Game Reviews

Persona 5 Strikers Review

The Phantom Thieves are back.

by Victor Vellas

Spin-off titles are not something new or revolutionary, even if taken out of famous IPs and franchises, like the 2017 title Persona 5. What feels unique and interesting though, is when the spin-off and sequel factors merge together, in a great mix of old, new, and weird. I’m saying weird due to how fascinating a change can be, when redesigning the formula of a turn-based RPG to make it a fast paced hack ‘n’ slash game, with Musou-like elements. Persona 5 Strikers is the result of such a blend, continuing the events of Persona 5, 6 months after everything took place over to that story.

Old faces, new story, new mechanics.

Persona 5 Strikers is a true continuation to Persona 5’s story, making it odd that a ‘2’ wasn’t implemented into its title. You visit some of the same areas, talk to the same people, even fighting the same type of Shadows. However, there is a certain something that players will very soon notice. The lack of certain characters and events from Persona 5 Royal. This entry was the definitive edition of its predecessor, so why Strikers scrapped a lot of that game’s content? That is because Strikers is a true sequel to Persona 5, but not Royal’s. The ‘spin-off’ and the complete edition were in development the same time, therefore the team of Strikers went ahead and followed the original game’s story, as they didn’t have any picture yet of Royal’s new additions. Hence, characters like Kasumi who played a vital role in Royal’s story, being absent from Persona 5 Strikers. Don’t worry though, we do have some new faces here in this adventure, both for story’s sake and playable as well.

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With that out of the way, let us first see what exactly is Persona 5 Strikers. In essence, it’s a big reunion celebration, and a good one that is. The Phantom Thieves are all back in town, not for stealing hearts though, as they simply got together for a summer vacation. One thing brought another, and there they go being in the Metaverse again. This time around though, they are thrown into Jails (the equivalent of this game’s dungeons) and face against Monarchs who steal inner desires, instead of Palaces and the likes. While the ‘dungeons’ are different, the structure and aesthetics of these small universes are very close to what Persona 5 offered in the past.

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The biggest change Strikers brought though, is of course the new battle system we mentioned above. When the game was first announced and showcased, it looked like it’s going to be a full blown Musou game, in the likes of Dynasty Warriors and Hyrule Warriors. While this was ‘kind of’ true, this entry could better be characterized as an arena action-RPG, with Musou vibes. That’s an odd blend, indeed, but believe it or not it works well. In fact, way better than someone could think of. Alongside the new battle mechanics, some features that made the franchise famous are partially gone, with some new ones making their debut. We’ll talk about these a little bit later.

In Persona 5’s steps, Strikers looks, feels and sounds exceptionally good.

If someone was asked to describe Persona 5 in one word, that word would be stylish. Bright colors, fancy cutscenes, eccentric looks for any superficial content in the game, everything is back in Persona 5 Strikers. There isn’t a single spot in the screen that is not occupied with some sort of peculiar design or colorful touch.

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The menus are oozing with personality and character movement in both the menu and the world itself is truly charismatic. Each playable characters is as vibrant and joyful as it gets, with everyone being distinct enough to provide something new on the table. To be honest, after I was playing the game for a while I really thought I was still in the same world of Persona 5, but with enough new flair to not make it feel as a DLC pack. For the developers to stay that truthful to the original source, but make Strikers such a new and unique experience, is something really kudos-worthy and their efforts need an applause.

That said, there is a minor drawback to this. Until you progress enough to the story, everything is actually too much of the same. Various NPCs of the old are back, the areas you visited before need to be re-visited again (although not that thoroughly), and so on. The early stages of the game do really feel like you are playing an extended version of Persona 5, but thankfully that changes after the first chapters.

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In regards to sound and music now, expect nothing less from the unbelievably catchy tunes of the first game, with new OST and remixes of old soundtracks feeling equally as good. The Jails of each chapter have eerie and quirky themes, truly making you feel the vibes of the  isolated mini-universies that co-exist with the real world. That is until you jump into battle, where more aggressive beats kick in, readying you for the upcoming fight. Icing on the cake are the Boss’ themes that are absolutely fitting for each bad guy respectively. Some feel like you are inside a haunted roller coaster, with others sounding as all hell’s ready to break loose. Of course the game’s sound effects of skills, animations and the likes are equally as good, really giving a weight to every action you take. Even the slashing sounds of Joker’s knife are oddly satisfying, especially when pulling out a combo on a dozen of enemies at a time.

What’s new? What remains the same?

Persona 5 Strikers brought to the table a number of new features, scrapping others that we believed they would exist in this entry as well. Most notably, the daily and monthly time limit of Persona 5 is gone, completely changing your game sessions. Before, you were needed to manage your time as efficiently as possible each day, going to bed right when everything was done.

