The success of Persona 5 was nothing short of massive, but not unexpected. After already receiving multiple spin-offs with the Q series and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, getting a third is a huge step. Persona 5 Strikers is a musou-styled action game that takes place after the main story’s canon, not including the events of Royal. Persona 5 Strikers assumes that you’ve already finished the main campaign with at least the bare minimum of extra involvement; being social links and relationships. While it does miss out on some content from the definitive edition and strike some strange boundaries compared to other hack and slash games of a similar archetype, Persona 5 Strikers presents an enticing story in the exact same setting for those who didn’t get their fill of the Phantom Thieves in the main campaign.
Persona 5 Strikers is both an evolution and a detraction of the normal musou formula, with changes that make the game feel closer to its JRPG origins. Traditional musou combat a-la Dynasty Warriors is more centered on a huge map with progressive objectives, mowing down swaths of enemies as you travel from place to place. The sheer power trip of a game like that is worth the purchase in and of itself, and generally the formula hasn’t changed much over the years. Persona 5 Strikers takes that concept and adds the traditional Persona flair, giving the whole shebang a coat of paint. Combat is still hack and slash against a bunch of enemies, but the catch is that it’s also limited to stationary enemies that split into the crowds. This dynamic allows the player to sneak through the Jails as you would in the original games, opting only to fight when necessary or grind if you’d choose to. The Jails are the main level hubs of the game, working in a very similar fashion to Palaces in the original Persona 5. Each one represents a character and what you’re fighting against, all thematically different with different types of puzzles and enemies. Since combat isn’t a constant, there’s an emphasis in using the environment to scout out and ambush enemies when necessary, which allows you to start the fight at an advantage. Speaking of the environment, most of it is interactable while fighting. Most things that the player can hop on in order to scout out enemies can be destroyed, spun around on, thrown etc. The dynamic nature of this brings a new layer to combat, and that’s a small aspect that puts it over hack and slashes of a similar nature.
Combat in Persona 5 Strikers is incredibly fun, being able to play as every one of the Phantom Thieves from the start of the game. Many systems from the original game were translated into this format, from Baton Passes and All out Attacks to Persona Summoning and type advantage. The way these concepts were introduced didn’t feel foreign at all, and made picking up different characters very easy, especially since I had played the original. Every playable character has their own method of fighting, their own combos, a special move, and a different Persona. This leads to incredibly dynamic gameplay and party formations as more enemies get different type resistances. One of the downsides to this translation is that the main character, Joker, can’t get very many of the Personas he was originally able to get. This is likely due to limitation, but it would also be a lot to digest if there was also a pseudo-Pokemon element to this game. While all these systems are fun to use and interact with, one of the main draws of musou type games is the immense character roster. Unfortunately, Persona 5 Strikers only really has the essentials. They’re incredibly well designed and feel true to the original game, but if the draw of games like this for you is a massive character roster, you’d probably be disappointed.
As always, Atlus delivers style and grace when it comes to pretty much every part of UI design, environments, character designs and the rest. The music is just as fun and funky as the original, with remixes to really get your blood pumping as you mow down shadows left and right. While I’ve already known Atlus to be meticulous with UI design, these new ones still blew me out of the water. I feel like the one I like the most is Sophia’s shop and how dynamic it is. The Jail designs are awesome as well, and starting off with a Wonderland theme was a great introduction into a game like this. The bright pinks and stage lights along with harajuku fashion styled decoration were a really cool contrast to all the fighting down on the street level. All in all, it really reminded me of how the Palaces felt in the original game.
Persona 5 Strikers might be a spin-off, but it feels like an extension of the main game. The story feels like a natural extension, and every bit of it remains interesting and relevant to the Phantom Thieves as they’ve completed their duties. This is also a pitfall for people less inclined to reading long bits of story, because it can get very visual-novel heavy at times. Even with most of it voice acted, the long pauses in gameplay just for exposition can be grating to those not used to it. With that being the biggest turn off for some people, I can safely say Persona 5 Strikers is an incredibly fun hack and slash with substance and style to it. Now that it isn’t just locked to Playstation consoles, more people can enjoy the Persona universe and see what all the hype is about, and this is a great game to just sit back and slay shadows on.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC (Steam)