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Persona 5 Strikers

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2021

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PS4 Review - 'Persona 5 Strikers'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 9, 2021 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

Persona 5 Strikers takes players on an epic road trip with the Phantom Thieves, where they strike back against the corruption overwhelming cities across Japan.

Buy Persona 5 Strikers

Spoiler alert: Persona 5 Strikers is a direct sequel to Persona 5. (Persona 5 Royal does not seem to be recognized.) That means Strikers has massive spoilers, and even discussing the game concept involves revealing some of the end-game twists. If you still haven't played Persona 5, I'd recommend doing so before reading any further. Strikers is a genuine sequel, not a side-game.

SPOILER ALERT

Strikers begins roughly a year after Persona 5 ends. The Phantom Thieves have gone on with their lives but decided to get together for a summer vacation. Of course, supernatural problems rear their heads again. Jails have sprung up across the country, and the monarchs of the jails appear to be using supernatural powers to alter people's minds by stealing their desires. The Phantom Thieves are the prime suspects, and they must go on a road trip across Japan, and they destroy jails along the way to figure out what caused it all. They're joined by police detective Zenkichi, who needs their help to solve the case, and an AI named Sophia that was discovered in one of the jails.


Strikers is a full-on sequel to the original game. You don't get an occasional piece of information but lengthy cut scenes, locations to explore, characters to chat up, and a full story arc. It feels like something that could've been part of the original game. The road trip concept means that the social links from the original game are MIA, but there is a large cast of new characters who flesh out the story. It's mostly an excuse to spend time with the gang and give a few of the lesser-seen thieves, such as Fox, a chance to shine.

The story is fun, but it can get dark at times. The main theme is trauma and how it influences people, so that can range from bullying to child abuse. It's handled relatively well, but it veers from one extreme to the other. The story echoes parts of the Persona 5 Royal extended ending and story beats from other games. The new character Wolf steals the show more than the Aigis-like Sophia, but both have fun moments.

Strikers is not the Dynasty Warriors-style game that you might expect. Strikers is a Persona title where the battles go to a real-time combat system instead of a turn-based one. It's more akin to the Tales of… franchise than any previous Warriors title. There are a relatively large number of foes on-screen, but it's nothing compared to classic Warriors games. You'll see 20 or so in a particularly heavy battle but not hundreds.

This is important to point out because combat does not encourage playing like a Warriors title, and I was initially frustrated because I tried to play it that way. You need to play Strikes like a Persona title. Enemies don't have much (if any) hit-stun except the weakest of the weak, and if you charge in with guns blazing, you'll get knocked out of your own attacks. Strikers does not give the best first impression if you're expecting a Warriors title, and I started to enjoy it once I got past that mindset.


As I'd mentioned, the combat system is akin to the Tales of… franchise. You have a four-person party and control a single character. You can do basic combos using the face buttons, but unlike Warriors games, the moves are more specialized. Some combos provide buffs, some call out personas, and some deal damage. You can attack freely with your character, but some attacks need to be used carefully because they can leave you vulnerable. You can dodge at will, and the character's agility state also offers a chance to auto-dodge attacks that would otherwise land.

Combos are one of the major ways to differentiate characters in Strikers. Each character has a distinctive set of combos. For example, Skull can give himself super armor and charge attacks, which lets him do serious damage. Fox can enter a counter-stance that lets him punish enemy attacks. Panther can ignite a whip to change her basic attack to Fire-element. The newcomer Wolf can enter a Fury state that powers up his attacks but causes his health to drain. Each character's basic skills also gain new modifiers as they level up.

Some combos can call persona, but they're the weaker variant. Summoning a persona to perform an attack drains SP to cast a spell, much as you would in a turn-based game. Different spells have different ranges and power but are essential to victory. Most of the big Persona spells have been transferred over, with some differences. For example, Marakukaja increases your character's defense and grants super armor, which makes combos far easier. Spells are important because the elemental weakness system of Persona is in full play, so hitting enemies with spells that they're vulnerable to will inflict additional damage.

