At an undisclosed time in an undisclosed location, Sega and Atlus took us back to school and brought us to an exclusive hands-on demo for their upcoming release of Persona 5 Royal. Set to release three years after the original Western release, Persona 5 Royal expands upon the rise of The Phantom Thieves. From grappling hooks to new confidants, there's a lot of new content to steal in Persona 5 Royal.
Our hands-on demo consisted of the usual sort of tutorials that served as a refresher to get into Persona 5 Royal, which was certainly handy after having only played the vanilla Persona 5 for review back in 2017. These covered the basics of combat as well as the new grappling hook mechanics. Afterward, we were given three tastes of early content as not to go too deep into spoiler territory: Kamoshida's palace leading up to his updated boss fight, the new Thieves Den feature, and the new Kichijoji social location.
Kamoshida's palace in Persona 5 Royal remains largely similar to that of his first offering. Some of the level design has been reworked to accommodate for the new grappling hook feature which, from the small bit of time that I spent with it, feels rather lacking. It can only be used in specific points throughout the level up finding the right spot to stand and use it was troublesome. Even another colleague that was running through the same demo beside me had a difficult time with getting it to work; in hindsight, we learned afterward that the marker was a few steps away from where we tried to use the grappling hook, so it was our own faults for not having the right environmental awareness.
There were new collectibles scattered throughout Kamoshida's palace: Ishi, which collecting a set of three of these glowing skulls confers a unique accessory later on in the story, and Will Seeds that helped to recover my party's SP. Both gave a small incentive to want to explore more than just the optimal path.
Taking on Kamoshida marked the end of the action part of our hands-on demo for Persona 5 Royal. Down at the bottom of this article is a full run through of the encounter with the lecherous coach, so check it out if you don't mind some light spoilers. This fight offered some new phases to the boss fight and a little more depth than the original fight, so let us know if you can spot any of the changes.
The Kichijoji Shopping District makes up the new hub that players can wander around in when not planning their next heist. This large outdoor shopping mall features important structures like a gateway to the Velvet Room but also a great number of shops and chances to expand your social links with your fellow confidants. If you happen to have a free period and don't plan on taking a deep dive into Mementos or turning in for an early night and heading straight to bed, Kichijoji seems to be a decent place to grow.
Kasumi, Persona 5 Royal's newest party member, was only visible for a few brief moments in our demo. She's already a student of Shujin Academy, much like the main character the many of the other Phantom Thieves of Hearts, so players won't have any problem running into her. If you want to see her new persona and how she fits into the party, you'll have to wait for the full release of Persona 5 Royal to see more.
Most of what's going on in Persona 5 Royal, beyond the obvious addition of Kasumi and new locales, happens under the hood and even veteran players might miss what's new in Royal. The Baton Pass mechanic has been enhanced so that if players can consecutively exploit enemy weaknesses, they can chain together passes. Each time a player passes the baton to another party member, they gain additional effects beyond simply increased damage. Other items, like new enemies and weapons, are present throughout the entire game, and with new enemies also means new Personas for the main character to collect.
For those that want more of the lore and less of the combat, the Thieves Den is a new addition to Persona 5 Royal. This social hub is a showcase of past achievements and trials. By defeating bosses and progressing through the story, players can outfit this room with unlockables, such as artwork, models, music and more, all purchased with a unique form of in-game currency. Players can also engage in a friendly game of Tycoon with their fellow Thieves.
Persona 5 Royal, a fully-expanded version of Persona 5, will be available in North America on March 31st, 2019 as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. Because of all of the new changes that exist throughout the story, save data is unfortunately not compatible with Royal, nor will there be bonuses to carry over if you already completed the original game. On the bright side, there is a completely new trophy list if you're looking for that sort of challenge. And best of all, Persona 5 Royal will have less of Morgana's constant nagging and telling you to go to bed.