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Persona 5 was one of the best games of 2017 and ended up being a huge crossover hit for Atlus, bringing the Shin Megami Tensei franchise at large into the mainstream. Now, they’re trying to recapture that success with the release of Persona 5 Royal, an updated version of the role-playing game. Fortunately for the developers, the enhanced game isn’t just worth playing for newcomers, but it makes the Phantom Thieves worth teaming up with even if you put hundreds of hours into the original release.

The game still follows the exploits of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, led by a teen codenamed Joker (and still given a custom name by the player). The party tries to change society by changing the hearts of twisted adults who are doing harm, from an abusive school teacher to a mafia boss. In order to do this, they travel directly into a world created by the warped desires of these people, known as the Metaverse. Inside the Metaverse they confront the shadow selves of these people, which ends up forcing them to admit their wrongdoing in the real world.

Persona 5 Royal retains the base plot of the original game, but adds plenty of extras. There’s a new member of the Phantom Thieves, Kasumi, plus additional confidants to influence the story’s social elements. The enhanced release adds an entire third semester of gameplay, following the original two that Joker lives through from the first release, which also adds a new storyline, new bosses, and new possible endings.

But it’s a lot of the smaller changes that I really appreciate as a big fan of the original. The game no longer forces you to go to bed to advance the calendar after spending time in the Metaverse – now, you’re limited to what you can do in LeBlanc (the café where Joker lives), but even that allows you to boost your social stats in a way you couldn’t before. It means that you’re spending less time grinding up those social stats, so that you can instead build up your confidant rank. By no longer having evenings totally wasted, the game moves along at a very different pace, and it’s very much for the better.

A lot of the elements of the original game saw a remix of some sort for the Royal release as well. Boss fights that return from the first game won’t play out in exactly the same fashion as before, and there’s the addition of “Will Seeds” that can be found in every dungeon as well, which can be turned into valuable equippable items. Joker now has the ability to use a grappling hook to zip around to new areas of dungeons that weren’t present originally, which incentivizes spending more time in dungeons than you might otherwise would.

One of the highlights of the original game was its music, and the new tracks keep the same acid jazz vibe. There’s a lot of great new songs that have been written for Royal, and fortunately they’ve been folded neatly into the existing soundtrack in a way where they don’t stick out in a weird way. The new battle theme, “Take Over,” is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t overshadow the popular “Last Surprise” at all. They did a really great job at adding music.

My one gripe about the game is that they had the opportunity to fix some of the English voice tracks that were super inconsistent in the original – and they didn’t take it. A big annoyance is that the characters will pronounce “Sakamoto” and “Takamaki” with different emphases (ta-KA-ma-ki versus TA-ka-ma-ki, for example), sometimes within just a couple of lines of each other. It was something that a lot of people pointed out about the original release, so I’m surprised that the voice director didn’t take the opportunity of having the voice cast back in the studio to fix these lines to be consistent.

If you’re a fan of role-playing games and you didn’t play the first release of Persona 5, definitely pick up Royal. And if you enjoyed Persona 5, you should still pick up the rerelease – it’s got enough new content to feel very fresh and the overall quality of life improvements to the game at large make it an overall better experience. The Phantom Thieves continue to steal my heart every time I pick up the controller, and I can’t recommend the game enough.

-Carrie Wood