The boys and girls of Persona 5 were always very good. I loved spending time with them all during my run through the original game—Ann, Makoto, Morgana, Yusuke, Futaba, Haru, and even Ryuji. In a game that's based nearly entirely around socialising with allies to increase your bond with them, you damn well better love at least half the cast, or Persona 5 definitely isn't the game for you.
That said, I always wondered what my friends were doing when I wasn't hanging around with them. In Persona 5's "free periods," you can choose to spend your time with anyone you wish. You'll find all of your friends hanging around Tokyo, waiting for you to interact with them. Ryuji's chilling in the school after hours (for some reason); Makoto's hanging out by the library; Ann's in the underground mall... you get the idea.
Everyone knows what happens when you choose to spend time with your allies. You'll have a perfectly pleasant conversation with them, casually delving into the demons that are haunting them, and basically advancing their own side story. But when you're not with them, it's like they don't exist. I don't have a clue what Ann or Makoto do when you're not hanging around with them. I imagine Ryuji holes up in his room playing games 24/7 (or doing other stuff, considering how agitated he always is), but it's never explicitly stated what any of the side characters of Persona 5 do when you're not spending time with them.
Persona 5 Royal, an expanded version of the game due later this month, changes this quite a bit. A big new addition to the turn-based battle system in the re-release are the "Showtime" attacks, flashy combos that can potentially do major damage. You're introduced to them through two of your friends meeting up, entirely independently from you; a pleasant surprise since this has basically never occurred with any meaningful consequence in any past Persona game.
When these two allies of yours meet up, let's take Ann and Morgana for example, they discuss how they can amp up their battle tactics. One basically pitches the other on a "super cool move" they can both do together. Naturally the other person might be a bit skeptical at first (I'd be skeptical too if Ryuji had some bold new battle plan), but after some brief discussion, they agree to try it out.
It's the planning phase that I love most about Showtime attacks. They're just two friends meeting up to plan out a special Showtime attack without you having to do anything. There's no specific way to kick off or delay the planning at all. Your friends meet entirely of their own volition.
What takes place next is extravagant, flashy, and comedic all at once. At an entirely random point in a battle, if you've put those two allies on your team at the same time, they'll signal that they're ready for the Showtime attack to commence. Hit the touchpad on the DualShock 4, and the entire screen switches to a brand new setup—think of it like an impromptu stage play in the middle of a fight. Morgana is the perfect gentleman, offering Lady Ann a bouquet of flowers, from which she pulls out two uzis and blasts the enemy away, before Morgana lobs a massive bomb for added measure. It's equal parts glorious and hilarious the first time you see it, mainly because you've got to imagine the enemy just sat there for a good five seconds while the whole charade took place in front of them.
There are different Showtime attack outcomes for different pairings. For example, Yusuke and Ryuji's Showtime has the former serving up a delicious bowl of ramen, and the latter being interrupted in eating it by the enemy they're fighting, causing Ryuji to fly into a rage and destroy them with a shotgun. Thinking about these more just makes them fall apart—why is the enemy content to let this scene play out? Where do your friends get all these props from?—but it's nonetheless a wonderfully whimsical pause in the otherwise pretty standard turn-based battles.
Looking at these Showtime attacks on a deeper level, they finally give characters a little bit of agency independent from the omnipresent protagonist. If you don't interact with Ryuji after school, he'll seemingly never do anything meaningful over the course of the game. His side story won't blossom into the more complicated tale it's meant to be, and his battle stats won't increase since you've neglected to level up his Social Confidant link.
The characters of Persona 5 grow largely because you allow them to grow. It's you who elects to dedicate your time to them, seeing their stories through by opting to respond to their text messages, or by meeting them at their dedicated hangout spot. The cast of Persona 5, as amazing and layered as they all are, suffer for this. The Showtime attacks finally show that they might actually have a life outside of hanging out with you.
I would've loved to have seen this for past Persona games. I can imagine Ken and Akihiko in Persona 3 would've had an amazing friendship outside of the main circle of friends; delving into how they could both put their different moves to work in launching one seamless assault. Maybe Chie and Yukiko of Persona 4 could meet up somewhere in Inaba to hash out a special attack that melds Chie's brutal kicks and Yukiko's flashy fan.
All of this makes Persona 5 Royal's Showtime attacks a pleasant addition to the game's combat. They finally make the characters feel independent of the protagonist, and that's a surprisingly big factor in making the world around you feel less reactive and more proactive. I love all of Persona 5 Royal's characters for who they are (except Akechi). Seeing them finally have lives of their own is wonderful.