Something went wrong. Try again later
    Follow

    Persona 5 Strikers

    Game » consists of 9 releases. Released Feb 20, 2020

    A sequel to Persona 5 storyline with a real-time Musou-esque hack-and-slash combat.

    The Phantom Thieves Strike Again.

    Avatar image for mooseymcman
    MooseyMcMan

    12759

    Forum Posts

    5545

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 13

    Edited By MooseyMcMan

    Between the long blog I did last year after finishing it, and GOTY season with The Moosies, I've certainly written plenty about Persona 5 Royal. Enough that part of me didn't think I'd be writing about the Phantom Thieves again any time soon, yet here I am, having just finished the follow up and/or spinoff of Persona 5, Persona 5 Strikers. When a game surprised me as much as Royal did, and I grew as attached and emotionally invested in that cast of characters as I did, naturally anything else with them in it is going to have some sort of affect on me, and surprising no one, I've got thoughts on Strikers.

    Just not necessarily the sorts of thoughts I expected to have. Now, almost a year from when I played Royal, the things that stuck with me are exactly what I mentioned above. The characters, and how that game made me feel. (And feel free to give that blog a read if you missed it last year.)

    I knew going into Strikers that even beyond the combat, it wasn't exactly the same sort of game. Rather than a day by day high school teen simulator built around deciding how to spend a full year, Strikers is a linear story. Time moves when the story dictates it does, and a lot of the restrictions from Persona 5 are gone. Want to leave the dungeon as many times as you want without moving to another day? No problem! Conversely, there isn't really much to do besides traverse the dungeons, or otherwise push the story forward. Some optional things, small-ish quests to do things for the other Phantom Thieves, but otherwise that's it.

    The Phantom Thieves hit the road.
    The Phantom Thieves hit the road.

    Anyway, I went into Strikers thinking my takeaway would be how attached I still am to these characters, and leave with the same bittersweet feeling that Royal gave me last year. Don't get me wrong, I still like these characters as much as I did before, even if the game does feel like it lacks some of the nuance the characters had before, there's nowhere near the character growth they all had previously, etc. But the feeling I've got after finishing Strikers...is that I had an absolute blast slicing, dicing, and casting magic through all those levels with the Phantom Crew I still like so much.

    I suppose now is the time to mention for anyone who doesn't know (and hey, they might exist), Strikers is a “Musou” game. Or in other words, the Dynasty Warriors people came in and made an action game around the core of Persona 5 and its cast. I had not played any Dynasty Warriors games previously, nor any of the other Musou styled spinoffs. Unless the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo counts, but that was just a demo. The Dynasty Warriors have a reputation for being the mashiest of button mashers. Games where you just hit the attack button forever as you mindlessly mow your way through literal thousands of enemies.

    Is that reputation deserved? Probably not. Is Strikers that sort of game? Maybe on easy, but not really on normal, and definitely not on hard. Which is how I played the majority of the game, and like I said, I had a blast! Even just on its own merits, I think it's tons of fun, but especially considering all the different mechanics and quirks from Persona that have been incorporated in, and how the characters are designed, it's really remarkable.

    At first glance the combat looks really simple, just hit Square varying numbers of times, and use Triangle for combo finishers, but there's more depth and variety than meets the eye. Maybe not Devil May Cry depth, but enough. Take Ryuji, who was a melee focused character in P5. Here, his special ability lets him temporarily increase his defense, and resistance to flinching (getting knocked out of animations). That, combined with his moves revolving around charging up his attacks mid combo, make him feel like a real slugger that just wades into the horde of enemies, and lets nothing stop him while he gives them the walloping of their lives.

    Contrast that with Yusuke, the other melee focused P5 character, whose moves are about ultra fast sword slashes, and countering enemy attacks. Considering that the two of them were fairly similar to each other (combat wise) in P5, I think it's really cool that they feel so different here, and each in a way that feels true to them as characters. Ryuji, who always just charges ahead, of course he gets the buff that lets him tank so much damage. And Yusuke, much more elegant and always with an eye for art, has a more refined approach. Though, perhaps the rapid slashing just makes more sense for a katana, but either way, it feels true to him.

