Breaking Back Into Persona 5 Royal’s Palaces – Hands-On Preview

When an updated version of a game appears, people might wonder exactly how extensive the changes might be. With Persona 5 Royal, we know that means a new semester and new characters, but what about the rest of the experience? Especially since you have to go in with a clean slate, as the save data you had from Persona 5 isn’t going to carry over. But even with a brief trial going over a handful of Persona 5 Royal’s new elements, it is evident how much things have changed.

persona 5 royal preview

Reaching New Heights in Persona 5 Royal

One of the changes adds a new sense of verticality to players’ explorations of different Palaces. These are the dungeons the Phantom Thieves will break into, so they can steal the hearts of those who are corrupt. While there was always a sense of motion and agility, Persona 5 Royal enhances this with a grappling mechanic. When you see obvious cues while exploring a place like Kamoshida’s Castle, such as a ring, you can press L1 to access a new area. Sometimes, this takes you down a new path, such as rappelling to the top of a gazebo, then continuing an upward climb to a tower. It can also help you reach a veranda with a door hidden in ivy, leading to a room with a Will Seed.

Will Seeds are another new element in Persona 5 Royal that people will find from the very start. Kamoshida’s Castle has three, for example. Finding one will restore all of your SP. In the segment I went through, Joker, Skull, Panther, and Mona came across a golden skull that was a red lust seed and helped rejuvenate the crew.

persona 5 royal preview

Kamoshida Has Some New “Minions/Victims”

New mechanics aren’t the only additions early on. We also have things like altered boss battles. Sticking with Kamoshida as an example, he now isn’t alone during his fight. In the original Persona 5, we saw Kamoshida had cognitive versions of the students he terrorized and abused, though in his palace they behaved exactly as he would want them to.

For Persona 5 Royal, his “versions” of Yuuki Mishima and Shiho Suzui show up as part of his Gold Medal Spike attack that would normally hit every member of the party. They become part of the set-up, and defeating the illusory versions of them prevents him from being able to use that attack. (Just like defeating the Trophy of Obsession keeps him from being able to use a move that would restore his health.) It adds a new element of strategy.

persona 5 royal preview

Heading to Kichijoji and Meeting With Kasumi

While much of my time with Persona 5 Royal involved seeing how the new elements influenced experiences from the original game, a little bit of time was spent in Kichijoji, the new location, and with Kasumi, one of the updated game’s new characters. With the former, it was about seeing how different it can be during the day and at night, while the latter provided a hint at the kind of person Kasumi can be.

Kichijoji is interesting, as it is an area that varies greatly depending on when you show up. During the day, it might not be as lively. You could do things like buy gifts for allies, play through a darts minigame, or exchange your sooty armor to turn it into something more useful. But the real fun could come at night. Visiting at night adds more options, like a temple to visit and a cutlet vendor with some legendary food. It’s the sort of place that feels like an actual city location, due to the constant sorts of activities present at all times.

As for Kasumi, the introduction I saw for her showed the sort of scrutiny she’s under. Joker is leaving school when it is rainy and comes across her as she’s about to walk to the station. Thanks to Morgana slipping an umbrella into his bag, it’s possible to spend some time walking with her and sharing it to keep her from getting wet. She seems very upbeat, though also formal and polite, and we quickly learn she has a lot on her plate. Two gymnastic competitions are coming up, and she has to prepare for the prelims. But, she’s also worried about being treated like some “special snowflake” or “VIP” because of her academic and athletic abilities. Especially since people are already extremely critical of her, sniping at her when they see her at the station and making comments about her arriving with Joker.

It seems like Persona 5 Royal is about little things that might help better set the stage and make its world stand out. You’re a Phantom Thief? Well, of course you’d engage in a little parkour. In a boss fight? A little adjustment can make it feel slightly different. The new places and faces also make the world perhaps feel fuller, like there’s more to do. Though, we’ll know for sure soon, as Persona 5 Royal will come to the PlayStation 4 on March 31, 2020.

Persona 5 Royal previewed at an event held by Atlus and Sega. Travel and accommodations were provided.