Creating a spin-off of a Persona game is nothing new for Atlus as there have been numerous different ones throughout the years spanning across different genres but when it came to Persona 5 Strikers, many were rather surprised. Not only was it meant to be a direct sequel to Persona 5 but it saw Omega Force, best known for their Warriors‘ style of games, being tapped as developers which is a combination that few could have seen coming. So now after quite a bit of waiting, Persona 5 Strikers has made its way to the West but the question is, has this strange blend of franchise pedigree and developer created a worthwhile game?
Considering Persona 5 Strikers takes place following the events of Persona 5 (not Persona 5 Royal) players will want to have completed either of the original games as the game takes very little time to go over past events with potential newcomers or at least go over some of the most basic elements so that they won’t be entirely left in the dark regarding certain elements of the Phantom Thieves and the numerous references that are made throughout the story.
Six months have passed since the Phantom Thieves went their separate ways and continued on with life but now that summer vacation has rolled around, Joker is taking a little trip back to Tokyo to revisit his old friends and enjoy some time with the crew. Things quickly begin to spiral out of their hands however as strange events have begun happening all around Japan with people suffering from changes of heart and all fingers are pointing towards the Phantom Thieves being behind these changes and even the Velvet Room draws Joker back into his cell once more to warn him of impending doom.
Considering the identity of their leader and most of the members is well known by the police, the group has no choice but to immediately tackle the new threat that has arisen, not only to clear their names but to also save those who are having their “desires” taken from them by these new threats. To do this the familiar cast is joined by both a new companion in the form of an amnesiac AI named Sophia found within the Metaverse and Zenkichi, a member of the task force assigned to investigate these new incidents.
In many ways those familiar with the various themes of Persona 5 will find that Persona 5 Strikers follows the same elements here as the group will learn more about a target, now called a Monarch, and infiltrate their “jail” instead of palace. What helps the most here is the fact that thanks to the fact that, outside of Sophia and Zenkichi who both are worked into the story perfectly, the Phantom Thieves have all already overcome their previous traumas and can now shine brighter with one another allowing for a better balance of their light-hearted interactions and the more dramatic and darker ones they have with the Monarchs.
These conversations are better and allow for more revelations to happen when dealing with the jail’s Monarchs as players will learn a bit more about them while traveling through their jail, some of which are a bit more nuanced than simply being completely irredeemable compared to the first game, and overcoming various obstacles that often throw the players out of the jail to investigate further, which isn’t much of an issue as there is no time limit this time around. Players will feel right at home with the returning cast as long as they are returning fans of the franchise as Sophia’s mix as a companion AI works well with her naive nature and the banter between Zenkichi and the Phantom Thieves makes for plenty of humorous moments.
Unfortunately there is a trade off here with the fact that the game has dropped all elements of side-stories outside of incredibly basic requests that generally only reward a few extra lines of dialogue or bond points and, with the Phantom Thieves going on a road trip, all confidants have been sidelined outside of the necessary two. There are mentions of certain confidants from time to time but players hoping to see more of their favorite side characters will be left disappointed here.
Generally when Omega Force takes an already established property and applies their Warriors style of gameplay to it, the game tends to follow a fairly predictable pattern of slaying hundreds of enemies, taking bases, etc. but that is not the case this time around. Rather than follow the standard formula the developers have chosen to stick as close to Persona 5‘s roots as possible when it comes to actually exploring the Jails and encountering enemies. Joker will still be traveling through Jails with a total of four party members at a time (that can be swapped outside of battle) and can move quickly from vantage point to vantage point to avoid or pull off surprise attacks on shadows that patrol each location.
Once combat is entered that is where the Warriors gameplay kicks in as players will immediately find themselves surrounded by anywhere from three or four larger foes to tens of smaller shadows that can be dispatched in a variety of ways. There are the standard bread and butter combination attacks featuring light and heavy blows that, when strung together in different ways, perform special finishing attacks but since this is Persona 5 Strikers, there are a few more options at the player’s disposal.