    Occasionally environmental objects, like skateboards, can be used to fight.
    Occasionally environmental objects, like skateboards, can be used to fight.

    Now, does every character feel totally unique to play in Strikers? Not really. Makoto's special ability infuses her melee attacks with nuclear damage, while Ann's gives her whip fire damage. Their actual attacks are different enough (Makoto uses her martial arts knowledge to unleash a “Fist of the Phantom Star” level of endless punches and also drives her pope motorcycle Persona to ram through enemies, while Ann...whips her whip around for big sweeping attacks), but there's certainly overlap in ideas and concepts. Another example, both Joker's and Haru's special ability is just a quick gun button. But the way each shoots and works that into their overall skill sets still help them feel different, with Joker letting out quick pistol shots in combos, while Haru and her Persona just hold the trigger down and blast a wide swath through enemies.

    Of course it wouldn't be Persona without the actual Personas, and they're here too, along with the same exploiting weaknesses system. Enemies and Phantom Thieves alike have elemental damage types they're weak and strong against, and like before, using them properly can mean the difference between getting totally worked over, and thrilling victory. But it's not just that some enemies take more damage to the right type that came over, the “one more” attack system, and baton passing to another character so they get a boost is here too. Rapidly jumping between four characters in the midst of such a hectic game can lead to some instances of it being a bit too much to fully keep track of, but mostly it works, and it's fun.

    Plus it gives that same feeling of this being a team really working together to win these fights that P5 did, even if this feels more like a bunch of wild teens just doing whatever, instead of carefully planning everything out, and patiently waiting their turn.

    If you're thinking that exploiting weaknesses like that and pulling out the special attacks after stunning them sounds like it'd make the game too easy, for all I know it does on easy, or later game on normal. On hard at least, it usually takes more than one elemental blast to put the enemies into the staggered state. Or at least it does for bosses and minibosses, those have armor meters that need to be worn down with repeated hits to their weaknesses.

    Now, I know what Persona diehards might be thinking, “what about SP management?” Well, you can definitely chew through it extremely fast, but holding the Persona button to freeze time and pick which spell to cast isn't the only way to get those elemental attacks out there. Each character has combo finishers that pull out their Persona to do an attack, and in some cases they even have different ones that do different attacks. Ryuji has different strong melee skills for a couple, and a lightning strike for his third. Joker, meanwhile, still has access to dozens and dozens of Personas (I don't think it's the full roster from P5, but it's close), and each has multiple skills they'll use depending on the combo you go with.

    Joker's starter, Arséne, uses a curse attack after a three hit combo, a physical damage skill after a five, and which ones they use depend on how leveled up the Persona is, and what skills they have unlocked. But the key thing about the combo finisher Persona attacks is that while they might not do quite as much damage, they don't use any SP or HP to cast. So, proper Persona use can make these combos really devastating, and help save on precious SP.

    I may have been playing as Makoto here, but it's a good shot of yo-yos in action.
    I may have been playing as Makoto here, but it's a good shot of yo-yos in action.

    That actually gives me a good segue into Persona fusing. As best as I can remember, it works the same as P5, but with a couple additions and changes. So far as I can remember, in P5 you just had to have the specific Personas for a fusion, whereas here they also have to be high enough level. Most of the time that's not an issue, but with specific Personas (and I specifically mean the ones you need to beat optional bosses to unlock access to fuse), those levels are ridiculous. King Frost for example, requires a level 40 Jack Frost (high, but reasonable), and a level 40 Jack-o'-'Lantern. Which is just absurd, I think the Jack-o'-Lantern I had was like, level 7? Getting that up to 40 just seemed like it would require an absolutely unreasonable amount of grind.

    To mitigate that, slightly, are Persona Points. Fusing, deleting, and acquiring new Personas by picking up masks during fights all give PP (though the masks might only do that if Joker's Persona inventory is full, and it gives points instead of the Persona). PP can be spent to increase their overall levels, or add points to individual stats, like strength, magic, etc. So by screwing around with fusing, deleting, and resummoning late game Personas (because I had more than enough money), I was able to get enough PP to make my King Frost.

    No Caption Provided

    Black Frost though? That required King Frost at level 65 (two higher than he was at), and both Jack Frost and Jack-o'-Lantern...at level 45. So that took a little more work, but I got them, even if it wasn't until after finishing the game's actual story.

    Will say though, the game is fun enough, and there's enough to do that it kept me excited to venture onward, and do what side stuff there is, even after finishing the story. Maybe this is spoiler adjacent, but unlike P5, finishing Strikers doesn't immediately put the save into new game plus, but rather it reverts it back prior to the final boss, and opens up some harder optional fights. And between when I wrote the first draft of this, and posting it, I've since beaten all those optional fights (still on hard) and unlocked new game plus. Since I don't really feel like playing through the whole game again on “Merciless” difficulty (at least not so soon), I've now run out of things to do in the game.

    Of course, spending pages going on about the combat in a sequel to a game that compelled me because of its characters, might give a poor impression about the story. But the story is good enough. It doesn't really take the time to dive as deep into specific characters as P5 did, and it a lot of ways it does feel like it's just going over very similar (if not the exact same) themes and ideas of P5, just at a faster clip than before. Without going into actual, full spoilers, I'll say that just about anyone who enjoyed Persona 5 would probably enjoy this too. It's just a breezier, less emotionally charged follow up. In a lot of ways, it feels more concerned with letting the characters have fun, and enjoy their summer vacation road trip than it is with trying to wrench hearts.

    That's not to say I don't still have a couple bones to pick with the game, and specifically some characters from P5 that got left out in the cold here. Some, like Iwai (the airsoft gun store guy) and Takemi (that shady doctor lady) get mentioned, but don't actually appear in game. Others, like Mishima, get mentioned absolutely zero times throughout the whole game.

    Mishima getting this treatment especially rubs me the wrong way. He was never an official member of the Phantom Thieves, but between his running the Phan-Site, and the number of times he appears in P5, he really felt like an honorary member to me. I get that P5 had a big enough cast of secondary characters that most of them probably had to be left out, and I knew this game didn't acknowledge anything, or anyone from Royal (poor Kasumi), what with it having been more or less made in parallel with that game. But Mishima could have gotten a cameo. Have him show up in one of the towns the main crew visits throughout the game, or he texts Joker every now and then. He could even be running the Phan-Site again, and have that be how you get side quests, like P5.

    No Caption Provided

    While on the subject of issues with the game, this being Persona, while it might not have as much capital P Problematic stuff as P5 did (no homophobia, no romances involving bad age gaps (or romances at all)), it's still not totally without issue. Specifically the fatphobia boss, midway into the game. It's bad, but also so totally out of left field, and just incongruous with everything else that I don't even understand why it's there in the first place.

    For context, the main boss of that area, in the real world, is rail thin just like basically everyone else in the game. But when the crew finally encounter her shadow self at the end of the dungeon, she's enormously fat, obsessed with eating, and in a way that is clearly intended to be disgusting. Even the Phantom crew are shocked, because the game hadn't done anything at all to indicate that this was what the boss was going to be, because the whole dungeon is ice themed. Not that if the whole dungeon had been about eating and fatness that it would be better (worse if anything), but it just feels totally needless, and bizarre.

    Otherwise though, nothing jumped out at me as bad in that way. There's a few scenes of “fan service” type stuff that's eyeroll worthy (because these are still teens, most of whom in high school), but nothing really unexpected or creepy. The game is still pretty hetero-normative, even if there's no romances. And no save import (unless unlocking a couple songs from Royal for rotation in fights counts), so no acknowledgment of any previous ones. But I'd say it's safe to assume anything from the first game was just a fleeting fling, if anyone took ire with that. Of course, I roleplayed my Joker as being queer as best as I could in P5, so naturally I still took the few chances I had to keep that alive here. Even if that means I'm thinking in my head that lines that are probably supposed to be jokes, were actually sincere, that sort of thing.

