The much loved Phantom Thieves of Hearts are back, but not in the same way Persona fans might have been expecting. This time around developers P-Studio have teamed up with Omega Force to give Persona 5 the famed Musou treatment, giving birth to the spin off Persona 5 Strikers.
Persona 5 Strikers reunites the ragtag band of heroes just four months after the ending of Persona 5. Skipping the events from Royal, the Phantom Thieves arrange a camping trip during their summer holiday, and in order to prepare they use a popular app called EMMA. While on their way to gather supplies they pass by an rising Idol called Alice, who gives the Joker a card requesting them to enter the code Wonderland into the EMMA app for a special event she is holding.
Upon doing this Joker, Morgana, and Ryuji are transported into an alternate version of Tokyo called a Jail – much like the Palaces from previous games. Here they have to battle Shadows and the Jail Monarch which is an alternate version of Alice, thus throwing the Phantom Thieves into another adventure.
Persona 5 Strikers does try to introduce new ideas, however the concept is still the same as in previous games with antagonists becoming corrupted enough to create their own alternate reality. However there’s a slight change here which allows the Jail Monarch to control people in the real world, forcing the Phantom Thieves to travel around Japan to stop them.
The story in Persona 5 Strikers isn’t as compelling or thought provoking as its predecessors, however moving away from the Tokyo setting is a nice move allowing for bold new characters such as Sophia and Zenkichi to join the series.
Newcomers to Strikers may find themselves lost at times as there are numerous references to characters backstories and events from previous games that are rarely explained. However players will still enjoy the overall story without any prior knowledge, but a lot of the character skits and jokes may go over your head.
Persona 5 Strikers looks amazing retaining its slick punchy style and surreal colour schemes with the UI and menus still leaving me in awe. Each cutscene and special move have been choreographed carefully to capture each character’s personality. In this regard Strikers still feels very much like a Persona game and hasn’t lost any of its charm. However sometimes it can be hard to track your movements amongst all the bright flashy chaos.
The voice acting is top notch regardless of which dub you opt for, which is nice as there are numerous long winded cutscenes that are still enjoyable. Strikers stays true to form with a highly energetic soundtrack with original tunes and remixes included. While it doesn’t reach the same levels of Persona 5’s soundtrack, it is still top tier.
Performance wise, from a PS4 standpoint the game runs effortlessly at 60Fps, even with multiple enemies attacking me at once I’ve only experienced one or two drops during 30 hours of play which is fantastic.
The main feature of any Musou game is the combat, but Omega Force and P-studio have done well to retain some of the elements from its predecessors so it still feels like a JRPG.
Fans will instantly notice the changes to Infiltrations which will feel extremely different to the Palaces. In Persona 5 players would have to make sure to manage their magic and health while paying close attention to the calendar days. Now players can exit and enter almost all Jails at will, without any penalties and your characters will even be fully healed. I don’t mind this scaled down approach. The pressure may be taken off in some parts, however players will still need to prepare for the multiple battles and some seriously long boss fights.
The Jails themselves aren’t as ingenious as the Palaces but they still have themes that correspond to the Monarch. However the main objective has changed now as players won’t race against time to reach a treasure, but instead free the desires of people within the Jails. Players will battle through several areas to collect three Cores to open a path before facing off against the Jail Monarch. A nice addition is that the Jails are much bigger than the Palaces and there are loads of places to explore and treasures to find.
Players will also get to explore the different locations the Phantom Thieves visit on their road trip, being able to shop for items and even gather information on the next target. Even though each location isn’t as visually exciting or as fleshed out as before, it’s nice to be able to learn about the locations you visited and collect recipes.
Probably to much fan dismay, Persona 5 Strikers has also done away with the Confidants system which allowed the protagonist to build relationships with other characters to gain more abilities and bonus items. However there is a Bond system that, while not being a substitute for Confidants, will allow players to gain individual perks such as stat boost and enhancements.
Whilst still feeling like a Persona game, Strikers has made some big changes, with the focus shifting to combat which has been fleshed out. Some of these exclusions won’t be missed but newcomers should really try out Persona 5 and Royal to experience what has been missed out.
Persona 5 Strikers’ combat isn’t simply just like other Musou games, but a nice blend of hack and slash action with RPG elements. Battles will initiate once players interact with an enemy so players can dodge battles unless they help the story to progress.
But a great returning feature is the stealth attack which will once again allow you to attack before battles start.
All the characters return and can be used pretty much from the get go, however newcomers won’t really know the specialties of each one so it will be a trial of fire especially, for boss battles.
Players will be able to build a party of four characters and are able to swap between them on the fly whilst the others are controlled by AI. Each character comes with their own special traits and master arts, for instance, Ryuji has powerful charge attacks and Yusuke will focus on counters.
Although all the characters have different abilities I feel being able to swap Personas on the fly with Joker is the most useful ability as this allows you defeat a range of enemies with ease by changing his entire skill set. This is a great skill to have but it can mean that players may want to stick with him for the majority of battles and not really try the others out.
Combat will mainly consist of linking together combos using the attack button and finishing with a special move. The final attack in the combo will be determined by how many attacks come before it. There is also a dodge button which is handy in all the fast pace combat. A lot of signature moves return, players will be able to use the epic Show Time attacks and all out attacks when you stagger the enemy. The only time combat stops is when players activate their Persona and cast a magical spell on the Shadows.
Enemies vary, with most of them being relatively lacklustre – even on hard mode. They can use skills and inflict ailments, making battles last longer than they need to in some cases. Boss battles are also quite drawn out due to the massive health gauges they come with.
Combat is fun and looks amazing, stepping away from the turn based system worked really well in this instance. While the mechanics aren’t that in-depth there is enough here to stop the constant battles becoming repetitive.
Another major change is the way players can gain new Personas. Instead of negotiating with them to join you, players can recruit them by picking up a mask they may drop in battle. The Velvet Room makes a comeback, allowing Personas to be fused. Although the number of demons accessible isn’t as big as Persona 5, there’s still a huge amount. The process has also been slightly improved to allow instant levelling up and increase individual stats.
Persona 5 and Royal have established themselves as JRPG heavyweights, so fans and critics might have found it slightly odd not to follow the same winning formula. However, Persona 5 Strikers is a great follow up to the series and one of the best games developed by Omega Force. Even though it feels more of a spin off than a full sequel to Persona 5’s epic story, fans and newcomers will enjoy this new direction with a decent narrative, nice changes to the original mechanics whilst remaining faithful to its JRPG roots.
Persona 5 Strikers will be released for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC on February 23