Persona 5 Strikers is a role-playing action game that is a mixture of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors franchise and Atlus’ role-playing game Persona 5. At first, it may seem like another Dynasty Warriors, but once you dive into the flavors of this game, you’ll find so many features that make Persona 5 Strikers one of the best games currently in 2021.
The story of Persona 5 Strikers is set six months after the events that occurred in the original Persona 5 (there is no mention of Persona 5 Royal due to both games being developed simultaneously). Nonetheless, that does not hinder the story at all. In this sequel, events similar to that of the first game are happening again: Famous higher-ups are suddenly breaking down, either acting strange or giving up their careers, and the group of high-school warriors called the Phantom Thieves are getting blamed for it. Meanwhile, the gang gets back together for summer.
Regrettably, they are unable to spend their summer relaxing due to the new enemies appearing all over Japan. They now have to take down these Monarchs (the rulers) that control Jails (similar to the Palace in Persona 5, except the Jails are areas in Japan that are personified in the Monarch’s head) that brainwash people. With the help of a girl Joker, the lead Phantom Thief and a strange but quirky Inspector, the thieves travel through Japan to steal the Desires (the people’s own will and thoughts) back from the Monarchs and return them to the citizens.
The story seems to take many elements from Persona 5, but afterward, the story takes its own path, and it becomes delightful. What is enjoyable is the social aspect the story seems to take. If you are a beginner, you may get lost because there are moments that reference Persona 5, but it does not make the game unplayable. However, it is suggested that you get either Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal; both are great Japanese role-playing games and are relatively cheap at $20.
As a newbie to action-role playing games and seeing the first trailers for Persona 5 Strikers, I assumed it was just going to be another Dynasty Warriors game. Still, I thought the game looked promising as well. Now it seems that Persona 5 Strikers, by far, is the best one yet. It takes the elements from Persona 5 and pieces from the Dynasty Warriors games, and it works.
You are given access to all eight characters from Persona 5 directly from the start, and you do not have to go through each section trying to gather them all like in Pokémon. There are all-out attacks: When an enemy is in a panicked motion, you can take advantage and beat them up with all your characters. You can summon personas, pass the baton to switch characters and more. It all clashes beautifully, and when you get into a fight, it feels like magic: you’re using Joker to summon a persona and hit the enemy’s weakness; you baton pass to Sophie to get her stats maxed out; then you have Fox using judgment cuts and using his showtime, a decisive move that can defeat an entire group of enemies and deal a lot of damage to bosses and strong enemies.
It is so action-packed and fun. Every character offers unique gameplay, from their fighting styles to their personas and combos, or Master Arts, that you can execute. The more you play each character in combat, the more arts and combos you can do with them. Hence, it is best to try out each character. There are times when, in fights, it seems too much is going on, but if you use your skill, or persona in this case, time stops, and you can cool your head to think without having to pause the game. The first Persona 5 was originally going to be an action role-playing game; if the next Persona game ends up being another action role-playing game, I’d be happy because they executed Persona 5 Strikers so well.
There are four difficulty options: easy, normal, hard, and risky if you finish the game. As difficulty goes, it is not a game where you mash the buttons without thinking; there are moments when you have to consider your options. For instance, when you are in a boss fight or fighting a formidable enemy, you need to learn how to dodge their attacks and counter them; otherwise, you will suffer a game over.
You also need to realize your skill level. There are enemies with sparks around them; you can take them on, but unless you have god-level dodging skills, it is wise not to fight them. Not to mention the grinding phases, in which you repeat tasks to level up in skill: Even though you know how to dodge and know the right timings to strike, you may still be too weak even to land a hit, and that is when you need to grind to get to a certain level. Luckily, the grinding here is not so bad where you need to spend hours leveling up.
The game takes roughly 45 to 48 hours to beat. Still, this does not mean after you finish it, you can call it a day and never touch it again. There is a lot of replayability to this game. Once you have beaten it the first time, you can replay it in New Game Plus, where you will have the perks of keeping the personas, levels and more you’ve unlocked. However, you will need to defeat the reaper, a challenging optional boss and beat the story mode to unlock New Game Plus. New Game Plus helps add to the replayability, but be careful playing it. One moment, you decide to play it for 10 minutes and it feels like so much is going on, then suddenly it’s been 10 hours, and you haven’t eaten anything or taken a break because you’ve been playing Persona 5 Strikers.
For those who have played Persona 5, playing Strikers feels like being back home with these characters; they all seem great except for Futaba, sadly. Ever since Persona 5 Royal, it seems she’s just this “gamer girl” trope that says pop culture references. Still, in exchange for Futaba’s character, we now have the great new characters Sophia and Zenkichi.
