Persona 5 Royal Review

May 14, 2020

There’s an argument to be made that, when it comes to style over substance, it was hard to beat a Persona title. From Persona 3 onwards especially, the series has melded day-to-day school life with strong supernatural themes and incredibly stylish presentation and mechanics. Persona 5 not only upped the ante on style, but it added a lot more substance, turning out to be a 100-ish hour JRPG about the day-to-day lives of a group of teenagers as they battle a supernatural force that’s slowly corrupting their society.

What really makes it stand out over the previous games in the series is that it leans much harder into the anime side of things. This is no surprise, as Persona 3 and Persona 4 were both PS2 games and the series effectively skipped an entire generation (though Persona 5 did launch on PS3, a rarity for a 2017 game), allowing the art and design team to fully embrace a cel-shaded anime aesthetic, along with the amazing visual presentation. How many other games can you think of where people have cosplayed the battle menu?

Persona 5 Royal Edition (P5R)  is fundamentally the same game as Persona 5, just with some tweaks and changes to the battle system, a new party member, and a third semester that takes the game beyond the end of the original story and into a second year. You’ll still be playing the majority of the game as the original Persona 5, story-wise.

This is both P5R’s biggest asset and its biggest flaw. If you own the original P5, then P5R is a hard sell. It’s only available as a full-price new game, and not a paid upgrade like, say, Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition. While I personally don’t think the added content is worth re-buying the game for, I definitely think P5R is the definitive Persona 5 experience, and this is the version of the game you should buy if you don’t own the original at all.

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A lot of the changes centre around improving the quality of life for our heroes, especially Joker. For example, it’s now possible to do activities on almost all nights, and Morgana no longer shuts you down when you try to leave your room at LeBlanc as much. This makes it easier to do social link grinding, and a P5R playthrough should see many more opportunities to raise social links as well as increase those pesky skill levels. It’s good stuff.

The battle system is where the biggest refinements to the game come in. The huge new change is that ammunition now resets after every battle, rather than after every session in a dungeon. This means guns can actually be used in fights rather than reserved for specific moments, and it dramatically improves the pace of battle. Not only that, but gun damage has been improved a lot, making it a viable option in most fights.

Alongside this, the Baton Pass system has also been changed. Baton passes no longer require a specific social link level to activate and they can be chained across all four battle party members. This is coupled with a new damage bonus and, if you successfully chain all four party members, the final member gets a free spell cast.

With these changes alone, battles become much more dynamic and fun. They also make the game a touch easier, which is no bad thing given that the original is one of the harder JRPGs out there, mainlining a longstanding tradition in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise.

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Of course, if you still want super-hard battles, there’s new optional bosses in the forms of the protagonists from Persona 3 and Persona 4. Taking on these fights won’t result in a game over if you lose, and they exist primarily as additional challenges.

The biggest new addition is Kasumi Yoshizawa. While the majority of her story takes place after the events of the main story (she’s the focus of the additional months), she is integrated into the game early, even appearing in the initial tutorial sequence prior to Joker’s capture. I won’t spoil how things play out for her, but I think she’s a cool addition to the cast.

The additional semester of content that comes along with Kasumi is locked behind a new arcana, the Councillor. In order to access it, you need to rank up this arcana. I personally didn’t find this too hard to do, but also I’ve played through the original game (and I looked up online how to access the new content before I started playing P5R so I guess I cheated). Councillor is unlocked pretty early in the story (during the Kamoshida arc, in fact) so there’s plenty of opportunity to level it up (which you’ll need to do by November 18).

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It would have been nice if Royal would let players with complete P5 save files jump straight into the new content, or grant some benefits beyond a few items in a box near the start of the game. Persona 3: FES allowed players to jump into the new The Answer section of the game right off the title screen, so it’s disappointing it’s not an option here.

Persona 5 Royal Edition is, in itself, the best version of the best JRPG of the past five years. It fixes up the battle system to make it much more fun and balanced, it cleans up some of the rough edges, adds some nice quality of life features and, of course, an entire new semester of content. If you don’t already own Persona 5, then you should go out right now and buy P5R. It’s a great game with a huge amount of content (a typical playthrough clocks in at 100 hours for the base game, plus another 30-40 for the added content).

If you already own, and have played through Persona 5, then P5R is a much tougher sell. It’s only available as a full price new game that you’ve already played and you’ll need to go through the entire game again in order to see most of what has been added. That’s fine if you love the original, but this is a 100 hour game and you need to do that just for the additional content you bought. As good as it is, that’s a big ask for anyone who isn’t a huge superfan of the series.


- It's still Persona 5, one of the best JRPGs of this generation
- New battle system is a lot more balanced and fun to play
- More social links and more opportunities to use them
- Kasumi is a cool new addition to the game
- The music is still amazing


- No way to upgrade Persona 5 to P5R, you have to buy the full game again
- No save data transfer between the two games
- Have to play through the entire Persona 5 game again to see the majority of the new content

Overall Score: