The Phantom Thieves are back!
What They Say:
Join the Phantom Thieves and strike back against the corruption overtaking cities across Japan. A summer vacation with close friends takes a sudden turn as a distorted reality emerges; reveal the truth and redeem the hearts of those imprisoned at the center of the crisis!
The Persona series (and its sister series Shin Megami Tensei) is by far one of my favorite franchises in video games and Persona 5, in particular, is like home to me. Seeing the Phantom Thieves in action again in Persona 5 Strikers feels right, like I am reunited with some best friends in a popcorn-worthy summer action flick.
While the original Persona 5 introduced us to these angsty teens with a knack for stealing hearts in a turn-based origin story, Persona 5 Strikers brings them back together in a sequel storyline that features jam-packed action RPG gameplay. It is a massive departure for the series as a whole, injecting some Musou-like style combat into the mix.
But in many ways, Persona 5 Strikers is one of the least Musou-like games ever made, rivaling that of Dragon Quest Heroes 2 in that regard. In this game, you will not be dealing with the standard capturing of points, taking out forts, and otherwise exploring one massive battlefield from mission to mission.
Instead, much of the basic structure in Persona 5 Strikers will be familiar to those already existing fans. There are various dungeons, now called Jails, that you will explore in the game, progressing throughout the various sections of it and occasionally solving a puzzle or two to advance.
Along the way throughout the dungeons, you will find enemies roaming around that you can interact with to activate a battle with them. But, instead of the turn-based system that you are used to, it is a quick action-based fight that uses the style of Musou in these short bursts of combat.
These little fights will typically include dozens and dozens of various Personas that you are familiar with, from Pixies to Jack Frosts and so on, as you hack and slash your way through them. The battle will end when you have defeated all of them (or you escape or die) and you can return to exploring the dungeon.
In many ways, it is just a Persona 5 game but with the added touch of action-based gameplay. In this regard, Strikers excels as a complement to the original game since it does something totally different and that works really well. But more than that, it takes some great aspects of Persona 5 and uses them in a strong way.
For one, you are still able to summon up any Persona that you currently have and use their spells in the middle of combat, utilizing the same elemental weakness and resistance system that you already know to allow for more damage, one more attacks, and even the fabled All Out Attack.
When you aren’t in the dungeon, you can talk to your friends in light relationship aspects, fuse your Personas to fill out the compendium once more, and buy items at various shops.
From a glance, the general exploration, dungeons, and even Personas sound a lot like what you would expect from a Persona 5 sequel, and those parts are really great. But it is when you get past those parts that Strikers starts to falter some and really feel like that alright sequel to a beloved movie that seems like it has very few of the original creators behind it.
When you get past the really impressive and open ability to collect and fuse Personas, it’s clear that most other aspects of Persona 5 are either streamlined to an extreme extent or just nonexistent in the first place in Strikers. The former is the case for the bonds system, for example, as you won’t have your typical Confidants here but a simplified bonds system that is unique at least with the points you can earn and trade in for very nice upgrades for you and your party.
There are some quality moments with your party members at times, but they are nowhere near the level of what you would expect from the main Persona games. In addition, it felt like exploration in the outside world was barren, especially with the lack of minigames, jobs to do, and other side activities.
It seems strange since there are sections from the original game as well as new areas that you explore in Persona 5 Strikers that could have just had elements like jobs at stores and other content that would have really helped to fill out the game. Overall, this also means that Strikers is a much, much shorter game compared to its predecessor.
It is still a fairly long game comparable to other standard JRPGs, while being a fraction of the 100+ hours adventure that its previous title was. There is actually some good in this as the pacing of Strikers is pretty solid, even if the substance of its story and characters isn’t as great.
I adore the cast of the Phantom Thieves, from the besties to the waifus, but they do feel pretty hollow and less interesting than they were originally. The new party character Sophia has great voice acting and is a new favorite (even if I’m not a huge fan of her design), but she, too, suffers from not meeting the standard set in the original Persona 5. This might have some to do with the fact that it is a sequel and a different type of game but it does have me wishing that Persona 5 Strikers fully embraced the sequel that it actually is.
The same goes for the story as there is a similar premise that brings the team back together to solve some problems that involve various villains’ Palaces that are now known as Jails. The individual stories are pretty lackluster and serve as mainly just the vehicle for driving forward the otherwise really awesome action-based gameplay.
This doesn’t make Persona 5 Strikers a bad game, just a sequel that doesn’t fully live up to its predecessor. It is different and handles the characters and worlds in its own way, which happens to be exhilarating, fun, and just deep enough like in the case of filling out the compendium. But my biggest takeaway from Persona 5 Strikers is the fact that Royal needs to be on Switch ASAP.
Without a doubt, Persona 5 Strikers is the direct sequel to the game rather than just a spin-off but it definitely suffers from being compared to that title. With the exception of the Personas themselves, the lack of returning and deep content that we know and love from Persona 5 is disappointing, but it more than makes up for that in what makes it unique: exhilarating and fun action-based combat that takes the best parts of Musou gameplay and injects it into the beloved Persona world. Now, Atlus, bring Persona 5 Royal to Switch, too!
Developer: Omega Force, P-Studio
Age Rating: 17+
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Platform: Switch (reviewed), PS4, PC
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.