Persona 5 Royal Review: One of the Most Captivating Games We Have Ever Played

Sometimes games come along that, despite their quality, just don't capture you in the way they've managed to capture others, though it can be difficult to nail down why. That was certainly the case for me regarding the original Persona 5, and I can thankfully say that those issues have all but been eliminated in Atlus' new edition Persona 5 Royal. The game's best elements are allowed to shine because of the varied and incredibly effective changes, though Persona 5 has also been further enriched thanks to new additions to the game's battle system and overall experience that will delight both fans new and old.

At first glance, not much has changed, especially during the opening hour of the game, which still takes its sweet time in introducing you to the day-to-day flow of gameplay, the game's first target, and the break down of Palaces. The forward and auto functions help get through some of the exposition, and while the opening could have been tightened up further to get players into that flow sooner (looking at you, flash-forwards), that's one of the game's few missteps.

Once Morgana is in the picture, the pace picks up considerably, as Atlus' improvements pick up the pace. You are now allowed to utilize your evening time to build up your affinities far more in the early going, and every hangout with a confidant nets you points during the hangout and in a phone call after, building up your Guts, Knowledge, Kindness, and far more quickly. Those extra points come in twos and threes more often than not, which In turn allows you to further your relationships with your team quite a bit more right out of the gate. Barriers like kindness (Takamaki) or guts (Airsoft) aren't as much of a roadblock this time around, and it helps you get to the rhythm and flow that is the real meat of the game in a timelier fashion.

The improvements don't stop there, though. The initial palace was a slog in the first game, especially once you get to the tower, but the new addition of the grappling hook keeps the player moving forward with a sense of momentum that was missing the first time around and removes some of the unnecessary grinding. Granted, if you do want to search the whole castle, there's extra incentive now, as each one has three Will Seeds to find that you can turn in for a sweet bonus.

Once you're in the palaces, you not only get new enemies but also some tweaks to the already stellar combat. Baton Pass is available right at the start, while ammo now automatically reloads after every battle. Additions to the Persona Fusion system mean you'll find new Personas to capture and new traits that will affect future fusions, resulting in new abilities in battle as well. Plus, many of the bosses you encounter have received brand-new abilities or elements that organically tie into the story, like Kamoshida's usage of the Volleyball team in his grotesque final from or Madarame's counterfeit abilities that prove to be his strength and his weakness all at once.

In fact, that's the best part of Persona 5 Royal, as the changes and additions Atlus made are woven into the story seamlessly. The new area of Kichijoji opens up new stores and options for your characters, but feels like a natural extension of the world and not at all tacked on. The same can be said of the new characters, who appear early on without feeling shoehorned in. Kasumi Yoshizawa and Takuto Maruki are natural fits for this team and world and allow us to get to know the original cast in a brand-new way, while also feeling fully developed in their own right, and after meeting them you will be glad they made the trip along with the original crew.

Other updates include the Thieves Den, an NPC named "Jose" who opens up new items in Mementos and more, but all of this doesn't mean anything without the addictive social interactions and combat of the original, and, thankfully, Persona 5 Royal has that in spades. Joker, Ryuji, Ann, Morgana, Yusuke, and the rest of the crew all have their moments in the sun as individuals, but you love them even more as they grow, evolve, and interact with each other through this at times surreal but always rewarding adventure.

Persona 5 Royal truly captures all the promise of the original while adding so much more to the mix, and is easily one of the most rewarding, captivating, and enjoyable gaming experiences I've had in some time. Few games have ever hooked me as much as Persona 5 Royal, and if you weren't sold the first time around, do yourself a favor and give Royal a chance to floor you, because it most certainly will.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Persona 5 Royal is available for the PlayStation 4 now. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.