Persona 5 Strikers continues the Persona saga with a follow-up to Persona 5 that comes to us in the shape of a Musou-style fighter. Does it continue an ongoing streak of hit games in the franchise? It’s coming out later this month for PlayStation, PC and the Nintendo Switch, and we tested it on a PlayStation 4.
Persona 4 (Golden) and Persona 5 (Royal) are been consistently named as top 3 games on their respective platforms, which is especially impressive on the PlayStation 4 because it has such a stellar library of games that includes Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us Part II. Naturally, expectations are high whenever a new game comes out for the franchise, even when it’s a spinoff like the dancing/rhythm games we’ve seen or Persona 4: Arena Ultimax – the latter of which is the closest to what Persona 5 Strikers is, but with entirely different fighting mechanics.
The story in Persona 5 Strikers picks up where the original Persona 5 left off. In that sense the new content in Persona 5 Royal, which expanded on the core story, is more of an alternate storyline that you don’t need to have played through in order to grasp the events in Strikers. Here, you’re at the start of the summer break with a cast of familiar characters, but the peace doesn’t last for long. Somewhat mysteriously, people are becoming infatuated with a new pop sensation called Alice Hiiragi, and while that may not seem like an uncommon situation it’s also driving people towards ruin their personal lives and finances because of it. Things are out of control, and your crew of Phantom Thieves is eager to find out why.
The development team at Omega Force was involved with Persona 5 Strikers, so it’s no surprise that the story unfolds with plenty of Musou-style combat. But just as we recently saw in the Switch exclusive Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity, this doesn’t mean that you get a simple cut and paste job of the familiar Warriors formula here. Strikers stays true to the Persona brand of character and narrative development almost to the point where Musou purists might lament that there’s less of an emphasis on strategic/tactical depth in the combat – and this one strays even further from the formula than Age of Calamity did.
There are elements of dungeon crawling here, and exploring a dungeon (or jail) with a degree of stealth can mean all the difference before you head into a fight, as you can dish out an ambush hit from the shadows and thus weaken an enemy even before you square off. Battles are generally on a smaller scale as well, especially compared to some of the Warriors titles out there. This also allows the game to put more emphasis on who you’re fighting, rather than resorting to hundreds of similar-looking enemies storming you all at once. As such, you’ll encounter familiar Personas to fight, who will use familiar attacks and skills – adding personality to the fights rather than turn them into button masher affairs.
Other elements from Persona 5 have also been translated to the Musou formula, like the ability to cast a spell that you know is going to work especially well on an enemy because of a weakness you’re aware of, or the chance to follow up with additional attacks if your first one was well chosen and directed. It’s a great mashup of the slower tactical nuances of combat in Persona 5 and the real time dynamics of a Musou title, especially if you’re fond of both genres to begin with. If not, then the “Persona elements” here might be a bit too daunting since they won’t feel intuitive, as this is more of a Musou title for Persona 5 fans than it is a Persona title for Musou fans – if that makes sense. Either way, combat can be challenging from either perspective, so players might be dialing down the difficulty level when they run into especially challenging scenes.
The audiovisual style of Persona 5 holds up extremely well in Persona 5 Strikers, in part because combat is often confined to smaller locations rather than the wide open spaces we see in Warriors games. This allows the gorgeously stylized Persona look and feel to shine through in both the characters and the environments. For fans of the Persona franchise, this is an essential game in the series, even if they’ve never played a Musou game before.