In addition to regular attacks, you can also take advantage of the environment. Most areas have special objects that can be activated to do serious damage. Chandeliers can be dropped, cars can be exploded, railguns can be fired, and so on. These attacks are powerful and usually contain an element that a nearby foe is vulnerable to, but they're often of limited use. They fit naturally into the combat flow, and it's immensely satisfying to lure a bunch of enemies beneath something heavy only to squish them with it.


The RPG side of Persona is pretty much unchanged. You gain levels, equip gear, and power up. Joker can equip multiple persona, which function almost identically to those in the turn-based combat system. The major difference is that the equipped persona give stats and spells, and each monster has its own distinct set of spells. This can get absurd, but it's worth remembering that some of the spells are significantly weaker, so Mediarama won't be as game-breaking as it could be. The list of persona is significantly smaller than in the main game, but most of the "big" persona are in Strikers; you're just limited to a new persona (instead of multiple persona) every few levels.

As previously mentioned, Strikers doesn't have social links to power up your persona. Instead, the mechanic has been divided into persona points and bonds. You get persona points for fusing new persona, collecting duplicates of persona, or deleting persona. They can be used to add experience points or boost persona stats, so earlier-game persona can suddenly become relevant.

Bonds are basically simplified social links. Seeing events and performing requests for the other Phantom Thieves improves your Bonds level. Earn enough, and you'll get bonds points, which can be spent on upgrades, which range from improved item drop rates to recovering HP and SP after battle to boosting the stats of all persona. Like the points system, this effectively takes the social link bonus and lets you choose instead of it being tied to specific characters. It's slightly disappointing when compared to the more fleshed-out system in the main game, but it does the job well enough.

Combat needs to take place somewhere, and that location is jails, which are basically palaces with a different name. Jails tend to be more open and vertical, but otherwise, the same basics apply. You need to sneak up on shadows and ambush them to get an advantage in battle while solving the occasional maze or puzzle. The biggest difference is that you can jump freely, which adds light platforming to the experience, including a variety of 2D segments. Otherwise, this will feel very familiar to Persona 5 fans.


The jails lack some of the flair of the palaces, but they do their job well enough. Each has a distinctive feel and gameplay mechanics. You might sneak through a deserted lab, snowboard down a wintery mountain, or hop across invisible platforms. None of it is stressful, but they maintain the theme of the game. The dungeons seem to lose a little steam near the end, with one or two feeling like filler, but it's nothing egregious.

Strikers is significantly more linear than a Warriors game. You'll go straight through the main storyline, but you can revisit old dungeons to complete requests. There are many optional bosses scattered throughout, including rare demons; "Dire Shadows," which are powered-up versions of regular shadows; and post-game uberbosses. This isn't the sort of game you'll play for infinite hours grinding up characters, but a single playthrough will run about 35-40 hours, so you'll get more than enough bang for your buck.

Visually, Strikers looks like the original game. It has the same sense of style that carries over almost perfectly. In action, it's pretty much like you're revisiting the original game. It also runs wonderfully smoothly and includes a frame rate or resolution option for players who might favor such a thing. The voice acting is excellent, if not better than the original game, and the new character Zenkichi is an absolute standout with Tom Taylorson's acting elevating the character. Japanese voice acting is also available, but in this case, I'd recommend the dub since a lot of dialogue occurs during combat, and it can be fatal to take your eyes off the fight to read. Of course, I don't even need to say that the music, which contains new themes and some classic remixes, is excellent.

I expected Persona 5 Strikers to be like Hyrule Warriors and got a genuine Persona sequel. It might be thinner on content than the 100-hour behemoth it is based on, but it's still plenty of fun to play. The combat system takes some getting used to, but otherwise, it's like slipping on a comfy pair of well-worn slippers. I welcome the chance to revisit the world of Persona 5, and Strikers is a wonderful send-off to the Phantom Thieves.

Score: 8.5/10



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