Persona 5 Strikers Review- A Follow-up With Heart

Posted February 20, 2021 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Omega Force, P-Studio

Publisher: Atlus

Release date: February 23, 2021

Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 (reviewed)

The 2017 entry into the popular Persona series, Persona 5, became a huge hit with both gamers and critics alike. The JRPG boasted a likeable collection of characters, a good story with a killer soundtrack, and tons of gameplay. In 2019 in Japan and in 2020 for the rest of the world, the game got an upgrade with Persona 5 Royal, which added characters, story lines, and tweaked the gameplay. Now in 2021, the game gets a companion piece/semi-sequel in Persona 5 Strikers.

The new game picks up after the ending of the original Persona 5, ignoring that the Royal edition existed. Joker and his friends- Morgana, Ryuji, Ann, Makoto, Haru, Yusuke, and Futaba- are back for a new set of adventures, taking place over the course of a month during their summer vacation and one that leads them across Japan. Changes in the game are evident early on. The turn based combat system is replaced with the Dynasty Warriors Musou style combat, with the ability to switch between party members on the fly. The Velvet Room returns but with a new character in charge. Palaces are replaced by new areas in the Metaverse called Jails. The game is moved along at a brisker pace (you can’t take part in a lot of side activities like the batting cage or watching movies this time), which works with the shorter time period. My first playthrough took me 37 1/2 hours, but doing everything could have players sinking 50 hours or more into the game (half of the original).

The game also introduces several new characters, among them the adorable AI Sophia and the cop Zenkichi. The new additions are a welcome addition to the cast, and work nicely with the new story that has people’s Desires being stolen by the Monarchs who rule the Jails. Uncovering the secrets of the Jails makes for a decent mystery that I won’t spoil here, and Joker and his crew do their best to rise up to deal with this new threat. Entry into the Metaverse is also altered slightly. While the Jails do vary a bit in their look and types of enemies, their gameplay loop remains basically the same throughout the game. Each Jail follows the similar pattern- infiltrate, find three things, face a mini-boss, send calling card, and face a boss enemy- and can feel a little repetitive. Each area also sees fit to have you covering Futaba as she hacks into a system to open a door, and true to videogame fashion, she takes her sweet old time while you have to fight waves of enemies and keep an eye on her health (if she dies, it’s Game Over). That does get tiresome quickly, but it does help that the combat can be fun.

Combat consists of your standard light and heavy attacks, with using the shoulder buttons to open fire with your guns, and the ability to use your Persona’s power. While the party can only be made up of Joker and three other characters, you can switch between them using the directional buttons. String them together at the right time and you can unlock a powerful attack by their Personas. Once again, only Joker can hold multiple Personas, which can be strengthened or fused in the Velvet Room. One issue during combat is that the camera can have trouble keeping up, leading to a very chaotic bunch of images on the screen. Button prompts are thankfully clear enough when they pop up, otherwise button mashing works well enough to take down your foes. Having a good supply of healing items becomes a must, especially in the later stages, and can be easily accessed through the Options button to pause the game while healing yourself.

While the story is nicely done, unfortunately our Scooby crew of meddling kids can prove to be awfully clueless at times. This was more forgivable in Persona 5 when they first were encountering the Palaces and learning about the Metaverse. But having that same cluelessness after those experiences is akin to Leon’s logic lapses in Resident Evil 6 where he seems to forget how to recognize someone’s now a zombie and needs to be shot instead of trying to be reasoned with. They do have their moments of insight though, and it helps that the cast remains likeable throughout. The logic lapses may not be enough to put people off of the game, but they are noticeable enough that they bear mentioning.

Technically, the game runs flawlessly, with no frame rate drops on the PS4 or crashes. The visual look is still as fantastic as the original, and once again the soundtrack is top notch. The English voice cast also performs nicely. Outside of the main story, side quests are handled in the form of Requests. These can have you returning to previously visited Jails or doing something for a friend in the town you’re currently in. The Requests replace the Mementos missions from the original game. Sadly, there aren’t many other side activities to divert your attention, but it works in the game’s favor since you’re on a shorter time schedule. Exploration is also more limited, but it’s neat to find Easter eggs from other Sega games and notice locations that will be familiar to Yakuza fans.

In all, Persona 5 Strikers proves to be a nice follow-up to Persona 5, even with it not being a full sequel. The gameplay mixes things up to set it apart from its predecessor, with fun real time combat, even though its gameplay loops can feel a bit repetitive. The story and cast are once again engaging, even with some noticeable logic lapses, and new additions to the crew are nicely done. While it won’t win anyone over who wasn’t already a fan, Persona 5 Strikers is an easy purchase for those who loved the original game. It’s a follow-up that contains a lot of heart, and makes it well worth visiting for fans of the series.

8.5/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus