Persona 5 Strikers Brings Big Action-RPG Energy to the Beloved Franchise
With its launch officially confirmed for Western regions in early 2021, Persona 5 Strikers seems like a worthy follow-up the acclaimed JRPG.
As someone that played through Persona 5 Royal over the summer, I’ve continued to miss my time spent with the Phantom Thieves after finally completing the game for the first time. Even compared to past Persona titles, the cast in Persona 5 really grew on me in ways that I didn’t expect, aside from the fact that by Royal‘s end you’ll easily have spent over 100+ hours with them. Whether it was hanging out with my personal favorite Phantom Thieves like Makoto and Futaba or trying to defy Morgana and not go to sleep, finishing Royal only made me realize how much I longed to spend more time with the friends I made in Tokyo. Thankfully, Persona 5 Strikers–known in Japan as Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers–is finally about to make its western debut, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time for those wanting more from everyone’s favorite Phantom Thieves, with a bit of a twist.
In a preview with Atlus, we had the chance to check out about 30 minutes of gameplay from Persona 5 Strikers, giving us a good idea of what to expect from the spin-off title in the JRPG series. As announced earlier this week by Atlus, Strikers takes place after the events of the original Persona 5 storyline and is set to release on PS4, Switch, and PC early next year, while taking a bit of a different turn from the original game. While Persona 5 Scramble has been available in Japan since February of this year, Strikers will finally bring the title over as a localized release for western audiences, which includes full VO in both English/Japanese and subtitle options in several different languages.
The most important quality to distinguish Persona 5 Strikers from the original game is that it draws from “Musou”-style gameplay in the vein of Dynasty Warriors. Compared to the turn-based RPG gameplay of the original Persona 5, instead Strikers is more of an action-RPG where players take on the role of the Phantom Thieves as they trek across different locations throughout Japan and try to break innocent captives from “Jails,” which are Strikers‘ equivalent of the Palaces from Persona 5.
Traditionally, Musou games tend to pit players against vast armies of enemies as they hack and slash their way through large open battlefields. Developed in part by Omega Force, this of course isn’t the first time that the studio has taken the “formula” of its Musou-style games and applied them to other franchises, as we’ve seen in past crossover titles like Dragon Quest Heroes, Fire Emblem Warriors, and most recently with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
While at first glance it does feature a bit of Musou influence, what I didn’t expect going into the preview was the fact that Persona 5 Strikers very much looks and feels like Persona 5 and less like Dynasty Warriors. Much like Age of Calamity is to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Strikers is intended to be a direct continuation of the events of the original Persona 5 not just narratively, but also visually. From sections of the demo where Joker is seen walking around the streets of Shibuya to entering iconic locations like Cafe Leblanc, Strikers is every bit as stylish as Persona 5, and it’s clear that Omega Force wanted to be as faithful as possible to the original’s unique art direction.
Strikers‘ emphasis on maintaining consistency with the design and gameplay of Persona 5 was pretty clear from the start of the gameplay we saw during our preview, which focused on Joker and the Phantom Thieves infiltrating a Jail at the heart of Shibuya in an amusement park-style setting. Much like the Palaces in Persona 5, the Jails in Strikers function largely the same as players explore and find different pathways and hidden secrets to uncover, all while trying to sneak around Shadows and other enemies. Even with the transition to more action-oriented gameplay, stealth continues to play a role in exploring the Jails as players try to ambush Shadows, and once you’re able to get behind them and remove their mask, they will burst into a horde of enemies that will immediately engage players in combat.
These combat moments made it clear that Persona 5 Strikers is leaning much more into an action-RPG style of gameplay, where Joker and your three other party members strike their way through dozens of enemies at a time. However, where Strikers really embraces the substance of Persona 5 is by having more of a “hybrid” combat system drawing from each of your party members’ Personas, which players can call on to use special abilities and powers. Bringing a Persona into the mix will temporarily freeze time and allow players to select skills and abilities that can wipe out waves of enemies easily or to provide support for your other party members. Additional elements from the series’ RPG roots will also come into play like status effects, combo attacks with the other Phantom Thieves, and the flashy All-Out Attacks where your party can go ballistic on a group of enemies.
From what I was initially expecting, Strikers caught me off-guard with how it really feels like a true follow-up to the original game, even with its transition to a wholly new style of gameplay. While it seems that Strikers won’t be incorporating any of the new story elements and content from Royal, it makes up for that some fresh additions of its own, including a new Phantom Thief named Sophie and the prospect of seeing locations outside of Tokyo. Though our demo mainly focused on combat and exploring one of the game’s Jails, I also hope that with the English release we’ll get to see some of my favorite aspects of the series–building your social links and managing your time with friends–incorporated into Strikers somehow, though it’s likely they might take a backseat to the action on display.
Having come to love the Persona series within the last few years, Persona 5 Strikers is already one of the titles that I’ll most be looking forward to in the early part of next year now that it’s finally confirmed for a Western release. While its emphasis on a more action-oriented style of play might be off-putting to fans of the original game, what we saw so far of Strikers should be reassuring that the heart of Persona 5 is still very much intact within the game. More than anything I’ll be looking forward to spending some more time with the Phantom Thieves, and on that front, Strikers seems like it will be worth the wait.
Persona 5 Strikers will officially launch on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC in the west on February 23, 2021.