This article contains spoilers for Persona 5.
As of March 31, The Phantom Thieves of Heart are back to their usual antics, annihilating gods of control and distorted adult desires in “Persona 5 Royal,” a remaster of “Persona 5.”
“Persona 5” (“P5”), originally released worldwide in April 2017, details the exploits of a ragtag crew of high schoolers called The Phantom Thieves in their thievery of distorted desires. The game takes place in modern Tokyo and acts as a pointed critique of conformist societies, Japanese society in particular. The Phantom Thieves steal people’s distorted desires through access to The Metaverse, a realm of human cognitions and warped identities.
“Persona 5 Royal” doesn’t just slap a new coat of paint on and call it a day; it doubles the amount of content already included in the base game. For perspective, it took 150 hours of gameplay minimum to unlock every achievement in “P5.” “Persona 5 Royal” doubles that number. It includes new characters, new battle mechanics, and a new epilogue chapter not included in the original port of the game.
One of the largest complaints about the original “P5” was its ending chapter. While sound in terms of theme and gameplay, final boss Yaldabaoth’s origin as the collective human desire to conform felt too general and abstract for a game that enjoys delving into the personal lives of all its characters.
Kamoshida, the main antagonist of the first chapter, especially stood out for how disturbingly real and easy it would be for such a person to exist. What was lacking from Yaldabaoth’s story role was the satisfaction born of defeating such a rotten antagonist.
“Persona 5 Royal” addresses these complaints with a third story segment that finally gives the more human and relatable end to “Persona 5” that players wanted. The most striking and alluring aspect of the third story segment is how it forces the Phantom Thieves to metaphorically “ look at themselves in a mirror.” It does this not only through cutscenes but through the gameplay and art design as well.
“Persona 5” utilizes a psychedelic Neo-Noir art style that capitalizes on bold lines and even bolder colors to make everything pop out of the screen. “Persona 5 Royal” ups this by doubling everything: character portraits, battle animations, and more. Developers even added an entirely new hub area, Kichijoji. Kichijoji is larger than any other explorable location and essentially doubles the number of activities the player can do to maximize their in-game experience.
“Persona 5 Royal” improves on the “Persona” combat system through reworking how the baton pass operates. Originally, Baton pass was a system where you pass on your turn whenever you hit an enemy’s weakness. Now instead of just passing your turn on to someone else, the baton pass has added animations to better indicate it has occurred, additional stat bonuses, and, if you manage to baton pass every party member, the last person gets to use their abilities without wasting any skill points (SP). This essentially generates more damage for less cost to the party, cutting combat time immensely.
Of all the video game remasters and remakes to come out so far this year, I believe that “Persona 5 Royal” has done the most to set itself apart from the original. The game addresses not only major complaints but all complaints about the original. “Persona 5 Royal” isn’t a perfect game, but it is darn close to being one.