Two weeks ago, I jumped into an early copy of Persona 5 Royal, expecting to maybe play a few hours to check out some of the new stuff. Now I’ve finished the game’s second dungeon and have begun to accept a new reality: I am, somehow, going to replay all of Persona 5.
This piece was first published on March 17, 2020. We’re bumping it today for the game’s release.
It certainly helps that we’re currently in a post-apocalyptic nightmare and that I’m working from home to practice Responsible Social Distancing (wearing the same pair of gym shorts for two weeks straight), but also, there’s just something about Persona 5. It’s the music, the vibe, the style, the rhythm. That comforting feeling of taking care of a Palace a week or two before the deadline, then spending a bunch of time hanging out with your buddies. That reminder of what it was like in the days when people could actually go to restaurants.
Persona 5 Royal, an overhauled version of the 2017 role-playing game, comes out on March 31 for the PlayStation 4. From what I’ve seen so far, the changes are ample but minor. A new cutscene here; a quality-of-life improvement there. In dungeons, you can use a new grappling hook tool to find hidden passages that lead you to optional treasures. Each Palace now has three Will Seeds—skull-like objects that heal your SP a small amount—and collecting them all will get you a sweet accessory. Getting all the Will Seeds in the first dungeon, for example, will get you the Ring of Lust, which lets its wearer cast the healing spell Diarama.
There are a thousand other changes that will be notable to anyone who’s played Persona 5. New Personas, enemies with special traits, new Confidants, new dialogue tweaks, new boss mechanics (Madarame is way less annoying now), a brand new area of Tokyo to explore, new cutscenes, and much more stuff that I haven’t seen yet. Personas now have extra bonuses in the form of Traits that can be passed along every time you fuse them, and there are all sorts of new perks that pop up over time. Also, Morgana no longer tells you to go to sleep every single night, which is maybe the best change of them all.
None of the changes or tweaks in Persona 5 Royal are stellar enough to make me shout that it’s a must-buy even for people who played the game three years ago—at least not yet—but they’re compelling enough to have convinced me to replay a 4,000-hour video game. I want to know what’s up with the mysterious red-headed gymnast, Kasumi, whose importance is now hinted in the intro. I want to see the extra Palace, and maybe discover why a boy named Jose is picking flowers in Mementos. I want to check out the scenes that have been altered to be less homophobic.
If you haven’t played Persona 5, this is a no-brainer—from what I’ve played so far, Royal is the definitive version of this game. And if you have played it, but the thought of sustained social isolation has convinced you that maybe it’s actually a good idea to spend another few hundred hours of your life playing Persona 5, well, this sure is good timing.