by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Ready To Strike
The Persona series as a franchise has a storied history with releases. With the exception of Persona 4 Golden being released on Steam in the summer of 2020, the only Persona games that have been on consoles besides Playstation are sequels and spin-offs, such as Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on the Xbox 360 in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and now Persona 5 Strikers on the Nintendo Switch and Steam store.
Similar to the Arena games Persona 5 Strikers is a canonical sequel to the original Persona 5 game that came out in 2016 despite the altered playstyle, from a JRPG with life-sim elements to a Dynasty Warriors type game that has JRPG elements built into it. Gamers take the role of Joker, the leader of the Phantom Thieves several months after the original game ended, returning to Shibuya to enjoy a peaceful summer vacation, only to find that their job as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts isn’t exactly done. Despite the ending of Persona 5 it seems the Metaverse is back and more dangerous than ever, stealing the Desires of the people of Japan and turning them into their slaves.
Outside of the Metaverse Joker and his team wander Japan, searching for clues on who is taking the Desires in a specific area and preparing for the upcoming challenge, and once prepared they use a mysterious Alexa-like AI named EMMA in order to travel into the Metaverse, a distorted reflection of reality filled with Shadows, or twisted desires that have corrupted into monsters that must be fought using the power of Personas, or the realized self.
Old Friends, New Adventures
Gamers are joined by members of the Phantom Thieves from the original game, and early on are greeted by someone who quickly becomes a member, Sophia, an AI who happily calls herself ‘humanity’s companion’, and due to the events of the previous game Joker is on the radar of Japan’s police force when it seems that Desires are being stolen all across the country.
The ‘Confidant’ system from base Persona 5 is reworked into a ‘Bond’ system for Strikers, where there is one unified Bond Meter that can be filled up by performing social interactions with the other Phantom Thieves in the real world as well as working together well during combat inside the Metaverse. This change fits the faster pace that Strikers has to the original game well, since it only takes place over the summer and not an entire year like Persona 5.
This review has been referring to the events of the past game in as vague of terms as possible, since unfortunately despite this game being a sequel to the original Persona 5, there is no way for PC gamers to actually play the original on PC. The only way to actually experience the story is to play it on PS3/4, or watch the Animation. That being said, this review shouldn’t cast too badly on the game as it is not Strikers’ fault that gamers on Switch or PC will be missing a lot of context for this game.
When in the Metaverse gamers are able to form up a team of four of the Phantom Thieves to work as a unit to fight their shadowy foes. Each thief has a specific weapon type and element that they make use of, except for Joker who wields an ability called ‘Wild Card’, which allows him to make use of multiple Personas and thus skill sets and elements that he can switch on the fly once he acquires them. The elements within Persona 5 Strikers are Fire (Ann/Panther), Electricity (Ryuji/Skull), Wind (Morgana/Mona), Ice (Yusukue/Fox), Nuclear (Makoto/Queen), Psy (Haru/Noir), Curse (Joker), Bless (Sophia/Sophie), and Almighty, though Physical and Gun Attacks are also technically elements that Shadows can be weak too, but each thief has access to different weaponry that gets the job done.
The combat runs smoothly, an impressive feat considering just how many enemies and effects can be on screen at once during battles, the distorted streets of Japan filled with Shadows to fight. Unfortunately, despite their skill in battle the Phantom Thieves are meant to be much more capable in the shadows then they are in straight combat. Each Jail within the Metaverse has a mechanic called a ‘Security Level’, a holdover from the original Persona 5, which raises based on percentage when the Thieves are spotted by security lights or an enemy notices them. If the Security Level gets maxed out, the Thieves are kicked out of the Jail and need to come back at another time. In base Persona 5 this was a detriment that ends up wasting a valuable day cycle, but in Strikers this is more of an annoyance since the days only pass when that day’s plot is done rather than when you’ve done two actions. As said earlier this is to suit the faster pace of Strikers compared to Persona 5.
But back to stealth, unfortunately the Phantom Thieves aren’t always the best at ambushing foes, needing to be VERY close to the back of a Shadow and thus needing an awareness of their patrol patterns. The necessity for closeness is despite the ability called ‘Phantom Dash’ where the Thieves are able to move at high speeds over decent distances, which only works to get to environmental points and not to ambush enemies for the most part. And along those lines there is no crouch/sneak button, the closest option would be to hide behind corners and hope a Shadow gets close enough to jump.
Strike While The Iron's Hot
In all Persona 5 Strikers is a fantastic game that is clearly made with heart, and isn’t just a reskin of the Dynasty Warriors series with Persona characters. This reviewer would look at other examples of this genre shift such as Hyrule Warriors or Fire Emblem Warriors and say that Persona 5 Strikers definitely went above and beyond to tell a Persona story with a fantastic blend of JRPG and Muso game styles that suits it, if not perfectly, pretty close!
Great Combat, Music, Story
Clunky stealth mechanics, not an easy welcome into the series on Switch/PC