After Dancing in Starlight and getting the Royal treatment, the Phantom Thieves are back in another spin-off with Persona 5 Strikers.
Persona 5 received much critical acclaim for its stylish flashy visuals and fun upbeat soundtrack to match. This combined with its unique dungeon traversal and familiar story and battle system helped it gain a top spot on many JRPG fans' lists. Although Strikers is considered a spin-off, the developers pulled out all the stops to deliver something with as much quality as the main game.
The story in Persona 5 follows a very familiar sequence of events. The gang is framed after random people in Tokyo start acting strangely and rumours start that it's the fault of the Phantom Thieves. However, instead of people losing their hearts, they're losing their desires. The police are all too happy to pin the blame on the Phantom Thieves except for one cop who decides to lend them a hand in proving their innocence. This story feels similar to the main game but it's refreshed with an emphasis on how the convenience of digital assistants can have hidden repercussions when the public isn't fully aware of how they operate as the citizens of Tokyo are gushing about a new personal AI that seems to know everything about them. You'll also meet another AI that quickly joins your party to help you.
Persona 5 Strikers' battle system is more akin to the Dynasty Warriors series than a typical Persona game as it's made by Omega Force. There's no waiting between moves so you can carefully select the next action; instead, you'll frantically decide your next step while taking on hordes of enemies real-time. Collecting personas and having them join your party to unlock skills and level them up is of course a major part of the gameplay, too. Deciding which personas and party members will join you in the next dungeon is important because the battles get tough and you'll really need to rely on exploiting enemy weaknesses as much as you can.
Attacking enemies is done in a variety of ways from mashing combos with the face buttons to casting elemental spells and using the scenery to your advantage. The environments in a typical dungeon are much more vertical than the average Persona game, requiring you to traverse up and down on both 3D and 2D planes interchangeably in order to find a good spot to unleash an attack, find hidden treasures, or advance the story. When in the middle of a fight, you can climb a lamp post then spin on the pole to attack enemies in the vicinity, jump onto a skateboard then smash into monsters as you grind, or climb on top of something hanging above the enemies then drop it on them for big damage. It's a lot of fun and every new area provides its own challenges to use the environment wisely.
Traversing the dungeons leans further into the adventure genre than the main game which is excellent. Even though you'll get a vague indicator of the next spot to reach, it's up to you to figure out how to traverse the walls, tight ropes, and gates to get there. It may be a fun challenge but I occasionally found myself a little overwhelmed by it all because it gets very busy at parts. An extra challenge is sneaking past the more powerful enemies if you don't think you're up to the task yet. Doing so successfully lets you avoid a battle altogether or perform a stealth attack which has the potential to take out the enemy and all of their friends in one shot.
In true Persona 5 fashion, Strikers lives up to its predecessor in providing a bold and colourful display with its very own distinct visual and aural style. Even just flipping through the menus is a joy with their great use of animation that makes everything feel exciting.
It would be a mistake to dismiss Persona 5 Strikers as a mere spin-off. Although the battle system is definitely different to a typical Persona game, Strikers delivers an experience that fans of the series will love; perhaps even more than Persona 5 itself.
- + Dungeons have a solid level of challenge
- + Just like its predecessor, it features a bold art style and soundtrack
- + Battle system provides a fresh experience
- - Main story is a little too familiar
- - Sometimes easy to get overwhelmed with the intricate dungeon layouts