When I first loaded Persona 5 on my PS4 in March 2019, I couldn’t have predicted the extraordinary journey it was going to take me on. Like many people, I fell instantly in love. I suddenly found myself craving a bedroom above a coffee shop in Yongen-Jaya. I wanted to eat ramen with Ryuji. I can safely say that Persona 5 is one of the greatest video game experiences I’ve ever had. If not the best.
So when I discovered that a shiny expanded edition was fast approaching (Persona 5 Royal, or P5R) I was salivating at the mouth. But I was also restraining myself; I desperately wanted to replay the main game, but was determined to hold off until the enhanced version landed. Which it did, a few weeks ago. But is Persona 5 Royal worth it?
In a word – yes. And having now completed the second greatest video game experience of my life – 100 hours later – I feel it’s my duty to encourage you to do the same.
And also to warn you. Ladies and gentlemen, shadows and not-cats, I bring you the pros and cons of P5R. As decided by me.
Pro: P5R isn’t just a special edition
If you’ve played Persona 5 before, you may baulk slightly at the price tag of Royal. This is a full price game, and you may think that’s a lot of money to spend on a special edition of a game you already own.
But if you’re asking ‘is Persona 5 Royal worth it?’ then it’s worth remembering that this isn’t just a special edition. There are very few things in this new version of Persona 5 that haven’t been tweaked or expanded. And some things radically so.
For instance, there’s a host of brand new battle mechanics. The redesigned ‘baton pass’ feature brings a new dimension to the turn-based encounters, with fighters being able to chain their attacks by continually ‘passing the baton’ to fellow Phantom Thieves and, in doing so, exponentially increasing the amount of damage being dealt.
Then there are the guns, which have unlimited ammo now. Well, almost; it replenishes after each fight. And then there’s a new ‘zip line’ mechanic that allows you to take nifty shortcuts through some of the palaces, or even uncover some cool new bonuses such as the Will Seeds. And then there’s a new character. Or rather, lots of new characters. And hours and hours of new story. And a new palace.
Hold on. New paragraph…
Pro: The third semester
That’s right. In the original Persona 5, there’s a whole chunk of time that you’re not able to play. But this has been rectified in P5R, resulting in hours upon hours of new story (seriously) and an epic new palace to explore, culminating in a (spoiler alert) slightly reworked ending to the main story.
I won’t say more about what this semester entails but I can confidently say that it didn’t disappoint. Okay – it did slightly, but I’ll come to that point in a minute. Suffice to say that you’ll be forever haunted by one of the game’s new music tracks – the sublime ‘So Happy World‘ – but in a good way. It’s now the soundtrack of my life. And the palace that you get to explore is so wonderfully weird with a very memorable new puzzle involving colours, and of course a new playable character – the mysterious Kasumi Yoshizawa…
I was utterly captivated by the strange direction that the story took at the start of the third semester, and it held me through to the game’s conclusion. But there is a serious problem that I need to address here, and this brings me to my first con.
Con: The third semester!
Warning! You could actually play Royal and completely miss out on the third semester. In order to access it, you need to reach confidant level 9 with the character of Dr. Maruki before hitting 11/18 (or the 18th November to us Brits 😉 ) But the game never tells you this little tidbit – not even slightly. I only found out after the intervention of a sympathetic friend on Twitter!
Moreover, there were rumours that you also needed to reach level 5 with Kasumi and level 8 with Akechi, although I think these whisperings have since been debunked. However, I met these objectives just to be safe. (In fact, I managed to get Akechi from rank 1 to rank 8 even after completing Okumura’s palace, so there’s still hope if you’re a long way into a playthrough…)
But yes – this coyness on the developer’s part really irked me. For many people, one of the big selling points of this new edition is the all-important third semester, and the idea that you could diligently play through the game and miss all the new story is infuriating. It’s not like Persona 5 is a fast game to whip through if you need to restart.
So in this respect, is Persona 5 Royal worth it? Yes, if you go in forewarned!
Con: Those new boss battles
Persona 5 is the only game I’ve ever played where I’ve actually looked forward to (and enjoyed) the boss battles. They are wondrous.
But when it comes to P5R, I can safely say that this game has surpassed Sonic Unleashed in its levels of gaming awfulness. Two of the game’s fights are the worst boss battles I’ve ever experienced, which is a real shame considering that Persona 5 is a masterpiece in just about every other respect.
The first offender is the Okumura boss. This has been completely overhauled in a way that makes zero sense. The usual battle mechanics are thrown out of the window, and what you’re left with is something that borders on an unplayable mess. In the end, the only way I was able to beat this maniac was by increasing the difficulty setting to Merciless. Yes – increasing. That’s gaming madness, and a sure indication of a serious development problem. Whoever designed this piece of sadism clearly has a palace of their own, and I vote we enter the Metaverse and steal their heart to stop them from causing any more damage.
Then there is the final boss of the game (that is, the new final boss at the end of the third semester.) Oh my days – it’s laborious and never-ending. It’s a punishing, uninspired grind that’s immensely unsatisfying. Worse, it doesn’t know when to end. Think you’ve defeated it? Nope. It’s back for round two! And round three! And yes, there’s even a round four. It truly is terrible. And such a shame as well, because the ‘original’ final boss from Persona 5 was (and still is) a heart-stopping spectacle.
That said, at least Atlus has given us the option of skipping the third semester entirely if we want 😉
So is Persona 5 Royal worth it?
Yes. Don’t even think about it. Buy it. Play it. Play it again. I cannot express what this game means to me. And yes, I am talking Persona 5 Royal and not just Persona 5. For me, Royal is the definitive edition. It takes everything that was wonderful about the original game and cranks the dials up to 11. Yes, there are a couple of misfires (as outlined above) but they’re not enough to blacken an otherwise masterfully-made title.
How did you find Persona 5 Royal? Was it an improvement on the original? Were you left infuriated by the ridiculous Okumura boss? Let me know in the comments below.
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