Persona 5 Strikers review for PS4, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PS4
Also On: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus & Omega Force
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1
Online: No

The Persona series by developer/publisher Atlus is certainly no stranger when it comes to unique spin-offs. We?ve seen fighting games, rhythm games, and now in partnership with developer Omega Force, we?ve got a full-blown Musou Persona game with the upcoming release of Persona 5 Strikers. Omega Force, if you?re not familiar, are the developers of the ever-popular Dynasty Warriors series, and have also been responsible in recent years for the very successful Hyrule Warriors games for Nintendo. So if you?ve already played or dabbled in those titles, you?ll have a rough idea of what to expect out of Persona 5 Strikers. However, I was surprised to find that this wasn?t just a straight-up button-mashing action game and that it actually feels more like a traditional Persona entry than you may expect. 

Persona 5 Strikers is a sequel to Persona 5, taking place the following summer after the events of the previous game. The game is structured around a road-trip mystery adventure, where Joker, Yusuke, Morgana, and the rest of the Phantom Thieves are tracking down a new threat that?s causing a lot of weird events throughout Japan, some of which are being erroneously blamed on the Phantom Thieves themselves. 

Strikers also introduces a few new characters, including new party member Sophia. Sophia is an A.I. that lives in your phone while in the real world, but when adventuring in the Metaverse, she?ll become an actual party member. Her backstory is a mystery at the onset, and ties into the overall plot of Strikers. The reason for the Metaverse continuing to exist is another major plot point, as is the introduction of Jails, which replace the Palace concept of the original Persona 5.

All the story stuff is handled pretty well, and despite the change in combat, Persona 5 Strikers doesn?t skimp out on the plot side of things. This is still a lengthy adventure, which will take dozens and dozens of hours to see through to completion. So in that regard, it certainly feels like a traditional Persona experience. 

Combat is certainly the biggest difference in Strikers compared to the standard Persona game, but again, it still feels very Persona-like to me. This is where the Omega Force factor is felt the most, removing the traditional turn-based RPG combat in favor of a straight-up action brawling mechanic with light and heavy attacks that can be strung together into combos. However, the approach to initiating combat is still very much in-line with a standard Persona game. 

You?ll have a large map to explore with different sections and mechanics when running through the Metaverse Jails, but you?ll still trigger combat by encountering shadows roaming around the map, and attempting to sneak up and ambush them to initiate a battle. From there a section around you will become walled off, and your four party members will start fighting a multitude of monsters. The A.I. will control three party members while you have direct control over one, but you can swap between party members at any time with the press of a button. The A.I. isn?t particularly great at combat, if you?re wanting to cause any real damage it?s going to be done by the character you?re controlling, but your party members at least attempt to stay out of harm?s way for the most part. 

While fighting, you?ll also want to pay close attention to monster weaknesses and exploit those weaknesses to make the fight easier on you. Most run of the mill encounters won?t give you much trouble, but there are large enemies and bosses that will have shields you?ll need to break away in order to trigger an all-out attack, and they can typically withstand a fair amount of punishment before that happens. If you go into a big encounter with the wrong party set-up, or the wrong persona?s equipped on Joker, you?ll likely lose that fight pretty quick. It?s this aspect of the combat system that feels the most like Persona to me, and it translates to real-time action really well. 

Other mechanics are also pretty much in line with the previous Persona games. You?ll collect additional persona for Joker to use via random drops after battles. You can then power-up these personas by using them in battle or you can fuse them together to make new ones, carrying over a limited set of abilities from one persona to the next. You?ll also have armor and weapons to shop for to outfit your party members, side quests to complete via the new Requests system, and you can even revisit Jails you?ve completed to either grind away at enemies or hunt for hidden treasure. 

Taking place in the Summer, you won?t have the whole school day management mechanic from the prior Persona games, instead, your day to day progress is more streamlined. You can generally jump out of a Jail when you want via checkpoints, and then explore the real-world city your party is currently visiting with some limited interactions via shops and NPC?s. But it?s worth noting that most of your in-game time is going to be spent exploring Jails, which again is a bit of a departure from the traditional Persona experience. Some folks might not like this streamlined approach, but it fits the road-trip story set-up pretty well I think. 

All in all, I?ve really enjoyed my time with Persona 5 Strikers. I?ve played a whole lot of Dynasty Warriors and spin-off games in that genre, and I would argue that Persona 5 Strikers feels like one of the more unique takes on a Musou game that I?ve ever seen. It really, honestly feels like a full-fledged Persona sequel, in both story and combat, but with a heavier emphasis on action. Combining these two distinct flavors of video game franchises works exceptionally well here, and if you?re into either type of game, you?ll likely find something to love about Persona 5 Strikers. 

Note: Atlus provided us with a Persona 5 Strikers PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-