Thoughts on Persona 5 Royal

So as I outlined in my vacation update, I played through an entire run of Persona 5 Royal.  It took me about 92 hours — according to the save file — and my original runs of Persona 5 tended to take me about 80 hours.  The difference, then, maps neatly to the extra time I spent on one day thinking that, hey, the new palace wouldn’t take that long and I should be done before I wanted to go to sleep (which, of course, didn’t happen).  I was glad to play it and glad to finish it.  Again, unlike Dragon Age Inquisition, I thought at the end of it that I’d like to play it again, but also unlike Persona 5 I quickly realized that there was no way I could possibly start a new game immediately, given my schedule and the fact that, well, it would take me 92 hours to play through.  So I liked it and wouldn’t mind playing it again, but find that I can’t play it again.

I’m going to talk about the game in three parts.  This part will talk about what new things Royal adds, if Royal is worth getting if you already have Persona 5, and some general comments on the Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal gameplay that struck me while I was playing.  The next part will talk about the new character/S-link that was added in Yoshizawa and how her S-link and her link to the new palace worked out, and the last part will talk about the new palace and the new character/S-link that drives that one.

So, first, let me comment one the elements that mean that replaying Persona 5 Royal will not work in my new schedule but worked out really well in my longer vacation time.  The first is that the game took me about four weeks with five four or five hour sessions a week.  So I played it for about 20 hours a week to get through that.  On my new schedule, I only have about 10 hours a week, and so to finish it would take me at least 2 months if not more to finish … and that’s if I didn’t play anything else in that time.  So as I’ve wondered before the sheer length of the game seems to make it more difficult to replay, even as them adding more elements and S-links makes it more desirable to replay the game.  The second is that it is difficult to fit a session where you feel that progress is being made in the two to three hour sessions I’d have as opposed to the four or five hour sessions.  To do a palace will take at least that (I rushed through them and tended to get one palace done in a session).  To do a Mementos run to clear a new area and clear off requests easily takes that long.  And the time in-between finishing a palace — if you finish it as quickly as possible as I tend to do — and the story advancing can take about that long, especially if you clear the initial story elements and so take it up to the beginning of the palace.  To try to do pretty much any of that in two hours is simply not going to work, so for me I’d either have to take another day to finish the palaces than I normally would or else would have to save at a save point and continue the palace and Mementos the next day.

I could do that, of course, but then I don’t particularly care for the dungeons and combat parts of the Persona series.  I see them as necessary evils that I need to get through so that I can get on with the story, the S-links, and even the activities.  So as I noticed when playing Persona 3, if I don’t get a palace or section finished in one session and need a second session to get through it I don’t look forward to the next session.  The ideal, then, is for me to get through those sections in one session and then spend the next session advancing the story and S-links.  This is the approach I could take during my vacation here and it worked really well, as it allowed me to define my sessions around what I wanted to accomplish in that session — finish the palace, do a Mementos run, get to the palace — and so it gave me a reason to keep playing until I hit that accomplishment but also a reason to stop for the day.

Now, what we’ve seen in Persona 5 is that each individual element has gotten more advanced and more detailed (and Royal adds things to each area).  This, then, is a bit of an issue for me because what seem to be two of the main elements here are ones that I don’t care for.  The palace model is the evolution of the dungeon gameplay where we have personal dungeons that have very specific final bosses and layouts, and so can accommodate more puzzles and more cutscenes that advance the story.  Mementos, then, takes on more of the random combat where you fulfill requests and recruit new Personas (although in Persona 5 it seems like you could get all of them in the palace and had no need to recruit the ones in Mementos), and also provides a place where you can grind XP if you end up being a bit underleveled or a bit poor in terms of either money or equipment, or if you really, really like the combat and want to play it more than the open world stuff.  This leaves the life simulator section, encompassing the S-links and the activities, all of which are used to advance your Social Stats.  And all of these are mandatory.  You cannot advance the story until you finish a palace, but you have to go through the open world sections — at least the class sessions — to get to the palaces.  Even though you could technically grind Mementos every afternoon and never touch the S-links, the S-links and activities are too useful to the palace and Mementos sections to ignore, giving bonuses to Persona fusion and adding useful items and abilities to use in the palaces and in Mementos (the coffee and curry, for example, from Sojiro’s S-link can allow you to grind dungeons longer by restoring SP, and most of the S-links now have abilities that are directly useful in palaces).  And you have to finish Mementos to proceed to the ending.  So three elements that are lengthy and detailed that you nevertheless are required to spend a lot of time on to complete the game.  As these get more and more detailed, more and more time and effort is spent on them, which makes it bad if you don’t like one or more of them but really, really like one of them.  And each of them are indeed fairly unique, and so if there’s one aspect that you really like but can’t stand the others, you aren’t likely to be able to just go and find another game that only has the aspects that you like.

And they’ve added quite a bit of detail to these things in Royal.  In the palaces, you have a new tool, the grappling hook, which is used to get you from place to place — and so also to complete the palace — and also to pick up things like treasure chests and the new Will Seeds.  It also can be used to add to your ability to ambush enemies by catching them from a longer distance than you could normally (once an S-link advances sufficiently far).  Will Seeds themselves are desirable because they restore small amounts of SP — which can thus allow you to continue a run in a palace where you couldn’t before — and once you find all of them they combine into a useful item that can be upgraded in Mementos (more on that later).