    No Caption Provided

    So I'm not just ending this on a somewhat negative feeling note, I should at least mention some of the story stuff, and the two new members to the Phantom Thieves. Nothing super spoilery, for anyone worried. If at this point you can't tell that I think this game is well worth playing, well, I just said it outright there!

    I'm trying not to post any pics of anything spoilery,
    I'm trying not to post any pics of anything spoilery,
    But this pair of Yusuke pics sum up how creative work feels to me.
    But this pair of Yusuke pics sum up how creative work feels to me.

    The basic premise of the game is that about six months after Joker left town after the events of Persona 5 (or in my case, Royal), he and his talking (not) cat are back in Tokyo for summer vacation (which for Japanese schools is August and maybe like a week of July). The whole (main) gang is back together to just relax, and maybe get up to some hijinks while camping or something.

    But since this is an action game, and not someone's purely fun fan fiction (this is not a dig at fan fiction, honestly), something goes awry, and before they know it, the Phantom Thieves are back in business, delving into the Metaverse to change hearts, and help those in need. This time with the help of a friendly amnesiac AI named Sophia (or Sophie, as I usually referred to her in my head, since that's her very clever Phantom Thief code name).

    Sophie's a fun character, even if a lot of her thing is that she's trying to better understand humans, and emotions, which leads to quite a bit of trying to explain these things to her. Her overall arc is good, though, even if it's not surprising. Plus, she dual-wields yo-yos, which is a very fun idea for weaponry. And fun in practice too, even if the game was so fast that I probably didn't time the buttons right to fully take advantage of her perfect attack timing mechanic.

    Back to the main story, the main thematic difference between this and P5 is that while P5's Palaces were largely focused on legitimately terrible people whose desires were so powerful, and bad that they warped literal reality around themselves, Strikers' bosses are more in a grey area. And, as an aside, yes, I remember Shadow Futaba was one of the Palace bosses in 5, and obviously Futaba (a Phantom Thief) is a good person. In Strikers, instead of Palaces, they're Jails, and the “Monarch” of each Jail is someone who originally had good intentions, but something traumatic (and the game uses the word trauma a fair amount) happened, and for various reasons they all went down the wrong path, and ended up as bosses in this game.

    And of course there's more going on behind the scenes, something larger, etc etc. And because the Jails are popping up around Japan, as opposed to being focused in Tokyo, the crew decides to borrow a camper just barely big enough to fit everyone, and take a road trip across Japan. Going from one scenic location to another, seeing the sites, and experiencing all the local delicacies. I can only imagine the people who made this game were very hungry, considering the vast array of foods that get brought up literally every time the crew arrives in a new place.

    Joker becomes quite the cook over the course of Strikers.
    Joker becomes quite the cook over the course of Strikers.

    Along the way they at first begrudgingly work with a cop named Zenkichi, who may or may not end up joining the crew himself (he's on the game's box art, is all I'll say in that regard). I'd like to think my anti-cop beliefs are known at this point, so his subplot around being one of the few “good cops” because most of the higher ups are corrupt is not fully to my liking, but it's fine. I'm not going to make a stink about it not meeting some arbitrary standard of “all cops are bastards-ness,” because I did enjoy taking every chance I could to poke fun at him in the dialog. In the end, he's a good enough guy. That said, I did particularly love hearing Haru cheerfully exclaim, “It's just that we despise the police, is all.” (Which is especially rich coming from the character who has a fortune from the family fast food empire, but I digress.)

    I think I said it already, but while the game doesn't really try to tug at the heartstrings as much as P5 did, it does at least give this stuff its all, and I think it mostly succeeds. In a lot of ways it feels like Persona 5 light, or to paraphrase Michael Higham from GameSpot, kinda like a direct to video follow up. Which sounds meaner than I (or probably Mr. Higham) intended, but I think it gets the point across. It's a fun time, and unless someone had an extreme aversion to action games, I'd highly recommend it to anyone who liked Persona 5. Wouldn't really recommend it to people who didn't play that one at all, though. It kinda assumes the player knows these characters, and what happened previously, which is totally fair.

