Atlus isn't looking to reinvent what it means to be a JRPG with Persona 5 Royal. The much-expanded rerelease of Push Square's 2017 Game of the Year is still that same 100+ hour epic journey through the trials and tribulations of Shujin Academy's favourite friendship group. So, what do franchise fanatics have to look forward to when it comes to justifying a second playthrough? Much like PlayStation Vita masterpiece Persona 4 Golden, it's the more minor details which shine brightest. An entirely new semester is on hand to greet those who push through to its conclusion all over again, but that's not to say the original experience hasn't received some tender love and care. A two-hour sampling of everything new in Persona 5 Royal was enough to prove that, all but convincing us into one more playthrough as soon as it arrives on western shores next month.
However, there's no beating around the bush -- this is more Persona 5 in every way imaginable. If the initial PlayStation 4 classic failed to sway you into giving its stylish combat system, flashy menus, and captivating narrative a shot, then Persona 5 Royal isn't going to even bother popping the question. Atlus is unabashedly proud of the campaign it delivered three years ago as the developer expands upon those foundations with neat gameplay additions, remixed boss battles, and new pieces of content here and there in the lead up to its post-ending centrepiece.
Kamoshida's Palace is where you'll first get a glimpse of those mechanics. Joker comes equipped with a grappling hook which allows him to access all-new areas, either to gain an advantage over an unsuspecting enemy or grab an item from a treasure chest. It cannot be used on the fly, restricted rather to certain interactable ledges, but the device does give you the chance to discover a new consumable. Spread throughout each and every dungeon in Persona 5 Royal are Will Seeds which restore party member's SP -- an inconsequential addition on the face of things but one that could actually have a large impact on game balance. It should now be much easier to see a Palace from the beginning through to its end in the space of a single in-game day, opening up the other sets of 24 hours for socialising and studying.
You won't want to get complacent though as every boss fight has something new going for it. Just take Kamoshida himself for example. Alongside his usual antics of eating scantily clad girls to restore health and utilising monsters strapped to ball and chains for extra attacks, the pervert now demands some of his students take part in the action. Cognitive versions of Mishima and Shiho join the battle as you whittle down Kamoshida's health, providing him with a quick bit of respite and giving you something else to think about. The evil duo dish out pretty powerful attacks if you ignore their presence so the fight quickly turns into a balancing act of keeping the main degenerate on his toes and dealing with what those beneath him can throw at you.
These sorts of tweaks and changes are being made to all boss encounters in the game, and while we can only speak for Persona 5 Royal's first Palace, they seem significant enough to warrant a new approach should you be caught off-guard. The rerelease is quite clearly adjusting its core experience for the better and one of the more substantial efforts it has made to achieve that is through the introduction of a new character.
Kasumi is her name and gymnastics is her game. We meet up with the cute, hard-working pupil on a rainy afternoon after class at Shujin Academy, accompanying her to the local train station with an umbrella in hand. She speaks of taking her passion to a global level after years of commitment through competitions, however, that has translated into a bit of a reputation amongst the school's community. Kasumi doesn't like the special treatment she receives as an honour student but that doesn't stop classmates from brandishing her with the name Miss Special Snowflake.
It's an insult we'd consider unfair because from where we're standing, Kasumi makes for a lovely new person to meet and interact with. She's a well-spoken girl who surely comes with layers of depth -- revealed as Joker spends more and more time with her. Whether Kasumi can compete with Makoto for the respected title of Best Girl is up for debate, but we're looking forward to finding out if she can grab top spot or not.
There's an even more ample addition to speak of in Persona 5 Royal to speak of, however. Kichijoji is an entirely new location which can be explored to your heart's content, featuring various shops and characters to talk to. Made up of roughly five streets, a clothes shop allows you to trade in unwanted armour pieces for points to spend on new garments, the Crystal Healing outlet sells all sorts of powerful necklaces, and an imported grocery store that's stuffed with corned beef specials and cereal multi-packs. A stationary stand adds to the atmosphere, the temple gives Joker the chance to meditate and gain permanent SP bonuses, and a jolly shopkeeper tried to persuade us into purchasing some Chinese buns. Makoto can even be spotted sneaking about Kichijoji's alleyways, avoiding conversation with you at all times -- suggesting that this playable stretch takes place somewhat early in the story.
Joker and Ryuji are in town for the Darts Lounge though, not to mess about with girls. The pair participate in a laidback narrative-based sequence, taking turns to try and hit a bullseye which rewards increased damage and HP recovery during battles when a Baton Pass takes place. It makes for a fun side activity, but we're sure the wider team will be visiting Kichijoji on a fair few more occasions with a much more serious task to be completed.
While Persona 5 Royal's biggest attraction still remains shrouded in secrecy, we can confidently say that the tweaks, changes, and additions made to the core experience warrant digging into this JRPG classic once more. From the minor adjustments made to boss battles through to a completely new locale and character, Atlus has assured us that another playthrough is going to be worth your time. What was Game of the Year for 2017 could very well give the likes of Cyberpunk 2077, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and The Last of Us: Part II a run for their money. Persona 5 Royal is in pole position to become yet another JRPG masterpiece.
We would like to thank Anita Wong and the Persona 5 Royal PR team for inviting Push Square to the preview event. Persona 5 Royal releases on PS4 on 31st March 2020, but are you planning to play it once more? Does the sound of its changes and additions excite you? Strengthen a Confidant in the comments below.