This has been a long time coming, but I’ve finally had the time to give impressions for Persona 5 Strikers. Every time I felt like I was ready to write this review, something else came up, pushing this review back further. While our own killatia already provided his thoughts, we wanted to give a second opinion for this interesting sequel. Better late than never, right?
Persona 5 Strikers is the result of a collaboration from Atlus’ P-Studio and Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force. Taking the familiar gameplay of Omega Force’s “warriors” style musou games, the two studios crafted a sequel to 2016’s Persona 5. This unfortunately means it leaves out 2020’s Persona 5 Royal, excluding the additional content and characters from that game. Even though we don’t see Kasumi, we do at least get humanity’s companion in the form of Sophia. Despite the change in gameplay, it’s surprising to say that this is still very much a Persona game.
Taking place during the summer following the events of Persona 5, our protagonist returns to Tokyo to visit his friends. Having a Phantom Thieves reunion, new occurrences begin to emerge all over Japan that interrupts the friendly summer vacation. These events involve similar situations to the corrupted individuals in the first game, but now the newly affected individuals seek the desires of those around them using a new app called Emma. When the people of Japan see the effects, they instantly suspect the Phantom Thieves, putting the team in hot water. With the app somehow linked to the Metaverse, our heroes investigate these new occurrences to clear their names. They’ll even have a couple new allies along the way.
In Persona 5, players will explore Palaces, but for Persona 5 Strikers, they explore Jails. Jails are very similar, as they are created by the cognition of those stealing desires. They represent that person and their own goals, all while pulling people in to steal their desires. While mostly the same, Jails do have one major difference from Palaces: the ability to revisit them. With Palaces, players have to explore them with the little time they have. Jails, on the other hand, provide much more freedom (ironically), and even replayability with additional missions and treasures to find. Unfortunately, they’re also much more repetitive, especially compared to the updated Palaces in Royal.
Repetition is a little more common in Persona 5 Strikers. You see, unlike the turn-based combat players have come to love in the main games, Strikers now takes a real-time hack ‘n slash approach. This is expected for a game from Omega Force, and though the combat has players taking out hordes of Shadows, it still manages to to inject enough Persona elements into it. One of the biggest differences is how fights actually start. Unlike your typical musou game, where enemies are wandering around in groups for you to battle, Strikers separates these fights into smaller affairs. You’ll actually be able to start fights with stealth like the main games, giving you an advantage as it breaks out into a larger group.
With this style of combat, the easiest way to mix things up is to change characters. Players can form a party of four characters, able to switch between them at will. Joker himself can still collect multiple Personas to change up his abilities as well. Baton Pass returns as a feature, as switching between characters can activate special effects in the heat of battle. Each character will have normal attacks as well as unique special attacks to utilize. On top of that, they’ll have their firearms to make use of and even their skills (essentially the magic of Persona). After fighting for a bit, they’ll also charge up their Showtime Attack, which is a powerful move that deals devastating damage. If you manage to stun an enemy, you’ll even be able to activate an All-Out Attack, just like in Persona 5.
It’s actually pretty impressive how this game still plays mostly like a Persona game. Sure, the combat is different, but it’s only in execution. Players will fight with shadows they find roaming the map, but now they have to deal with bigger groups and different targeting rules. You’ll still have buffs and debuffs, weaknesses to exploit, resistances to worry about. Unfortunately, due to the added amount of enemies and actions on screen, it can be hard to keep up with everything. Using skills helps to slow things down, but it can be easy to lose track of all the different intricacies of battle. Overall, it works, but it may have been better to simplify the combat a bit further.
Outside of combat is where the game really shows its Persona foundation. Players will still explore cities to gather information, shop, and live life like a normal teenager. It breaks up the action sequences just as much as they do in the main games. While it’s nice to have your social life, it does affect the pacing of the game, especially for those going in expecting a simple hack ‘n slash. It does however give players plenty to do, as they can purchase recipes, find collectibles, and even have conversations with your friends. On top of this, there’s side quests available that players can get great rewards from completing.
While the social links are not available, the game still offers a bond system of sorts. Strengthening your bond with your fellow Phantom Thieves earns points to spend on skills and upgrades. These range from increasing specific stats, improving mask drop rates, earning additional money and more. While talking with various characters, certain responses and actions will have a better effect than others. You’ll want to pay attention to the dialogue if you want to fully master your bond skills. Of course, fighting alongside your allies will also help to increase these levels.
Eventually, you’ll also get the ability to cook for your team. This not only provides great items for the field, but increases your bond with various characters. Shopping around for recipes is just one more additional option for the game. Of course, when you’re not shopping for recipes, you can take advantage of Sophia’s shop for new gear. While a lot of fan favorite characters aren’t here, there are at least a lot of new characters to enjoy. Plus, we still get the fantastic chemistry of the Phantom Thieves together once again. Best of all, there’s no longer a limit to what you can do in a day. You’re free to do as much as you want as long as the option is available.
Visually, the game does feel like a slight step back from Persona 5 Royal. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad looking game, but it feels less crisp and refined. Despite this, we get a bevy of visual flair and effects that still make it a wonderful spectacle. The various Jails also get pretty creative aesthetics that still make them different from the Palaces of the previous games. Unfortunately, some areas do use similar visuals, which again brings up the repetitive nature. We also have some occasional slowdown when things get extremely busy (and they will). Even so, the overall style of the game is still fantastic thanks to the amazing artwork by Shigenori Soejima.
As far as presentation goes, Persona 5 Strikers is still among the top of its class. We get top notch voice acting from both the Japanese and English cast (who recorded from the safety of their homes during the pandemic). It’s great that we get more from Xander Mobus, who voices Joker, even if it’s only slightly more. The music is once again fantastic, bringing back old favorites as well as several new tracks. Many of the Jail songs fit nicely and really complete their respective themes. Lyn Inaizumi also returns to perform for multiple new songs, delivering hit after hit once again.
Overall, it’s incredible to see how much of Persona is retained in Persona 5 Strikers. This truly is a sequel, even with the gameplay changes in effect. Sure, we can actually take our time now, but many of the core themes and ingredients of Persona 5 carry on to Strikers. While things can definitely get busy, it’s great to get another grand adventure with the Phantom Thieves. If you’re a fan of the original game and want to see the story continue, then this is definitely worth picking up. In any case, this is easily the least musou game of musou games.
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