only 10-15 types of them, so they inevitably begin to repeat themselves. But the improved mechanics of Baton Pass (passing an extra move after you knocked out your opponent) partly solves this problem. Previously, Baton Pass only increased damage, but now it also restores health and mana – and the bonus increases with each next turn transfer. And if you correctly calculate the order of attacks and use all four members of the squad, then the last hero in the chain will be able to use any spell for free. Thanks to this, battles are resolved faster, and it is not so boring to bring down the same Shadows ten times. Each skirmish turns into a puzzle that you want to solve in a minimum of moves.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

Anxiety about the eternal lack of mana generally faded into the background. If in the first playthrough of P5 I had to leave the palace in the middle several times and return there the next day, because the mana and potions simply ran out, then in P5R this did not happen once. Moreover, I wasted so much coffee: I didn’t even use up half. Thanks to the transfer of turn and new caches with “seeds of will”, which also restore a little mana to the whole team, the SP level very rarely dropped to zero.

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The exploit with the Reaper – the devastatingly difficult Shadow from Mementos, which was convenient to farm experience on a few special days of the year – has been removed. But I still got to level 99 without any problems thanks to the same mechanic with hitting weak Shadows. It works exponentially: the more you use this technique (and taking into account the respawn of enemies, this can be done indefinitely), the higher your level and the more Shadows become green. You push them more and more … and so on.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

In addition, a bonus from the new hero Jose, who appeared in Mementos, helps. He trades special seals, now hidden in tunnels, for bonuses to money, experience, or finds that you get in dungeons. The maximum XP bonus is 200%, and coupled with the hitting mechanics, it is very significant. Closer to the end of the game, in one go to Mementos, you can raise the level without any grinding, say, from 80th to 90th – you just need to drive through all the “floors” of the deepest level, crush everyone who gets along the road, and cover available quests. The same Reaper for the sake of such a levelap had to be caught at least three or four times, and this delivered much more headache.

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

More unexpected turns needed

As for the new story content, there is not so much of it – certainly less than it seemed from the trailers. Key additions can be counted on one hand. Two new confidants: Kasumi Yoshizawa (gymnast girl from the same school where the protagonist goes) and Takuto Maruki (school psychologist). One new member of the Phantom Thieves team (guess which one). One new palace is the same one after the New Year. One new location is the Kichijouji shopping area, where you can go darts, billiards, or a jazz bar with friends. And a new branch of confidant Aketi: now you can also go to meetings with him, like with other friends, and not only see in the framework of plot scenes.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

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Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

It’s hard to say something about Kasumi and Takuto without spoilers, so I’ll just confirm that they are not who they seem at first glance – like, indeed, most of the heroes of Persona 5. Another thing is that both of them were supplied 1) well, very indistinct images with which we are initially introduced, and 2) well, a very dramatic past that opens later. Their branches stand out even against the background of the main plot of P5 – and after all, the scriptwriters did not skimp on the tragedy before! Perhaps this is why Takuto and Kasumi sink into the soul much less than the already familiar heroes with their more down-to-earth stories. Too much dust in the eyes, and loud revelations at the climax.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

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The additional palace came out as well as the others: with its inventive puzzles, fun designs and a completely new set of rather frightening Shadows. Together with him, at the end of the game, a new level appears in Mementos – by the way, it is very different from all the previous ones. As for Kichijouji, everything that could be said about him was already stated in the first impressions . It fits well with the rest of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, it’s fun and rewarding to spend time there, but it doesn’t really affect history.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

Oddly enough, the added branch of relations with Aketi brings the most vivid emotions. He used to be one of the most impressive characters in the game, and in Royal, every time I gave up any business and plans, as soon as he received a message with an invitation to a meeting. Aketi draws the Joker into the most strange, funny and simply dangerous situations, but any, even the most ridiculous, date with him still keeps him in pleasant tension. And by the way, this is the only confidant, the level of relations with which affects the final scene of P5R – so do not postpone its leveling until later.

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The same advice applies to psychologist Takuto – and it’s even more important. Nowhere is this said directly, but in order for the third semester to open, you need to have the 9th level of Takuto Confidential by the morning of November 18 . If you don’t pump it on time, the story will follow the original tracks and end where it did before.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

What turned out to be Royal? For the most part, it’s still the same Persona 5 – a huge, deeply thought out and simply insanely stylish RPG that is sure to break your heart with at least one plot twist. They did not rewrite the original script – they simply supplemented what had already happened, and inserted another spectacular chapter with new endings at the end. And we improved the gameplay to make it as convenient as possible to get to this loud ending.

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Is the game worth the money they ask for on release? Perhaps, yes, considering how many happy weeks you will spend in it, completely forgetting about real life. Especially if you have not played the original – and now it makes no sense to take on it, because the events of Royal will be considered the final canon of the series. And those fans who have already climbed the old Persona 5 up and down will definitely be pleased to return. In order to look for all unfamiliar places with burning eyes, rejoice at new remarks in dialogues and guess all the way what will happen there after the New Year.

«The Phenomenal Phantom Thief»

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Effortlessly knock out platinum in one playthrough. In P5R, the list of achievements has been greatly simplified: you no longer need to download all confidential items, or collect a complete Compendium of persons, or even catch a legendary fish.

Persona 5 Royal review.  The best way to spend 150 hours of your life

Verdict

The best things to do in social isolation. You will not find anywhere else such a life simulator that you want to enter, as in the “Matrix”, and never be offline again.

Source : Game Informer