Persona 5 was one of the last console generation’s best JRPGs. It begged for a follow-up, and it sort of got one, with the expanded Persona 5 Royal. It gets a full spin-off with Persona 5 Strikers, switching genres in the tradition of other Persona titles, such as Persona 4 Arena (a fighting game), Persona 4 Dancing All Night (a rhythm game), and Persona Q (an old-school, first-person dungeon crawler). In this case, Persona 5 Strikers ($59.99, for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC) by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force shifts gears to a Dynasty Warriors-style action title in the vein of Hyrule Warriors. Persona 5 Strikers isn’t a game of battlefield domination, though; it’s a Persona game that adds excellent, real-time combat, and for that it’s an Editors’ Choice pick.
The game picks up the summer after Persona 5’s conclusion. The Phantom Thieves reunite to enjoy their break just as a new string of mysterious, personality-changing incidents occur across Japan. The country’s security force is suspicious, so Joker and his crew must work to clear their names, all while trying to stop the mystical brainwashings. What follows is a road trip across Japan, with the Phantom Thieves looking to overthrow the evil Monarchs and searching for the hidden Jails (alternate-universe versions of Tokyo) that hold the masses’ stolen desires. It’s a perfect follow-up story to Persona 5, one that’s a bit broader in geographic scope, but not quite as intense in narrative. Still, Persona 5 Strikers matches its predecessor in tone and style.
That commitment to matching Persona 5 extends to Strikers’ presentation, which slavishly adheres to P5’s look and feel. The stylish, red-black-and-white interface design, stellar soundtrack, and excellent voice cast all carry over from P5. It looks and sounds like Persona 5, which is quite the feat. Several of Shoji Meguro’s fantastic Persona 5 music tracks reappear here, and the new music feels right in line with their sinister, jazzy sound.
The gameplay mechanics borrow a surprising number of concepts from Persona 5, considering this is ostensibly a Warriors game like Hyrule Warriors (also developed by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force). The action is very Warriors-like, but everything else is Persona 5. Basically, Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity are Warriors games with Zelda skins; Persona 5 Strikers is a Persona game with Warriors mechanics.
You control a party of four Phantom Thieves, with three mixed-and-matched fighters working under Joker’s leadership. The goal? Tear through hordes of shadow monsters and familiar Shin Megami Tensei (the Persona games’ origin series, abbreviated SMT) demons. The enemies have a Warriors-like tier system, including police officer-like Shadows, powerful demons, and tough-as-nails brutes who have their own dedicated health bars. Overall, it’s the typical Musou gameplay mix that features legions of disposable enemies, punctuated with particularly imposing mini-bosses and bosses that require skill and consideration to beat.
Each Phantom Thief has a unique weapon type and mechanic, from Joker’s knife-and-gun combo to newcomer Sophie’s twin yo-yos and combo-triggered spell effects. You mash the square button to fend off Shadows regardless of the character you select. How those hits feel—and exactly what happens when you press the triangle button to activate skills—is where each character differs.
This is where the Persona 5 Strikers’ Warriors aspects end and the SMT/Persona aspects begin. Everything else, including special abilities, character interactions, and exploration, is all Persona.
Besides regular and special attacks, each character can summon a Persona to cast spells and use additional moves. Pressing and holding L1 freezes time and lets you scroll through your active character’s Persona’s abilities. All the familiar SMT moves are here, such as Agi (fire), Zio (lightning), and Dia (healing). Each magic spell uses spell points, or SP (which is difficult to recover without expensive items), while each physical ability uses health points, or HP (which drains your health instead of your magic).
Elemental strengths and weaknesses play a huge part in combat, as in any SMT game. Every Persona and enemy has different characteristics that make them stronger or more vulnerable to the game’s nine elements. For stronger enemies, using elemental vulnerabilities is vital for breaking down their defensive layers and making them vulnerable to an especially powerful All-Out attack. For your party, too, elemental vulnerabilities are an important consideration, because those weaknesses drastically increase the damage you take from enemies’ abilities, while strengths drastically decrease it (and can even nullify or drain the elements). Joker can switch between multiple personas, so he can actively control his vulnerabilities, while the other Phantom Thieves have their own specific strengths and weaknesses.
As in Persona 5, Strikers’ defeated demons sometimes drop masks that let Joker use the monsters as new Personas. He can also fuse different Personas together to make new ones in the Velvet Room, a secret space he can access due to the crisis at hand. Fused Personas carry over skills from the Personas that created them, and you can give them extra skills by finding consumable cards. You can also strengthen Personas in the Velvet Room by spending Persona Points, a currency gained by collecting mask doubles. It all adds up to a lot of Persona customization, an SMT/Persona staple.
Unlike the typical Warriors game, Persona 5 Strikers lacks sprawling battlefields or base-capturing goals. Instead, each Jail dungeon is large, segmented, and circuitous areas where you battle to ultimately reach the Monarch in charge.
Jails aren’t filled with demon armies. Instead, there are individual Shadows that patrol the Jail’s different sections. Attacking a Shadow initiates an encounter, summoning varying numbers of different demons to fight you in a limited area. Stealth plays a big factor here, because ambushing Shadows weakens all the demons and sometimes lets you trigger an All-Out Attack from the start. On the other hand, getting ambushed by a Shadow stuns your party. It’s a lot like Persona 5′ stealth-and-combat encounter system, down to the Shadows’ spacing and routes.
This doesn’t make the action any less satisfying as a sprawling Warriors game. Each encounter is a fun fight that can feature hundreds of demons, a particularly powerful boss, or both. The combat is just as fun and engaging as a Warriors game, just served in bite-sized chunks instead of map-sprawling wars.
The combat is delivered in bite-sized chunks, but that doesn’t mean the game is short. Each Jail takes several hours to complete, and you steadily unlock new parts of it until the entire area is your playground. Besides each Jail’s main mission, you can also perform a variety of side quests, from finding and defeating certain demons to fusing specific Personas. That can easily add up to 30 hours or more for a full playthrough. It isn’t half as long as Persona 5, but for an action game (rather than a JRPG) it’s quite long.
Persona 5’s Social Links don’t quite return in Strikers, but their spirit is present. As the Phantom Thieves spend time together, they raise their bond meter. Each bond level adds to a pool of Bond Points that you can spend on universal upgrades, such as getting more money in battle or unlocking certain Jail treasure chests. This isn’t nearly as deep Persona 5’s Social Link system, so you won’t experience anything close to that game’s dramatic and touching character arcs. That said, the Social Links add customization and growth.
I played Strikers on the PlayStation 5, where it looks and feels excellent. The graphics are virtually identical to those of Persona 5, with more demons and frantic, real-time action. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary in terms of visuals, but P5’s aesthetic gives the game a far more engaging personality than photorealism would. More than the performance, the game’s personality and satisfying mechanics really make the various elements work. This feels like a Persona game, and that’s the most important aspect.
Persona 5 Strikers is a fun, frantic successor to Persona 5 that switches up the combat, but it otherwise keeps nearly everything that makes the JRPG great. It feels more like a sequel than a side story, keeping so close to P5 in style and substance that the change to a more action-focused format isn’t a detriment. If you loved P5, you should play Persona 5 Strikers, regardless of whether or not you’re a Warriors fan. If you are a Warriors game fan, but aren’t into SMT/Persona, you might want to give this one a pass. It’s a huge departure from your typical Warriors games.Source