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The life-sim elements that are present in almost every Persona game, are now gone, with no time limits at all, enabling you to fully enjoy the game’s dungeons as much as you like. This of course takes away a big portion of the game’s longevity, as it is nowhere near close as the 200+ hours you could put in Persona 5,This makes for a way less stressful adventure, with you playing at your leisure. Besides, Strikers does remain an action game in the end of the day, with less emphasis on the RPG elements. Less emphasis doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have loads of new features though, as Strikers does bring quite a few with it.

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The Bond system would be one of the most significant ones, which is pretty much something you would find in a rogue-like game. The are certain Bond Skills, unlockable through various ways, that can be leveled up to provide permanent boosts, or even enable new functions. Alongside it, we have the Master Arts that unlock new actions and moves for any playable character, and a simplistic cooking system. Of course we mentioned the new battle system, which is actually extremely similar to Ni No Kuni II, for anyone who played it. There are Shadows all around the dungeon, waiting to be ambushed or ambush you. The moment this happens, the screen transitions to a battle arena, where in contrast to the previous mentioned RPG, you fights dozens of enemies at a time. Which is where the Musou part comes in. You fight similarly to those kind of games, with combo attacks from certain inputs while in the meantime using Persona Skills and All-Out Attacks.

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Which brings us to the signature feature of the game, the Personas themselves. As in previous installments, Personas are manifestations of enemies that are willing to help you out, or sometimes are forced to do so, and accompany you in your journey. Only Joker, the protagonist, can hold more than one Persona at a time, with the rest of the group having their signature Personas as only companions. You can collect Personas by defeating enemies and loot their dropped Masks in a fight. You can even Fuse those collected creatures, in order to create stronger ones or some that are obtainable only this way. Mixing and matching Skills this way will provide more coverage for enemies, so it is highly suggested to do so. There is way more in Persona 5 Strikers if we were to cover it fully, but it’s better if you find some things on your own. You’ll thank us later.

A few drawbacks do exist, but not anything too serious.

As the title implies, we do have some nitpicks with Persona 5 Strikers. That said, none of them makes the game less enjoyable or doesn’t make justice to the original material, so rest assured about that.

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I’ll start with the obvious. Sometimes, there is simply too much stuff on the screen. This is of course something that takes place only in battles, as the overworld is very well handled with a lot of love put into each corner of the Metaverse, but still hinders the game a little. I mean, take the picture above for example. This is an unedited screenshot taken, very early into the game. You can barely see what’s happening, especially when you are not familiar yet with the game’s mechanics or used to the controls. There are so many things happening at once, that you can’t admire the beautiful graphics and character designs of Persona 5 Strikers. Believe me when I say that there were worst cases later on in the game, when I reached certain end-game Bosses and the likes.

Even so, I’ll admit this wasn’t the majority of the battles I had. Besides, if Musou games taught us something, is that simply clicking stuff on the controller can have the job done in this genre. So get comfy, mash your combos and watch as thousands of particle effects are thrown at your screen. Which, however, brings me to the second problem I have with Strikers.

There are a lot of mechanics to think as you fight. You can ignore a lot of them, like using objects in the arena to cause havoc amongst enemies, but if you don’t utilize everything you know and activate every All-Out Attack that’s triggered, you will find yourself at a big disadvantage. Enemy weaknesses, interrupting skills, resource management, there is simply too much to have in your mind, for a game that is supposedly a hack ‘n’ slash one. Usually, you just need to have the patterns of attack combinations mechanically imprinted to your brain and arms, have some good reflexes, and enjoy the fast paced action. Here, everything matters, so you need to pay attention at multiple factors at a time. I’m sure hardcore action fans won’t have an issue, I can even bet on it, but for someone who wants to enjoy Striker at a nice pace, this could be troublesome.

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Lastly, I already mentioned that Strikers is pretty much a direct sequel. Which means that all of the events and characters from the previous game, are the main focus here and unfortunately, the way the story progresses is not new player-friendly. There is an abundance of references to the plot of the previous entry, and it’s blatantly clear that this title takes for granted you’ve experience Persona 5 prior. It does very little to show you who everyone is, aside some basic introduction, and almost every playable character is given to you right from the get go. Which is good for the fans of the series who want to jump right into the action, but newcomers could use some mystery or further explanation to the backstory of the Phantom Thieves.

Verdict

Persona 5 Strikers does a great job continuing what was an already great and established universe, without changing much, besides the battle formula. While there aren’t any mind blowing events in its story nor its gameplay, the game stays true to its legacy and roots. The lack of a calendar system and more in-depth RPG elements could be a letdown for fans of the series, but its more action-like approach does fit the IP better than it was expected, without taking away the genuine Persona feel. Some may say that it is just a spin-off, but in my opinion, I would say it is more Persona 5 and more Phantom Thieves of Hearts for everyone to enjoy.

 

- This article was updated on:February 28th, 2021

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Persona 5 Strikers

  • Available On: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Atlus
  • Developed By: Omega Force
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • US Release Date: February 23, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Some may say that it is just a spin-off, but in my opinion, I would say it is more Persona 5 and more Phantom Thieves of Hearts for everyone to enjoy."
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