I wasn’t prepared for Persona 5 Strikers to be such a Persona game. By that, I mean that when I heard this was a mash-up of the Dynasty Warriors combat with Persona 5. My assumption was that it would be primarily an action title, much like the recent Hyrule Warriors franchise. Do not fall into the same assumption. This is a lengthy Persona 5 sequel with the turn-based combat swapped for more action-oriented engagements.
Is it one for the fans?
If you’re a Persona 5 veteran, returning to these characters as they enjoy a term break will feel like slipping right back in. The focus is not as broad this time – you won’t be managing your day quite so much, nor is there the absolute freedom to explore the map and partake in side jaunts. However, there’s still a lot of meat, encompassing long conversations, story exposition, complex jail challenges and a whole raft of combat scenarios that stretch this somewhat pared back sequel into a full-blown commitment title.
The biggest change is of course in the fighting system, which swaps turn-based battles for an active, real-time approach. There’s still a surprising amount of strategy, though. Wth combat able to be paused with Left and Right buttons, the former of which lets you fire off a gunshot and the latter bringing up your personas to dish out magical attacks. There’s also a high focus on stealth, with surprise ambushes on enemies encouraged. This often instigates an all-out attack (by pressing O on PlayStation), which will sometimes clear all the enemies that spill out of a sole shadow representation in once smooth move.
Other times, you’ll be overwhelmed with a hundred attacking shadows, comprised of different types flinging their own magic moves at you if you don’t keep dashing about and swapping between characters to fold in tag-attacks. It’s all quite overwhelming for the first few hours, but after the tutorials finally stopped appearing, I found myself getting into quite a rhythm with the combat. There’s also no shame in bumping it down to easy if you just want to experience the story – there are no difficulty-related trophies for this one.
If Persona 5 Strikers is about anything, it’s the jails.
These are basically multi-hour dungeons, with twists and turns that require you to explore every corner to infiltrate the heart of each Jail. You’ll then free its victims by confronting the demonised version of a real-world person in order to put back to right the personality-shifting changes they are enacting out in Persona’s real world.
These are so involved that they are peppered with checkpoints, which allow you to save your game and punch out of the jail to heal, regain SP, explore the limited locations in the real world and buy weapons and items. You can then jump straight back into the jail and teleport to any checkpoint at will. The only criticism I have of this is that you need to sit through loading screens if you need to step out to heal or use the shop. I can’t see why the checkpoints don’t allow you instant access to all of those things. A head-scratcher for sure, but not a major issue.
If you think of Strikers as Persona 5 Lite, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect with gameplay. Locations from the original game are present, but your interactions with them are limited. Boiling down to a few shops with products not available on the dark web app you use for most of your purchases. The rest of the game is taken up with long conversations and exploration of the jails. This still pushes the experience out into the 45-hour mark, so you still need a lot of time in your life for this one.
When Persona 5 Strikers hits the road.
As the story expands, you and your crew embark on a bit of a cross-country van trip. It’s here that you can do a bit more out in the real world, exploring locations (six main cities) and cooking recipes to stock up on buffs for upcoming battles. Each location features a major “villain” that you discover, investigate and then infiltrate their psyche. It settles into an enjoyable rhythm across the main storyline and manages to feel different enough to P5’s metaverse heists to feel worthy of sequel-dom.
Strikers pares back the calendar management and deeper exploration and RPG aspects of P5. Presenting instead a more action-oriented title that focuses on the depths of its new fighting system.
Each jail is full of chests to discover and perhaps return to once you have levelled up your lockpicking skills, as well as thousands of shadows to battle. Persona fusing is simple but effective and you can register the personas that you fuse for repurchase later (although I never felt the need for this). In all, this feels like a welcome return and enjoyable diversion for the series. It will be interesting to see if any of these combat systems bleed into the next Persona title proper.