When it comes to the roleplaying genre, Atlus’ Persona series has long been a mainstay that has legions of invested fans. However, when a spin-off for Persona 5 made by Omega Force was announced, there was predictable apprehension- after all, what could the Dynasty Warriors folks bring to the table for one of the best RPG franchises in history? In short, Persona 5 Strikers is an excellent complement to the main games, more like an action-RPG than a Musou game that could easily double up as a sequel.
Bringing together everybody’s favourite gang of Phantom Thieves, Persona 5 Strikers takes place just a few months after the end of the RPG entry. Instead of having players go through turn-based battles, it is all about swift combos and hacking and slashing.
Familiar elements such as casting spells with the help of personas, elemental weaknesses and elaborate dungeons are still around, but this is no longer a JRPG. If you were expecting deep systems that revolve around that, such as the iconic calendar progression system, this is not exactly it.
Rather than a school year that passes day by day, Persona 5 Strikers takes place over a single summer vacation road trip that brings our heroes across Japan. While it may take some getting used to, it is a refreshing take on a series staple.
It definitely helps that the overarching narrative in Persona 5 Strikers is excellent, connecting enough threads to the foundations that were laid before while creating new adventures that could easily mark it as a sequel of sorts.
Yet, it suffers from the lack of meaningful side stories that helped the franchise made its mark amongst fans. While the different characters do get their moments to shine throughout the adventure, there is less to see and learn overall, which can impact your attachment to them throughout the spinoff.
It is interesting then, to see how Atlus is positioning the game as welcoming for newcomers to the series. If you have not played Persona 5 yet, there are many references to past events you most certainly will not catch. For returning players, these are the moments that will make your time in Persona 5 Strikers even sweeter.
This spinoff does not waste in setting the stage, and that could be something that may put new players off from trying to jump in.
The Confidant system is also slimmed down significantly, with combat serving as the main method of deepening the bonds between team members. That works fine for the twist on the formula here in Persona 5 Strikers, but will need some getting used to for fans looking for something more familiar.
Despite the differences, Persona 5 Strikers still retains much of the DNA that many would associate with Persona 5. Returning players should feel right at home straight away. The visual flair that is now signature with the RPG title is back, as is the amazing soundtrack and voice acting that brings the story to life. For those who do not pay close attention, it can be hard differentiating the two if not for the real-time combat.
The combat is certainly where Persona 5 Strikers shines. Unlike traditional Musou games, fights are triggered usually by engaging a single enemy. As the action unfolds, hordes of other foes will join in. This is where the button-mashing combat combinations come into play.
Although there is plenty of cannon fodder to wade through, the game does offer enough challenge in the form of tougher enemy types that require more strategy to overcome. Exploiting your enemies’ weaknesses is always going to be a good idea.
That said, it can be really hard to categorise the combat in Persona 5 Strikers as deep or shallow. Instead, it lies somewhere in between with the decisions made by Atlus and Omega Force.
A party of four characters are brought to each fight, with players controlling one while the AI takes care of the others. Each Phantom Thief offers different combos to execute, with unique finishers thrown in the mix for that added flair. Staggering enemies can open up opportunities for All Out Attacks, while you can engage foes while swapping characters seamlessly.
Add in spells and quick dodges, and it is clear that the Persona 5 Strikers formula is all about fun and instant gratification from kicking the enemies’ butts.
The problem would be that it can feel a tad too repetitive as time goes on, aside from the occasional bad guy that requires more nuance to take down. Thankfully, that can be overlooked thanks to the uniqueness of each character in your party. Each fights differently, with quirks and personalities that are instantly distinct, finding a favourite is going to be hard when everyone is bringing their A-game.
All of these fights will take place around dungeons that take over a big part of whichever city you happen to be in. Unlike in Persona 5, where Palaces and dungeons are more like a single building, Persona 5 Strikers does things differently with the more sizable change.
In addition, there is no pressure of time or danger when facing these dungeons in Persona 5 Strikers. You can always leave and come back later, which will heal your party and respawn the enemies. Instead of having you be prepared for a gauntlet, the action in the spinoff skews more towards smaller sections of challenges that you can always back out of.
Although Atlus has not marketed Persona 5 Strikers as a direct sequel to Persona 5, and more of a spinoff, its story says otherwise. That alone makes the more action-heavy spinoff a must-play for fans of the Phantom Thieves.
While it does not retain some of the core elements of the RPG games, Persona 5 Strikers’ mixture of character moments, fighting styles, and the overall story more than makes up for it.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The action is engaging and consistently fun in Persona 5 Strikers, and the closest we will get to a sequel to Persona 5 despite Atlus’ claims.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10