The Persona franchise has been around for 24 years and we’ve seen 21 games that include five mainline games, a countless amount of spin-offs, and even a fighting game. With the critical and commercial success of Persona 5, Altus decided to expand the metaverse with Persona Q2, Persona 5: Dancing In Starlight, Persona 5 Royal, and even a manga series.
As the fandom grew rapidly with Joker getting an invite into Smash, we didn’t know what’s next for the Phantom Thieves. Eventually, Atlus decided to release an actual sequel to Persona 5 with Persona 5: Strikers. The game is developed by Omega Force and it takes the Persona franchise in a whole new direction.
Persona 5: Strikers takes place six months after Persona 5 and reunites the Phantom Thieves. The group plan a summer vacation and as they begin preparing for their camping trip- they start shopping in Shibuya. The group end up crossing paths with Alice Hiiragi, a fashion idol who gives them a card. This mysterious card has a keyword that allows them to add Alice through an App called Emma. This App ends up transporting the gang to a cognitive version of Shibuya. This place, like many in the game, are known as Jails. It’s similar to the palaces (dungeons) in Persona 5, but instead of treasures, the Monarch of these Jails carry Desires of all their victims. It’s down to you and the Thieves to take back those Desires and defeat each Monarch.
As you explore the first Jail, you come across a new mysterious character named Sophia. An AI with no memories or purpose. Sophia appears to be human in the cognitive world, but once transported in the real world, she’s just a smartphone App like Emma. Sophia is a centerpiece of the story and will play a vital part. Without giving any spoilers, the story was excellent. It was wonderfully written and is worthy of a sequel. The story didn’t drag and it felt refreshing. As a tiny aside, the most compelling part of the game is how the Monarchs have a tragic backstory that relate to each member of the Phantom Thieves. You can basically empathize and do what’s necessary to lead them onto the right path.
When it comes to the gameplay, Persona 5: Strikers takes a whole new approach. Instead of the traditional turn based combat, you’re going to battle the Shadows in real time. Before we continue, I just want to make it clear that this isn’t a Mosou game, and it doesn’t follow that formula in the slightest. The action oriented combat is something that’s more similar to Kingdom Hearts than to Dynasty Warriors.
During an encounter, you can use your melee weapon, firearm, or a Persona. The Personas can perform a powerful attack which can exploit the weaknesses of your enemies. Your party carry their signature Personas while you can carry a variety of them. You can also switch each Persona on the fly. As far as the firearm goes, you get a reasonable amount of ammo. The firearm has a lock on system as well as free aim depending on the character you control.
The calendar system is completely different to prior Persona games as there’s no school or outdoor activities. Confidantes and social links are also missing. Although they’ve taken away the main aspect of what makes a traditional Persona game, they’ve added a bond system since the length of the game only covers late July and August.
As a person who considers himself a completionist, I found the bond levelling system to be tedious. As you level up with bond XP, you gain bond points. You can use these points to unlock bond skills that help you during battle. You can approach any battle the way you see fit. You can go stealthy and ambush your enemies or you can have a direct approach and go all in.
I really appreciate the hack and slash gameplay design as it adds an extra layer of complexity. You can pass the baton and also perform a new Showtime attack once you’ve built your gauge meter. Even with the huge change with the combat, Persona 5: Strikers still feels like a Persona game at it’s core. You also get side requests where you help other members of the Phantom Thieves. Rewards include cash, bond XP, items, and even a discount in Sophie’s digital store. Personas are obtainable post-battle or whenever you fuse them in the velvet room. Thankfully, completing the compendium wasn’t as time consuming as Persona 5. There’s a total of 67 Personas to collect.
Let’s talk about graphics shall we? The PC port supports a bare-bones feature set. You can control basic things like framerate, resolution, and shadow quality, but you aren’t getting the whole pie. This is a no frills affair. Unlike Gears or Battlefield, you can’t tweak every little nuance of the environment, force a dynamic resolution, or play with a dozen different anti aliasing solutions. Plus, the omission of ultra-wide screen or a 120hz refresh rate is puzzling. However, what you do get is Persona!
Aside from the limited technical options, players have an absolutely faithful recreation of the Persona 5 universe. Cel shaded characters pop into life. Colors are bold and vivid. Animations are slick and dazzling. The entire package is just over the top in the best way!
Let’s not forget the tunes though. The visuals have the flair, but the soundtrack has the funk. Fans of the franchise will easily catch remixes of the classic Persona songs by Lyn Inaizumi. It’s an aural, poppy, jazzy, delight. That you’ll hopefully see coming.
To close it off, I enjoyed my time playing Persona 5: Strikers from start to finish. There was a feel good factor during the entire run. To be honest, Persona 5: Strikers had no business being this good. Omega Force did a great job with the gameplay. The real-time combat was a nice change of pace and the story was touching. Strikers didn’t skip a beat when it comes to the stylish visuals or the catchy songs. Persona 5: Strikers took me 50 hours to beat and it left me wanting more. For the best possible experience, I highly recommend that you play Persona 5 before considering this. If you already have, then don’t hesitate and buy this game immediately.
A review code was provided by SEGA Europe
Developer: Atlus & Omega Force / Publisher: SEGA|Atlus
Release date: 23/02/2021
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Version Reviewed: PC
“Persona 5: Strikers had no business being this good. Omega Force did a great job with the gameplay. The real-time combat was a nice change of pace and the story was touching. Strikers didn’t skip a beat when it comes to the stylish visuals or the catchy songs”