The Phantom Thieves are back – this time for a road trip! Persona 5 Strikers brings back the lovable gang from Persona 5 as they embark on a new journey as they once again try to save Japan and clear their names. Developed by Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force in part instead of solely just P-Studio, is Persona 5 Strikers a worthy sequel or just a cash grab?
Set six months after the events of the original Persona 5, it follows Joker and the rest of the Phantom Thieves as they are roped into a new investigation. They find out that people are having their desires stolen which makes them act bizarrely. Unfortunately for our heroes, they are seemingly framed as the ones who have done this and therefore must prove their innocence.
All the regular Phantom Thieves are back in action with two new additions to the team. The gang are joined by an AI called Sophia and a police inspector named Zenkichi Hasegawa. Together, they must reclaim the desires of people and save the rest of Japan.
There is a huge change in gameplay from Persona 5 to Persona 5 Strikers. The biggest being the change in combat as it’s no longer turn-based. Combat is similar to Dynasty Warriors as it’s more of a hack and slash brawler with some turn-based Persona elements – such as using a skill from a Persona freezes time. All-Out Attack and Showtime are back but mixed in with the hack and slash.
Again, Joker can wield multiple Personas and fused them in the Velvet Room just like Persona 5. However, you no longer just play as Joker – you can finally play as the rest of the crew. Each character has their own Persona and style which means that you don’t have to settle for one you don’t like.
The Confidant system from Persona 5 is replaced by a BOND system which represents the team as a whole. It makes sense as the team are already friends and established, so you just have to build on the current bond.
It feels like immediate fan service for Persona 5 fans – but done well. All the feedback and insides jokes from fans are taken into consideration for Persona 5 Strikers. Yusuke Kitagawa is less pretentious and a more balanced member of the group, and Haru Okumura finally has a bigger part which finally shows her funny sense of humour.
Persona 5 Strikers does not feel like a cash grab, as you can tell so much thought went into it. It’s a relief to see your favourite characters return and given the treatment they deserve. The world feels like the world from Persona 5 – but completely expanded. Despite travelling across Japan and seeing new areas, the world still feels very much Persona 5.
The combat doesn’t feel fiddly and is done spectacularly – plus it’s amazing how the battle blends in with the real world after it ends meaning that there are no awkward transitions taking you out of the experience. The addition of items in the world, such as skateboards or cars to detonate, make it feel like a fully rounded world and adds so much more entertainment.
Of course, the incredible music returns with some new tracks and the chance to play ones from Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal. Wonderland and Counterfeit Phantom are two stand-outs that just fit their Jail’s so well and are insanely catchy to hum.
Whilst it’s easy to love Persona 5 Strikers – it’s directed heavily at fans. Newcomers may struggle with this title as it’s basically just a high school reunion between a group of friends who happen to be Phantom Thieves. The addition of Zenkichi is a valid one as he’s sarcastic and brings a new edge to the game, Sophia is a little boring and cliche. She becomes tolerable as you get into the game but she’s definitely not a new fan favourite.
Whilst the menu screens and UI is gorgeous and cool as expected in a Persona game – the transitional screens are unneeded. A black screen with a title card appears between scenes to give context, but it’s so unnecessary. It feels like a parody of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and let’s down the amazing visuals. This is the only letdown as the environments, characters and animation is still top quality.
Persona 5 Strikers is better than expected! It brings back all your favourites and does them the ultimate justice. The game may feel like fan service at moments but it’s still a great experience. This is an essential buy for Persona fans, but newcomers may want to try Persona 5 first to see if they like the environment and characters.
Words by Charlie Vogelsang