With the help of Futaba/Oracle players can quickly analyze the shadows they are facing off against to see what their weaknesses are and target them accordingly. This can include everything from simply pulling out their gun and firing away to summoning their Persona and using an offensive skill on them with Joker once again remaining the true wild card as he can utilize multiple Persona at once and obtain them as occasional drops after combat. When a standard enemy’s weakness is targeted or even when a surprise attack is pulled off, players can generally go for an “All-Out Attack” that deals massive, often encounter ending, damage to all foes within range. Once combat ends players will immediately find themselves exploring the dungeon with no transition screens at all which is a nice touch but also something that can be a bit disappointing at times as there is often very little wriggle room for actual long-term combat.
Players battling against standard foes can generally wipe them out in less time than it takes for the battle music to kick in and even the “named” slightly harder enemies can rarely be challenging. That is the case only until most mid-bosses and the Monarchs themselves who see significant difficulty spikes. It is worth noting that players can freely return to jails and grind if necessary but it is a bit unfortunate that there isn’t the greatest level of balance through most of the in-game jails. It is also worth noting that while players can freely return from the jails at any time since there is no longer a time limit and recover their HP/SP as well as purchase items, managing SP remains a difficult endeavor through the early half of the game without proper planning or usage of BOND points.
One thing that is truly great is that, despite featuring a very small cast of playable characters for a Warriors game, Persona 5 Strikers has made sure to give every playable character their own unique feeling and play-style. This can range from having Makoto stringing together powerful combos only to finish off with a motorcycle ride on Johanna to Ann whipping enemies around and creating lines of fire on the ground and more. While fighting and even exploring a jail players can freely tag between members of their party and, if tagged during combat, a “showtime” gauge for the tagged in character will fill quicker and, once filled, allow them to pull off a flashy and powerful attack that deals plenty of damage and can also be stored for later if the player chooses.
Outside of combat players will find that the Velvet Room will still play a solid role in making sure Joker’s various shadows are up to snuff as they can be fused together to create newer, stronger shadows with inherited abilities or straight powered up with extra currency obtained from deleting unnecessary shadows gathered during combat. That being said, the Velvet Room’s importance is far weaker than before as not only are most Persona easy to obtain but the combinations appear far more limited. Even purchasing and equipping items is more limited this time around as players can only make use of shops scattered across Japan and Sophia’s online shop.
As for the removal of confidants, in their place comes BOND points. These are earned from general story events as the Phantom Thieves talk with one another, completing various requests posted by the group as well as random requests, and simply fighting together in jails. These points can then be used to purchase a number of straight upgrades to the group such as increased stats, the ability to recover HP/SP slightly after combat, improve the drop rate of Shadows and money, and more. While this does allow players to quickly choose whatever unlocked options they prefer faster, it doesn’t really serve as the best replacement for the confidants that have been removed.
Visuals & Audio
Once more Persona 5 Strikers features a great sense of style that permeates every aspect of the game. The character designs remain the same as do the returning Shadows but the newly added characters as well as the designs of the Jails that players will travel through fits in perfectly with the series. There are also a large number of animated cutscenes this time around which is also a nice touch.
Players will have the option of using either the original Japanese or the freshly recorded English dub and can choose to swap between them whenever they wish. The English voice cast features all of the same voices that fans remember and the new cast, once again, fits in perfectly here. As for the soundtrack the game features a number of new pieces of music but a lot of it also happens to be remixed versions of the original game’s music that work to various degrees of success, though a few do lose a bit of their previous feel being remixed.
Many wondered just how well a Persona spin-off in the hands of Omega Force would end up but it turns out that fusing the Warriors combat with the RPG and stealth elements of Persona 5, has made Persona 5 Strikers not only a worthy spin-off but a successful sequel to a story that many have come to know and love. While combat can be a bit disproportionately short at times and the lack of some characters is disappointing, those looking for either a Warriors style game with a different take or just fans of the series will find Persona 5 Strikers certainly worth checking out and if you happen to be a fan of both things, then all the better as this fusion is a great success.
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