Persona 5 Royal is certainly different from Persona 5, but perhaps not different enough

Opinion, Video Games

Day 7 of the Write A Stupid Thing Every Day, or W.A.S.T.E.D, quarantine challenge that I’ve imposed on myself.

By: William Chandler

I lucked out and didn’t play Persona 4 until Golden had released on the Vita. I say lucked out not because Persona 4 is a markedly worse game than Golden, but because the changes made to such a great game are something that I would most certainly feel compelled to see. This approach to releasing a (finger quotes) definitive edition of Persona games, with more content and fleshed out side stories, years after the release of the original, began with Persona 3 Portable. I can very easily imagine someone making this very same complaint then, followed by someone newer to the series making this complaint for Persona 4 Golden. Here I am, many years later, making the very same complaint about Persona 5 Royal. That complaint being: Persona 5 was a great game and Persona 5 Royal is ever so slightly better.

Not much of a complaint, eh? It’s true that more of a great thing is always welcome but, in a world where your time is ever so limited, can it be hard to justify another 100-plus hour excursion into a world you’ve already experienced? Of course. Am I doing it anyway? Sadly, yes. I am replaying what is essentially the same game, this time with much of the wonder sanded down to an almost facile routine of familiarity. The overall story is as it was before but with some bolted on extensions here and there, fleshing out the characters more and adding some new characters to support the existing cast. At my current point, around halfway through the base Persona 5 content, there is already enough involvement with new characters and mechanics to keep me invested. The new guidance councilor confidant is great and fits in exquisitely with the pre-existing narrative, but I’m not as convinced by the new freshman girl yet. I hear she gets a lot more screen time in the epilogue that is exclusive to Royal. They’ve also gone and added a lot to Akechi’s role as a confidant which was very needed the first time around.

It’s a funny thing. I am happy to see more content added to a game I really loved, but this act of revisitation to a story that already felt complete, flaws and all, feels a bit like I’m needlessly dredging up the past. It is an act of reliving nostalgia that is both soothing and mildly unhealthy. Overwriting memories of the original in favor of something new and shiny. My version of the Persona 5 protagonist in Royal has his shit considerably more together this time around, after all. But, I suppose, if I had the ability to go back and make changes, however small, to a time in my own life I felt was flawed, I’m sure I would do it.