They do not feel like characters that are just written for the game; they are general characters you will learn to love rather quickly. Sophia is a precious bean AI child, and she must be protected. Zenkichi, on the other hand, is the policeman, dad and teacher that tries to be cool with the kids, but his attempts come off adorably awkward. He also has a daughter, but there will be no more said for spoiler reasons.
As for the rest of the main cast, some characters are given the spotlight while others are overshadowed. While going through Jails, one person shines through and is personally affected by the Monarch. There is also no confidant system, in which you form social links with other characters to level up; the game uses the BOND system instead, in which you earn points to unlock bonuses by talking to other characters and completing tasks. It is understandable where they were going with this, but there should have been some form of confidants; just because Joker has maxed out his friendship with everyone should not mean that you stop talking to them. There are small cut scenes of characters interacting, which are better than nothing, but not great.
Sound and Music
The studio that made the music for Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal has done it again. Strikers’ music is top-notch, and if you purchase the deluxe version, you get many more music options. However, though the original music for Persona 5 Strikers is great, it seems most of the songs sound like watered-down remixed versions from Persona 5. You will always know the song coming up is “the happy song” or “the sad song.” There are good songs, such as Sophia’s and Zenkichi’s songs, and the remixes are not that bad, but they seem repetitive. As for sounds, you get the same sound effects from Persona 5 as well. It helps make Persona 5 Strikers feel distinctive compared to other Dynasty Warriors games.
The voice actors and actresses did a fantastic job with their characters, although it seems at times when a character says a line, the actor speaks and then moves back a bit from the mic, so you only hear the line halfway. Due to quarantine, the actors did not have a proper studio, but it doesn’t affect the game at all, and the actors still did terrific regardless. Particularly, Max Mittelman as Ryuji Sakamoto has to win an award for best male lead vocal performance again. While everyone gave phenomenal performances, I laughed many times at how he said his lines.
The opening anime and 3D cutscenes are great. Outside of that, you can tell the outlines of the characters instantly; it does not hinder gameplay, but it is obvious. There are graphics settings that make it slightly better, but it is still plain to see.
Deluxe or Regular?
Both versions are available for PC, Nintendo Switch and the Playstation 4. With the regular version, you still get all the perks and wonders of the gameplay and story, and you can play that with no extra things needed. The deluxe version offers bonus items in-game, added music from multiple Persona games and four-day early access to the game. Sadly, the deluxe version is currently digital-only, the four-day pass is negated by now and it seems the bonus content is easily viewable on YouTube.
Because of this, the deluxe version seems like a bit of a scam, but if you do not mind spending an extra $20, it doesn’t matter. You will get a ton of music options in the game that you can randomize, and every time you fight in a battle, you’ll hear a different song. It also supports Atlus by letting more consoles gain access to the Persona series; this is the first Persona 5 game available on other consoles. It is a huge help to let Atlus know that people are getting the game on different consoles, and maybe someday Persona 5 will come out on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.
So Did the Phantom Thieves Steal our Hearts Again?
Yes, 100%. Persona 5 Strikers is everything you could want and more in an action-packed Persona game, from the gameplay to the story to the music. If you love Persona 5 or Dynasty Warriors games or action role-playing games, you should buy it. If you are a beginner, you should still try it out; it is available on many systems, and it is a great purchase to add to the shelves. Persona 5 Strikers is one of the greatest games of 2021, and it was well worth the yearlong wait for the translation of the game and its arrival in the West. Get ready for your wallet to be empty again; the Phantom Thieves have come to steal hearts and pocketbooks.
Tips for Playing Persona 5 Strikers
- Make sure to save up some BOND points for the BOND system.
- In the BOND system, maxing out Treasure Hunter will help you in the long run of grinding.
- When an enemy is about to use a skill, try to use a skill that hits its weakness. The enemy will stop using its skill.
- Try to ambush the enemy first instead of rushing head-on if you can.
- Each day your friends are in different locations on the map. Make sure to talk to each of them; they may give you an item or a request.
- If you are low on items or money, you can redo requests as many times as you want.
- Go to every store in every new area you head into. There are many useful items and recipes you cannot find in Sophia’s shop.
- Every time you fight battles in a Jail, all the stores restock, including Sophia’s. Be sure to stock up when you can.
- Use Joker’s Kitchen. Not only do you get BOND points from making new food items, but it also has useful things that you can make instead of buying items.
- Use all your characters to gain their Master Arts. Some arts are outstanding, like Sophia’s gravity gun.
- Be sure to follow up attacks. If a character has a prompt up, you do not have to switch to them, but if they can hit a weakness, it is best to do so.
- Make sure to keep an eye on Futaba during hacking battles. It may get hectic while fighting, and you can end up losing track of her and her health.
- All characters have combos that use their persona without using stamina; you can practice outside of battle to remember the combo.
- Joker has some personas that will give you a stat bonus if you use the persona attacking combo.
- If you leave, you will regain your health and stamina with no consequences.