With Persona 5 Strikers dropping this week, I’ve spent a lot of my disposable time — between “researching” for waifu reviews (Uh-huh… – Ed.) and writing said waifu reviews, of course — diving back into the world of the Phantom Thieves.
Its safe to say we’ve been excited for this one for a while, and though I still have a fair bit of the main campaign to get through, I wanted to share my first impressions and the things that jumped out at me as I played.
Rest assured, this will be a spoiler-free article because A) I still have some of the main story to get through so I don’t want to comment on it yet and B) I don’t want Atlus to send armed guards to my door for posting plot details early.
Persona 5 Strikers: style and substance
A lot has been said about Persona 5’s art direction being top-tier, and that is certainly true about this sequel. The menus retain the look and feel that we all grew accustomed to from the original game, changing things up just enough to make Persona 5 Strikers more than just a carbon copy of greatness. Movements are fluid, allowing your Phantom Thieves to jump around to get the best angle for an ambush. And character designs are still bright and colourful, with no two villains looking or feeling the same.
The biggest change is the new combat system, which at first glance resembles a Musou game rather than the turn-based combat that has been a mainstay of the Persona series since time immemorial. Enemies now appear in greater numbers on the battlefield and the Phantom Thieves must cut down waves of them to earn XP and advance through the dungeons.
However, this is not your standard hack and slash gameplay — and it isn’t intended to mimic the usual Musou formula of cutting through a thousand fodder enemies before you reach a boss fight to slow you down.
Going into Persona 5 Strikers with the same mindset as a typical Musou game will lead to a lot of frustration. Resources are limited, especially early on in the game, so you’ll need to fight smarter, not harder. The Phantom Thieves might have their Personas back, but they are still tricksters at heart. They do their best work in the shadows.
Combat is far more chaotic this time around, with combos accentuated by the occasional prompt to unleash versions of All Out Attacks, Baton Passes, and Follow Up attacks. While these don’t feel as necessary to success as they did in Persona 5, they can swing the tide of battle. Setting off an All Out Attack against a wave of mooks and wiping them out in a single move is still just as satisfying — even if it isn’t accompanied by the same “whack biff thump” visuals as in mainline Persona installments.
This time around the dungeons feel more open, with more exploration on the field than in Persona 5. Though the mini-map gives you a fair bit of guidance on where to go, there is still some freedom on how you want to approach fights. There are enough alternate routes that if you wanted to play the stealth game and conserve your stamina, you can. If you want to grind and get them levels, you can do that too. I would actually suggest the latter approach because the difficulty in Persona 5 Strikers will ramp up later on — but you do you.
For me, the highest praise I can give Persona 5 Strikers is that it feels like a worthy sequel to one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Whether it’s the music, the visuals or the triumphant return of a near-flawless cast of characters, it has brought me incredible joy. Ryuji is still dumb and loyal as ever. Makoto is still scary and hot. Yusuke is still weird. And Futaba remains an adorable little gremlin to protect at all costs. (Best girl, fight me – Ed.) It still feels like a Persona game and that’s an accomplishment all its own.
The Phantom Thieves are back and, though the gameplay looks very different, the story and the setting feel like a worthy return to form for them. This time they are taking the show on the road, tackling those who might be using the Metaverse for their own evil purposes all across Japan.
Don’t be scared of the change in combat. If you were a fan of the original, there will be enough in Persona 5 Strikers to keep you satisfied.
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