In terms of combat, Royal made guns more useful by making it so that you don’t have a set amount of ammunition for an entire session, but instead have a set amount per battle.  While this makes groups of enemies who are all vulnerable to gunfire trivial, it does mean that you can, well, actually use guns in palaces and in Mementos as a regular strategy.  They also added exploding monsters, which are monsters that won’t attack you unless you attack them, but if you attack them and don’t target their weakness they will immediately attack you, but if you kill them they will explode and distribute the damage you did to them to all the remaining enemies.  While I played on “Easy” which would make things, well, easier, it was a useful strategy to target them with their weaknesses and if that finished them you’d usually wipe the board, and if it didn’t you could use a Baton Pass to power someone else up — often with physical attacks — and then attack them again and get them to explode and wipe the board.  In fact, one hilarious sequence that happened more than once was that I targeted an exploding monster, hit its weakness, and then passed the baton to Ann who did fire attacks on everyone, one of whom was healed by fire, who then had the scripted reaction to laugh … and then the exploding one exploded, taking it out.

In terms of Mementos, the big thing that was added as far as I can recall — other than the combat changes — was flowers and Jose.  You can go around in Mementos gathering flowers as well as items and when you come across the strange kid Jose you can trade the flowers to him for items.  There are also stamp stations added — there’s always one at each level exit, and some in other places on a level as well — and when you collect enough to them you can trade them for things like more XP or more money or more items from encounters in Mementos.  Given that my main strategy is to win through massive overleveling and that I’m always cash poor, I put all of my stamps into increasing XP and money.  Did it have an impact?  I didn’t pay enough attention to say for sure, but I will note that I was in general overleveled for everything without any real grinding, so it may well have had an impact.  Anyway, the other thing he does is convert the item you get from collecting all three Will Seeds into a new and more powerful item that you can then use, making a link between him and the palaces.

In terms of the everyday world sections, as usually they added more activities and added more to the activities.  There are more batting cage machines than there were in the original game.  There are three new S-links that you have to directly manage — Akechi, Yoshizawa, and Maruki — and that play an important role in the new palace and epilogue to the story.  Oh, yeah, and they added a new palace and story that also includes a Mementos run and took me about 12 hours to finish.  There are new shops for you to explore as well (supposedly there’s a maid cafe somewhere that I never managed to find).  And the original activities and places to go are, as far as I can tell, still there.

I did manage to explore some new places as part of this run.  One of them was the new jazz bar, which Akechi takes you to during his S-link and that you can take your team mates to afterwards.  If you do so, you get a conversation with them — that I think mostly repeats — that will alter the stats of them and their Personas in good ways.  The one that’s the more interesting to me, however, is the sports bar, where you can go in and play billiards or darts with your team mates.  If you play billiards, it gives you a boost to one of your stats and brings you closer to them (meaning that it will help advance their S-links), but it’s just a scene and you don’t actually get to play.  If you play darts, you actually get to play darts with your team mates.  Now, I used to watch darts when it was on TV and the game is remarkably similar to that, and at least on Easy your team mates are actually pretty good when it comes to their turn.  It also has a real benefit, as it gets you closer with your team mates but also levels up their Baton Pass to various levels to give them more damage and some SP recovery.  There’s only about two levels to level it up to — at least at the base level, as there’s supposedly a book out there in a sports shop that maybe can do more, but I could never find that shop — but it does seem to have an impact on the game.  And for the most part, I actually really enjoyed playing the darts game, and it’s an incredibly good mini game for a game like this.

The thing about the mini games for me is that there are a number of them that I like playing — the batting cages, the darts, and I think I would have liked the fishing game if I had had the time to actually play it — but I don’t really seem to have the spare cycles to do that.  In any new game — as my first game of Royal had to be — I always have to spend time building my Social Stats, and while the mini games can do that they aren’t usually the most efficient way to do so.  Plus, there are always a lot of S-links that I’d want to get that doing the mini games would stop me from getting.  The Persona series is really starting to suffer from having way too much going on and forcing the player into tough choices about how to spend their time.  That wouldn’t be a problem except that they keep making the things have different benefits for the other part of the game and so the choice is less about what the player would rather do and more about the benefits that will have to their game, which works against the model of the game that I like best of someone going through their life doing what they want to do and hanging out with who they want to.

That being said, Royal adds a number of new things, including an extra twelve hour epilogue and new S-links and activities.  Even though it was a full priced game, that’s pretty much the Persona model and Royal definitely adds as much to the game as the others did.  I’d say that it’s worth it even if someone has already bought Persona 5.  It’s not a new game, but there’s enough new things interspersed between the original events that it doesn’t feel like you’re just playing the old game all over again.

2 Responses to “Thoughts on Persona 5 Royal”

  1. Persona 5 Royal: Yoshizawa | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] as promised in my post talking about Persona 5 Royal in general, I’m going to pull out the two biggest additions and talk about them in detail.  This time […]

  2. Abandoning “Hearts of Iron” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] it just didn’t work.  A big part of that was that I made a mistake in my scheduling.  When I played Persona 5 Royal the same way, I had a very set schedule for my mornings where I knew when I’d quit and so knew that I […]

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