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‘Persona 5 Strikers’ Review: An Excellent Spin-Off But An Awkward Sequel

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‘Persona 5 Strikers’ Review: An Excellent Spin-Off But An Awkward Sequel

As I mentioned in our preview, Persona 5 Strikers takes a radical departure from its predecessor, moving from the turn-based gameplay present in Persona 5/Royal, in favour of a hack and slash, Dynasty Warriors vibe. Whatever you may think of this design choice, it's clear in every other aspect that this is a Persona game, albeit with a slightly more limited scope than the last two mainline instalments.

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Playing as the Phantom Thieves - mostly as leader, Joker - you tour Japan, taking on evildoers in metaphysical dungeons called 'jails' (stay with me), while enjoying the sights of a stylised version of the country. The latter is the platform for much of Persona 5 Strikers' social elements, as you spend time with your in-game friends at various points of interest, from local restaurants to famous landmarks.

Before we go any further, the main element of this game is the combat. Yes, there's a life sim side to things, but Persona 5 Strikers feels more action-centric than fans may be used to. You take on hordes of enemies, often at once, and you'll need to dodge effectively while dealing out damage to make it through most scenarios. Look, I know combat was a big part of the previous Personas, but the change of style in Strikers leads to a shift in focus. It's not just about overcoming enemies, it's about the flair with which you do it. The more you use certain attacks, the more you master your characters.

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You can also swap between your party members, letting you fight and explore dungeons as other Phantom Thieves, making for a nice mix of combat styles. For instance, Yusuke is more suited to countering enemies, while Sophia allows for more distance between you and your opponents. This variety brings a lot of replayability to Persona 5 Strikers, and adds to the fluid feeling of the combat. As Joker, you can even change your persona on the fly, letting you pick the right move for any situation with ease.

Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus
Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus

It's not all different. You still use a mix of physical and weapon attacks, persona abilities and items. Also, you still initiate fights by approaching, ambushing or being ambushed by foes, and this cuts to a battle scenario like in other Persona games. However, the open combat encourages you to use your environment of your own accord, rewarding a different kind of strategy to the turn-based games in the series. It's a fresh ingredient for Persona, and one that's been executed superbly, giving Persona 5 Strikers a unique edge.

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Of course, Persona games are all about the characters, and Strikers doesn't forget this. Familiar faces return, with the majority of the Persona 5 cast comprising this game's ensemble, so fans of the franchise immediately feel at home, even if there's been some changes around here. You can still spend time with your favourite Phantom Thieves, too, but these interactions aren't as vivid as in previous games. You can still hang with them, but the level of choice isn't the same, and this seems to be down to the in-game calendar. Unlike in P5 and P5R, Persona 5 Strikers doesn't give you much freedom over how you spend your days. Everything is more streamlined, and I mean everything.

Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus
Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus

Not only do the dungeons (jails) feel shorter, but so do social interactions. You talk to your friend. They recommend a place to go to. You agree. You're there. You're gone. You might say Persona 5 is just as cut and dry, but that game gives you more choice over where you go, and who you go with. Persona 5 Strikers isn't as open as fans are accustomed to, which is disappointing considering the openness of the combat. This also applies to open-world exploration, with shop interiors restricted to a point where you only really interact with fascias when buying items. In this respect, Strikers feels like a spin-off, but the story is a full-on sequel, which feels off.

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Weirder still, Persona 5 Strikers follows on from Persona 5, not Persona 5 Royal. This isn't necessarily wrong, but it means we're without certain characters who we end Royal with. Regardless of what's canon, some will argue this diminishes the impact of P5R, but that's an argument for another article.

Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus
Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus

Let me be clear here: Persona 5 Strikers is not a bad game at all. Far from it, it's magnificent. The problem it has is the games it can be compared to - other Persona games - which are better in key areas. Personally, I prefer the combat in Strikers to turn-based combat, but that's the only thing I prefer. If you remove Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal from existence, Persona 5 Strikers would receive more praise, but that's fine. After all, this isn't Persona 6. (Please, Atlus, I'm begging you.)

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Strikers offers some excellent dialogue, provided by a cast of characters you genuinely want to spend time with, especially if you're a returning fan. The environments are gorgeous to look at, both in and out of dungeons. The game's story is impactful, with some moments hitting so hard in a way that only Persona games do. Then there's the OST, which is as excellent as we've come to expect from this franchise.

Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus
Persona 5 Strikers / Credit: Atlus

In short, Persona 5 Strikers is a fantastic game. It embraces the hack and slash genre without losing that signature Persona feel, and with more success than Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity does. The characters are wonderful, the gameplay is fun and rewarding, and the dialogue reaches similar highs to previous games. There are times where the self-awareness and fan service are a bit much, but overall, Persona 5 Strikers is a great game in its own right, for newcomers and fans alike.

Pros: Gorgeous visuals, wonderful characters, fun combat

Cons: Not as in-depth as previous Persona games, open world a bit shallow

For fans of: Hyrule Warriors, Dynasty Warriors, Persona 5/Royal

8/10: Excellent

Persona 5 Strikers
was played on PlayStation 4 with code provided by the publisher. The game releases for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC on February 23rd.
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Featured Image Credit: Atlus

Topics: Review, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4

James Daly
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