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- Persona 5 Royal
Persona has habituated its audience into expecting two things: a quirky RPG with poignant themes and a definitive edition. Now it’s Persona 5‘s turn as Persona 5 Royal is an updated and upgraded version of 2016/2017’s best RPG. Like those other ports, Royal seems poised to predictably recapture its existing audience as well as reach out to curious newcomers.
Well, some newcomers. Those scared away by its enormous 100-hour or so playtime won’t be attracted to Royal’s even longer hour count. It’s still going to be intimidating to those unwilling to commit that heavily to the game especially since none of the new stuff seemed geared toward easing potential Persona players in. It’s mostly the same Persona 5 game from the turn-based battles to the social elements.
Persona 5 Royal Preview | Meet the new kid, Kasumi
The gluttony of additional features are there for those who have polished off Persona’s platinum trophy and love the style of remixes that Atlus has punctually put out along with those who will make the time for it now that it is “complete.” These changes run from big to small like adding in a whole new character, Kasumi Yoshizawa, to allowing players to rewatch cutscenes.
Kasumi isn’t just slotted into the story; she’s integrated in the narrative and yields a unique perspective. Instead of being down with the Phantom Thieves, she’s skeptical, offering an audience surrogate for those wondering if their actions are truly for good or not. Sega Communications Manager Ari Advincula described how Kasumi’s role was more than just a sloppily spliced in partner.
“Kasumi is not tacked on,” Advincula stated. “She’s very intelligently woven in the narrative. Without spoiling anything, she wasn’t with the Phantom Thieves. She’s someone that’s of their age in the same society situations and she’s almost like Akechi where she’s against the Phantom Thieves. It’s a new perspective because you go through the game wondering if the Phantom Thieves are good. She’s a manifestation of that.”
Kasumi didn’t show up much in the demo — understandable for how big the game is — but she seemed sweet and well within the ballpark of great Persona characters. In the short scene she showed up in, you can offer to walk with her in the rain (and even flirt a little bit) with your umbrella, which she is thankful for as she didn’t want to catch a cold before her gymnastic prelims. She’s a trained gymnast, after all, focused on her craft and her persona is named Cendrillon after the French fairy tale opera.
But her success seems to have put her in a box, as onlookers scoffed at the preferential treatment she gets from the school because of her athletic skills. She’s also supposedly hiding some sort of secret, which will assuredly entice players to keep going to uncover her mystery. Given her level of charm and intrigue, hopefully she won’t just temporarily pop in like some negative early reports have stated. Old characters will also supposedly benefit from Royal, too. Akechi, who some players felt got the short end of the deal in the main game, gets a new lease on life because of Royal’s added semester. His confidant was more story-driven in the original but now you’re able to drive that connection a little more so it is more personal.
Persona 5 Royal Preview | Playing tourist
Some of these connections will unfold in the game’s new area, Kichijoji. This town offers yet another hub for Persona’s signature virtual Japanese tourism; a facet that it shares with the Yakuza series. Kichijoji lets you play darts through a simple motion-controlled mini-game as well as billiards with multiple people (which is new), although the latter isn’t actually playable. You can also wander around the map and soak in the sights and shops, which give it a slightly different feel than the other parts of the game and is a welcome fit.
You can’t grapple around Kichijoji but you can in the game’s dungeons. Certain points have latches on them that you can swing up to, giving you a more vertical control over the stage. Given how it is a new mechanic and method of traversal, the level layouts had to be changed to accommodate this feature and that should change it up just a bit for those who have already played the game. Newfound mobility is usually good, even if it isn’t a fun, freeform grappling hook like the one in Just Cause or the Batman: Arkham games.
Players can ascend to higher levels to avoid enemies, but it also has a more interesting effect on the game: fitting in with the “Thieves” part of Phantom Thieves. Special items are hidden around the dungeons and grappling to them can yield some powerful gear for those with a keen eye and rewards players that pay attention to their surroundings.
“It’s a way to revamp the palaces because they become effected by that new component,” said Advincula. “From a development perspective, you have to rethink these already amazing palaces and add even more content. Now you can access more areas and you can search a dungeon even more. It’s a James Bond way of really breaking through a secret passageway with your grappling hook.”
Persona 5 Royal Preview | A new hangout spot
While the grappling hook is a mechanical addition, the Thieves’ Den is a more experiential one. This area separate from the main story acts as a sort of gallery where you can walk around and unlock art, rewatch cutscenes, listen to music, and more. You buy these items with coins you get from playing the main game and completing achievement-esque tasks like triggering a Technical hit 100 times or beating a specific boss.
There’s even a new card game called Tycoon that has a simple ruleset and can be a good pace changer after wandering the halls of the digital museum. It’s representative of the entire Thieves’ Den as it is an optional part of the game that is there for everyone yet is probably something the hardest the hardcore will spend the most time on.
Essentially, that seems to be the mantra for Persona 5 Royal as a whole. Persona 5 Royal has appeal to new players as any critically acclaimed game does (or a game with characters in Smash Bros.) but it seems to be slightly more geared toward the many who obsessed about the game only a few years ago. They’ll notice the smaller details like more accurate pronunciations, additional bosses phases, and the slight changes to the HUD that make this more than a mere touch up. However, it will be interesting to see if those additions add up and give returning players enough reason to enjoy the game once again. Burnout is entirely possible, but given that it sits on top of an already exceptional RPG, these changes could be just be the small push fans need in order to get sucked back into Persona 5‘s unique world.