While it has been four years since we parted ways with the Phantom Thieves, in-game it’s only been six months. What do you do when your group of friends get together but catch up on what you’ve been up to? Last year Atlus launched Persona 5 Royal to tide us over but it was new content we wanted. Enter Persona 5 Strikers, a sequel that sees our heroes travel across Japan. Some things have changed but Strikers is a true sequel that feels like coming home after being a while away.
A lot of what made the first game so successful return for the sequel; the game begins with the police investigating rumblings of people having mental breakdowns around the country. The local police peg the Phantom Thieves as the culprits but that isn’t the case here. What you’ll uncover throughout the 40-hour campaign is a brand new story that is a true sequel and less of a companion video game.
Out on the Open Road
From the moment I began my adventure, I was at ease and comfortable. I developed a bond with the characters and this world over the last four years and it’s like coming home. I chose to play the game in English (you can play in native Japanese too) and off I went back to see my friends. The opening moments are stylish and chic, with Joker battling Shadows in Shibuya. Serving as a brief tutorial, we get a glimpse of how Omega Force has shifted the gameplay from traditional to action-RPG, and it works for the most part.
Koei Tecmo and developer Omega Force have been developing games for over two decades. If you’ve heard of them, you may be familiar with the Dynasty Warriors series, better known as musou games. The hack-and-slash combat of the musou is here and for the most part, it works well. Your characters all have light and heavy attacks you use in battle in different combinations, cast familiar spells and summon your persona to help in battle. Joker is the only one who has access to more than one persona and he can level them up in the Velvet Room. A lot of these mechanics you’ll find in Persona 5 and the more traditional elements of the series have been streamlined and it works.
Battles are a departure from the turn-based formula the series is known for. But things like exploiting an enemy’s weakness are here, and the ability to initiate an All-Out Attack can quickly turn the tide. If you continue to exploit those weaknesses, One More Attack continues your assault. I also found Dynasty Warriors games to be mindless and I was worried this would happen with Strikers. To my (last) surprise, this isn’t the case and the combat feels good. Each character handles well in a pinch and has their strengths and weaknesses to keep an eye on. Stringing together combos is exciting and most importantly, not having to worry about spamming attacks keeps the pace.
Persona 5 Strikers is a true sequel in every way
Exploration is a huge component of the Persona series. Allowing the Phantom Thieves, the opportunity to head out on the open road gives the game a much-needed change of scenery and as much as I love Tokyo, it’s nice to branch out. Instead of your characters exploring Mind Palaces, you now move about jails. Each jail has a Monarch in place and just like before, you’ll need to explore each new location to get to the bottom of what’s happening or risk having the victim lose their mind. Instead of searching for the treasure, this time you’ll need to find their desires.
Exploring Japan means the Metaverse follows you. Each city your team decides to visit during your summer vacation has its own Jail to conquer. Sadly though, there’s little to do in each city but you’re free to do some shopping and talk to some people and return to the new mobile hideout. From the team’s camper, you can enter Jails, catch up with the group and fuse persona in the Velvet Room. Joker’s Kitchen is a new mechanic in Strikers that allows Joker to cook meals for the team after purchasing the right ingredients on your vacation. These meals serve as buffs when you enter dungeons that heal HP, SP, and get your team energized for the battles ahead.
Persona 5 Strikers pares down the systems that made the game so much better and I get why they aren’t here. This isn’t a game where you have a year to develop those social chains and get to know others. Instead of having the time and freedom to interact and explore the city after the school day, you and your friends are on a road trip across the country. Your goal is to enjoy your summer vacation and be with your friends. I miss increasing my stats, flirting with a potential partner, eating a Big Bang burger and generally being a teenager.
Altus’s decision to release the game on multiple platforms is curious. I’ve spent over 200 hours between Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal and I have no inclination why it’s on PC or Switch. I’m all for more people experiencing the series but this is a direct sequel to an established property. If I suggested this to someone who has zero experience with the series, they’d feel lost. So, if you’re reading this without playing either the vanilla version or Royal, I’d recommend you pick the game up and come back after you’ve finished the story. Another thing that is noticeable and detracts from the experiencing is the rough graphical aliasing. The character models suffer from rough edges and it’s extremely noticeable when playing on the PlayStation 5.
Persona 5 Strikers is a true sequel to Persona 5 that pits the Phantom Thieves against new enemies. Throughout the team’s summer road trip across Japan, you’ll encounter hazards that will test everyone. Some of the signature mechanics like social chains and calendar systems are streamlined and the traditional combat is replaced by an action battle system; Omega Force captures the essence of the Persona series and does an excellent job at extending the lore. Persona fans shouldn’t miss out on Persona 5 Strikers because it isn’t turn-based, instead, I recommend welcoming the game as a great extension of the series.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]