Title: Persona 5 Strikers
Developer: Omega Force, P-Studio
Genre: Hack-and-slash, role-playing
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Official Site: P5S | Official Website (atlus.com)
Price (in USD) : Standard Editions – $59.99, Deluxe Editions – $69.99
Few development studios have such an ingrained reputation in the gaming industry that you’d be hard-pressed to think of anything other than what they’re known for when you bring them up: P-Studio and Omega Force are among them as they’re primarily responsible for the Persona and Dynasty Warriors franchises, respectively. If you’ve ever played either franchise but not the other, the thought of them coming together is going to seem strange but it fits and complements the other so well that it’s insane to think that this hasn’t been done before. While it isn’t without its shortfalls, this game definitely stands out among its peers.
Everything Fresh, Yet Familiar
Taking place shortly after the events of Persona 5, Strikers has the protagonist returning to Tokyo to gather with his Phantom Thieves friends for summer vacation on a camping trip. When trying to get things together for the trip, they enlist the help of a popular cell phone application named EMMA. Going to Shibuya on EMMA’s recommendation, the protagonist and Ryuji cross paths with a popular idol who gives the protagonist a card with a keyword that, through EMMA, allows them to be friends.
When the protagonist punches in the keyword, it brings them to the Metaverse, a place much like a Palace but much bigger, a place they later call a Jail. Ryuji and the protagonist are helpless to watch as they see Shadows steal what appears to be the Desires of others who used the keyword as they did, as well. When Ryuji and the protagonist return to the real world, they report to their friends who all resolve to save the people who had their Desires stolen. Through this, they learn the nature of Jails, and they overcome its master.
Much like the story of Persona 5, it doesn’t rely heavily on the player having any preconceived notion or knowledge of what’s going on as the party doesn’t really seem to know what’s going on either, and stumbles through reasoning until they get to the very end, meaning that a new player could immerse themselves just about as much as a longstanding fan. Given, it doesn’t really spend much time introducing or developing established characters, it’s not entirely needed for the style of game and story Strikers presents. Rather, it feels like you’re a part of a group of friends who are trying to overcome adversity in the name of protecting themselves and those who can’t defend themselves.
One can’t help but notice that while this game contains nearly all the elements of a successful Persona 5 story continuation, it feels like there’s a lot of elements that are pared down or lightened up for the sake of conciseness and to fit the gameplay model. It’s not entirely a shortcoming but some of the villains and new characters feel a little shallow and lacking depth but it’s the nature of this kind of game. I can’t blame them for that.
The Best of Both Worlds
Unlike other Warriors mash-ups like Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors, Persona 5 Strikers feels more like a Persona game that features Dynasty Warriors game mechanics and not the other way around, so this game feels refreshing on both fronts for fans of either franchise. Much of the non-combat elements exist just as they would in Persona 5 in that you’re progressing the story along, you’re fulfilling requests, you’re interacting with NPCs, you’re investigating for clues, among many other typical role-playing game tropes that exist for games within the Persona franchise. There are your usual story exposition dumps that fill the gaps between dungeon runs and there are tons of opportunities to develop and support your characters. If you’re familiar with and love the framework that makes Persona 5 feel like it did, you’re going to love it here.
When you get to combat in the Jails, though, your expectations of seeing wave after wave of enemies while pressing on towards pressured objectives might be failed a little as you’re not thrown into the throes of combat right away. Rather, movement through the battlefield still feels very much like going through a Palace in Persona 5, with a fair amount more versatility through the Phantom Dash ability. In order to engage in combat, you have to make contact with one of the myriads of wandering Shadows through the battlefield. This summons a small army of Shadows to fight, which is where it feels a little more like a Warriors game, as you hack and slash through the enemy party with reckless abandon. Of course, you still have to consider enemy weaknesses and ambushing enemies to gain advantages much like you would in Persona 5, making combat not feel like a complete departure but it’s done in such a way that you can definitely feel the Dynasty Warriors influence over combat.
One might come into this expecting a heavier Warriors influence as there was in a game like Hyrule Warriors and I was definitely in that camp as someone who was a real fan of that idea. Fighting enemies and landing critical blows don’t have the same impact as I thought they should and you’re doing a lot less of carving your path through hundreds of enemies so if that’s something that might be a deal-breaker, you might want to consider that. That just means, though, that this game leans heavier on its Persona-derived elements and as I’m a huge fan of that franchise, as well, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Style and Substance is More Than Skin Deep
All the style and charm that’s present in Persona 5 is faithfully retained in Persona 5 Strikers, thankfully, considering it seems there was a slight streamlining in the graphical fidelity, performance, and fluidity in order to streamline the experience across all of its platforms. Everything, right from walking around and chatting with the party, to slinking around and fighting in jails, feels and looks just about how it should, considering it was made to be equally performing on all of its platforms. It definitely feels and looks different but it’s so close to the way Persona 5 made me feel that I don’t think it detracts from the overall experience.
It’s one of those rare experiences where a developer can actually lower the graphical quality in some respects and still retain the feeling and style that made the source game stand out and really shine amongst its role-playing game brethren. It just feels like Atlus saw that they really nailed it with Persona 5 and decided “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
Symphony of Destruction
I don’t talk about the sound production of a game very often but I have to note something that really stood out for me: several key pieces from both Koei Tecmo and P-Studio‘s sound team came together and collaborated on several new tracks specifically for this game. It’s probably one of the ways that this game meshes Persona and Dynasty Warriors stylings fairly evenly. Yet again, it happens in such a way that never really feels off-putting and there’s even a battlefield that uses a track that leans heavier on the Dynasty Warriors side and I absolutely loved it. As someone who really appreciates a good video game soundtrack, this is something that really helped me enjoy this game and I’ll probably go out and purchase the soundtrack if it ever becomes available for sale.
Verdict: I went into this game thinking I was going to get a Persona 5 themed Dynasty Warriors game but that’s not what this game is. What you are getting, however, is an experience that feels very much like an extension of the Persona 5 experience that borrows heavily from the Warriors franchise. While this game strongly caters to Persona 5 fans, it doesn’t require you to be a diehard fan to follow along and for that, I find that it ensures this game is enjoyable to a wider audience and not just fans of Persona 5 or Dynasty Warriors. If you like action games that are easy to get into but do well to constantly challenge you, you’re not going to want to miss Persona 5 Strikers.
- Easy to pick up and play; combat is satisfying and doesn't feel repetitive
- No requirement to know the previous source material, though it does help
- The skill ceiling is high but the learning curve isn't obscene
- All the style and charm of Persona 5 is present and amplified
- Some on-screen mechanics are easy to overlook if you don't understand them or aren't paying enough attention
- Graphic down tuning feels appropriate but jarring, especially where animations are concerned
- Skill walls can be frequent and frustrating if you don't follow certain strategies in battle
- Battle doesn't have the same weight, drama, and impact that Warriors games are often known for