    Other quick notes: The styyyyle, and music. Both are intact, with some really good new versions of old songs (Last Surprise – Scramble I like quite a bit more than the original), old classics (I still get hyped any time Take Over plays during a fight, no matter how many hundreds of times I must have heard it in Royal), and new ones to boot. It's still the same singer doing the vocals (I think just credited as Lyn in the game), and she still does as good a job as ever.

    Visually, I think the character models and effects all look great, but the game is way more aliased than I remember P5 being. I'm not sure what's the cause, if it's an engine thing, or if it's because the game is targeting 60 FPS on my trusty PS4 Amateur, and anti-aliasing had to be cut to make it happen. I will say, the fights are so fast and hectic that I never really noticed it there (and so far as I can tell, at least in “Framerate” mode, that felt smooth and solid), but in the walking around town/talking to people segments, it's hard to ignore. And swapping the game to “Graphics” mode didn't seem to clear it up, and I think the game still targets 60, so I don't really know what the point of that option is. It's not game ruining by any stretch, and I think the art still mostly shines through. But I'd also bet the PC version, or this game running on a PS5 looks sharper, and better. I'd worry about the Switch version though, anecdotally it sounds like that doesn't even have the good framerate.

    Goodbye again, Phantom Thieves.
    Goodbye again, Phantom Thieves.

    Anyway, I had a blast with Strikers. It scratches the itch of wanting to go on another adventure with the characters that I came to know and love so well, and it's a far better action game than I expected. It's still bittersweet to say goodbye to the Phantom Thieves, especially when this time I know it's probably the last new game they'll be the stars of, but it was fun while it lasted.

    As always, thank you for reading. Not sure when I'll write again, but I've got a slew of smaller games I've dabbled in that I could do a potpourri blog on, and the next big single player game I've started is...let me check my notes... NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139... I imagine I'll have some thoughts on that one.

    In the meantime, have a great day, and stay safe out there! I know I just got my first Covid vaccine the other day, and boy was my arm tired!

    Avatar image for cjduke
    CJduke

    1046

    Forum Posts

    16

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 5

    User Lists: 6

    I'm glad you liked it, the combat looks really fun. I enjoyed the combat in Hyrule Warriors as they did a great job of making it still feel like playing Breath of the Wild. This seems like they made the action even better. I am glad you get to use Makoto's motorcycle, the best part of Persona 5.

    Avatar image for mooseymcman
    MooseyMcMan

    12759

    Forum Posts

    5545

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 13

    @cjduke: Yeah, you can definitely just drive her motorcycle around zooming through enemies, haha. Morgana can turn into the van mid fight and do basically the same thing too.

    Avatar image for slax
    slax

    1225

    Forum Posts

    1281

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 8

    Grats on the first vaccine shot!

    I loved the first 30 hours of this game and then it began feeling like a slog finishing up the last few Jails, but that was mostly due to the combat and how difficult it became to break the shields of the strong/boss enemies. I kept thinking that if this was a more traditional Persona game, even trimmed of the social stuff as this was, I might've enjoyed it better. That said, I thought the story was surprisingly engaging, even though it was treading some similar ground to P5(R). And since Haru barely had time in P5 to be a character, I liked they way they used her in this game.

    Glad you ended up enjoying this!

    Avatar image for efesell
    Efesell

    7221

    Forum Posts

    0

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 0

    I was in a weird place with this game cause like it seemed very good and I was enjoying my time with it but it's so... not a Musou game when I thought that I was going to play a persona musou that it totally threw me off.

    Avatar image for mooseymcman
    MooseyMcMan

    12759

    Forum Posts

    5545

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 13

    @slax: Yeah, Haru getting some more screen time was good, and I appreciate all the weird things they add to her. Like how much she talks about chopping wood (I guess to explain her ax skills)??? And her driving!! But also all the serious stuff too.

    This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

    Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

    Comment and Save

    Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.