Persona 5 and its updated re-release Persona 5: Royal were one of the best JRPGS of the last generation. It was also the game that finally propelled the Shin Megami spin-off franchise into mainstream attention, quickly becoming the highest-selling Persona game to date. The release of Persona 5 Strikers, a hybrid of the Dynasty Warriors and Persona is an impressive game that leverages the best of what both these mega franchises offer.
AT A GLANCE
TITLE: Persona 5 Strikers
GENRE: Action, Adventure, RPG
PLATFORMS: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4(Reviewed), Microsoft Windows
RELEASE DATE: February 23rd, 2021
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
One of the first questions that come to mind is, do I need to have played Persona 5 first? And the answer is not that simple: it is not required but you will definitely appreciate the story more if you did. Persona 5 Strikers is a sequel to the original Persona 5, it doesn’t take into account the events of Royal.
The story starts off with a reunion of the phantom thieves and plans for a camping trip. Of course, things quickly take a different direction, and it’s up to the Phantom Thieves once again to reform society. The story is surprisingly deep for a Musou game and retains the narrative excellence that the original Persona 5 had. Palaces are now replaced with jails, rulers are now called Monarchs and they are capable of brainwashing the masses. The story deals with a lot of problems that modern society faces, much like its predecessor, and has the characters are all well fleshed out.
As a standalone story though, I feel its a bit lacking and not at all friendly towards newcomers. The original cast returns, along with a few new faces, and a few ones missing but the game never explains the relationships that these characters had. As a result their chemistry might feel a bit lacking to newcomers, but to people who have played the original, this is a chance to see their favorite characters interact once again. The game does a great job at not spoiling the original games for those who haven’t played it yet, but I think it still relies on people having played the prequel in order to enjoy the story to the fullest extent.
The story takes about 40 hours to complete, and the pacing is great for the majority of the game with a bit of slowdown here and there. There’s plenty of action mixed with slice of life sequences brought to life with Personas gorgeous art style. The story is very dialogue-heavy, with some sequences lasting upwards of 15 or 20 minutes, but it never became a slog thanks to the humorous writing.
The option to alternate between English and Japanese dubs return, with both performances being excellent. I normally don’t recommend using English dubs in a JRPG because they tend to become cringe and overdramatic, but the cast of Persona 5 does a fantastic job.
Unlike its prequel, Persona 5 Strikers does not have turn-based combat, instead, it features real-time hack and slash gameplay. Elements of Persona games are still retained, with the game pausing time whenever you cast a skill with your persona, as well as the return of all-out attacks and showtime attacks. Unlike typical Musou games, the map isn’t littered with trash mobs either, instead, it features single shadows that you can attack, turning the surrounding area into a mini battlefield with multiple enemies. This hybrid approach makes the gameplay feel fresh for players of both franchises.
Defeating these mobs sometimes drop masks, which allow you to wield the power of that persona. You are still able to fuse multiple personas together to get a new persona, although this feature and other benefits offered by the Velvet room has been significantly cut down. For those of you who aren’t aware, wielding a persona allows you to use their unique elemental skills, and each persona has its own strengths and weaknesses. Think Pokemon but instead of cute and cuddly critters, you have mythological gods and demons that manifest as the personalities of mankind.
Every persona has an element that they are weaker to, and this can be exploited to get an all-out attack, which deals bonus damage. You can also get an all-out attack by surprising your enemies, therefore encouraging you to be stealthy like the Phantom thieves are supposed to be. But all of this also applies to you, so being aware and adapting to the situation is critical to winning battles.
Defeating mobs gets you XP and money, and sometimes items. The higher you level up, the more HP and SP you, as well as wielding more powerful personas. Money can be used to buy better gear and items to help you out with battles.
This is where you notice that Persona 5 Strikers maintains most of the Persona 5 DNA, because the battles will retain a large part of their essence. In this sense, all our opponents will have their own resistances and weaknesses to different types, so even a fire attack takes away too much life, but an ice attack will hardly even notice it. Luckily Futaba will constantly help us to know these important details, so it will not be worth choosing any group of Phantom Thieves (up to a maximum of four) because his thing is to carry a varied team and that they understand each other enough.
In terms of the physical combat itself, Persona 5 Strikers is faithful to its musou DNA with weak and strong blows along with special attacks that can be combined to perform different types of special combos to wreak havoc on opponents. In addition to this, performing attacks also fills up your showtime gauge which can then be used to unleash a devastatingly stylish attack on the enemy. Swapping characters is also a breeze with the baton pass, and each character has their own unique combat style.
The game has a very decent difficulty and never gets overwhelming even on higher difficulties except for the later stages. There is also no clock ticking down your neck, so you can freely navigate in and out of the jails whenever you want. There’s not a lot to do outside of jails, however, but there is still quite a bit of a new city to explore and vendors to visit. Unlike Persona 5 and Royal which allowed you to approach your objectives in a nonlinear manner, Strikers follows a fixed linear path, and will not advance the timeline until you do a certain objective. Over time you will unlock new gameplay elements such as cooking and bonds – which replaces the confidants system with a more simplified upgrade system.
The Jails are enormous and you will be spendings hours locked in them until you complete the objectives. Each jail is unique in flavor and style, and similar to Persona 5, features a handcrafted approach, thus making them more interesting than a simple generic battlefield.
There are puzzles to solve, 2D platforming sequences, and even terminals that Oracle will have to hack, turning into a sort of horde mini segment.
Requests also return but are slightly different from the original game. The objectives vary from beating an X number of enemies to using a specific skill to defeat an enemy, rewarding you with various items.
Visuals, Audio and Technical Performance
I played Persona 5 Strikers on the PS4, and it performed surprisingly well, with a fixed 60 FPS with barely any noticeable drops. On top of that, there is almost zero compromise in terms of visual fidelity, at least not that I can notice, so I am really impressed with this performance.
Persona 5 Strikers follows the same art style that has now become an iconic representation of the series. Stylish and colorful visuals, mixed with smooth animations bring the world of Persona 5 Strikers to life. Anime-style cutscenes help in bringing that feeling of playing an immersive anime series to life.
Regarding the soundtrack, a good number of songs return from the original, which is not a complaint because they were so fantastic the last time around. There’s a couple of remixes and totally new songs too, and you can even select which soundtrack you want to play during battles if you have already played Persona 5 and Royal.