It’s time to steal hearts with the Phantom Thieves once again! After what seems like forever (despite the fact we’ve known for months this game was getting localized), it’s just about time to rejoin Joker and his friends as new, strange things are happening in town. I was able to spend some time with Persona 5 Strikers, and here are some early game tidbits for those who need more Persona!
A few months following the end of Persona 5 (not Royal), Joker and the other Phantom Thieves decide to gather back in Tokyo for their summer break. However, they arrive right as a string of strange incidents has been reported among the general population. Upon receiving a friend request from an up and coming fashion star on the app EMMA, Joker and his friends are once again pulled into the Metaverse. After escaping from the “Jail” with the AI Sophia’s help, Joker and the Phantom Thieves of Hearts decide to investigate why the Metaverse has returned. Mixed in with all of this is Public Security officer Zenkichi Hasegawa, who has taken an interest in the Phantom Thieves and wants to know the truth behind this new set of bizarre incidents.
Persona 5 Strikers is what I would call a mix of action RPG and hack-n-slash combat. It doesn’t feel like a traditional Musou (Warriors) game, as some have described it. First off, your means of exploring the world breaks away from traditional Musou games. Musou battles usually take place on a large map you traverse to take out specific enemies or take over bases. None of that is present in Persona 5 Strikers. Instead, you have traditional dungeons (called Jails instead of Palaces) with multiple areas to traverse. The first dungeon has roughly eight areas that are open to exploration. The amount of territory, especially the verticality of the map itself, feels like something a more open-world game would do. It certainly feels out of place in a Musou game, but it did feel slightly like Persona 5. You can also navigate through as other characters, not just Joker. While Joker does have to be in your party at all times, you can sneak around as whichever of the Phantom Thieves strikes your fancy.
In these environments, Shadows roam the area freely. When you engage a Shadow, similar to Persona 5, the battle starts for real and takes place on a smaller battlefield on the map. There are security guard enemies that are your traditional Musou fodder, but the familiar Shadows from Persona 5 require more strategy. They represent this game’s equivalent of Musou “captains,” enemies that are slightly stronger than the typical minions and have a brain. Typically, Musou captains appear leading a small group of fodder. However, in Persona 5 Strikers, there can be an enemy wave consisting of nothing but captains. These waves, especially if you don’t ambush them on the overworld, can be problematic as they launch spells at your party. Getting hit by attacks that your characters are weak against is still dangerous, just as it was in the base game. Good management of your SP, especially early on, is still important: you can’t go all-out with your skills. Each encounter has a sense of danger that isn’t present in most Musou games. I’m used to being a walking engine of destruction when playing on Normal in Musou games, but P5S presents a fair challenge. I’ve actually seen the Game Over screen a couple of times so far.
When you select a Persona skill in this game, combat pauses and allows you to plan your next move. Picking on an enemy’s weakness can knock them down, which lets you unleash the series’ signature All-Out Attack on it. This game also features Showtime from Persona 5 Royal, which takes the place of regular Musou specials. Unfortunately, it’s not a duo skill like it is in P5R, but it’s still an ability to use whenever it’s available.
You can’t talk about Musou games without mentioning your playable cast of characters. All of the Phantom Thieves are playable except Futaba, who retains her original role as your navigator. (Disappointing, since I wanted to see Futaba kick some butt.) Each of the Phantom Thieves has their own playstyle. With a gun as his base special, Joker is fast and powerful and can swiftly down enemies weak to Gun skills for rapid All-Out Attacks. Panther’s whip allows her to strike enemies in a wide range around her. Ryuji can charge up attacks after his base combo for extended range and power. Queen has a variety of skills she can use on her motorcycle. There’s a good amount of variety with each character, and I think it translates pretty well with how I imagined they would fight in an action game.
I’m sure Persona 5 fans will be disappointed by the exclusion of the previous game’s Confidants like Takemi and Iwai, who conveniently decided to take their own summer vacations at the same time as the Phantom Thieves return. How will you get the items and equipment you need? Fortunately, Sophia sets up her own shop that you can access from your phone with the greatest shipping delivery time ever. Forget Amazon’s one-day delivery; Sophia’s Shop has next minute delivery. Now that’s convenience! As for Confidants themselves, the skills they provided are instead part of a new “Bond” system. As you go through the story and finish fights, you gain Bond points that can be spent on various bonuses like more maximum HP and SP, recovering after battle, increased drops, increasing lockpick skills for chests, and more.
A welcome feature from Fire Emblem Warriors returns in this game, and that’s the option to prioritize frame rate or graphics. Ideally, the game should be optimized so you shouldn’t have to make this decision, but it’s welcome for those playing the game on lower-end hardware like the Switch, base PS4, or weaker PCs. It’s better than not having the option and the experience suffering badly as a result. At least now it’s up to you.
Persona 5 Strikers will finally release on February 23rd in the West. Anyone purchasing the Digital Deluxe edition can receive the game four days earlier on February 19th, though, if you can’t wait to jump into the action. Keep a lookout here for our full Persona 5 Strikers review in the future!