Gone are the days when the word “Musou” painted an image of historical Japanese figures duking it out on the battlefield while killing thousands of enemies. That term can now be applied to characters from The Legend of Zelda and other popular IPs going to war and it has been pretty crazy to see which franchises are being adopted into this style of game.
Persona being one of them definitely came as a shocker, even if this series can sometimes feel more like Dynasty Warriors with a different skin. But in the case of Persona 5 Strikers case, we’ve gotten a Persona game with just the right amount of Musou influence sprinkled in.
Persona 5 Strikers takes place a few months after the original game. The merry group of friends reunite to spend their summer vacation together but unfortunately there’s no rest for the Phantom Thieves. They somehow find themselves back in the Metaverse, tangling with nefarious individuals who are stealing the desires of others for their own personal gain.
Everything about this story, from the world to the characters, feels so familiar but in the best possible way. Persona’s greatest strength has always been its ability to get you attached to its cast of characters. So having the chance to spend time with the Phantom Thieves again is like meeting up with friends whom you haven’t seen in ages; it’s just the coziest of vibes. The downside to this is that these characters are all established within their world already and it’s honestly quite impenetrable to newcomers unless you’re willing to play the original game or alternatively watch the anime to catch up.
The new characters fit perfectly in too. Sophia, an AI that lives inside your phone, is a bit oblivious to a lot of the happenings around her but learns and grows as she comes to understand more about humans. Zenkichi on the other hand is a cop with a hidden agenda and even though he’s helping the crew achieve their goals, his role as a double agent helps keep things fresh and interesting.
While I absolutely adored the character interactions and just being in this world, the overall narrative really didn’t do much for me personally. It’s missing a lot of the intrigue that kept me hooked in the original game and the early game villain’s motivations felt really weak, like the author who’s abusing the metaverse to gain fame. Much like the original game, each dungeon somehow has a narrative relationship to an individual member of the Phantom Thieves too. This was a nice touch but characters don’t go through that much growth outside of the new members. Thankfully the story picks up later but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mostly playing this game for the gameplay alone.
Persona 5 Strikers is so much fun. It’s not what you’d expect from an Omega Force game, as this is surprisingly way less of a Musou than it is an actual RPG. Outside of dungeons you can still explore the various cities in Japan where you can talk to NPCs and shop around. While there’s no social link/Confidant system, you’ll gain bond points from combat, doing side quests and completing mini character events which you can spend on various perks and bonuses. The new areas you visit are also visually interesting which gives this game a unique feel over the original. It’s clear that a lot of effort went into this game, which makes it all the easier to refer to Strikers as a proper sequel to Persona 5.
The real standout however is the combat and dungeon design. Each dungeon is themed after the villain you’re currently going after and is full of puzzles and combat encounters. Granted the puzzles are pretty rudimentary but it does add some nice variation to exploration, which you’ll be doing a lot of as each dungeon takes a few hours to complete. There’s no calendar system like in the original game so you can hop in and out of dungeons as much as you want. It’s great though because you’ll find yourself returning to the real world a lot to restock on items and recover your SP. The biggest gripe I have however is this game’s incessant need to over-explain every single thing. This game throws out these short dialogue sequences when it needs to point you in a certain direction, but it gets to the point where it’s just overbearing and often hurts the pacing. I don’t need to constantly be told when there’s a point of interest that’s literally in my line of vision. Thankfully these exchanges don’t last very long but it was frequent enough to become an annoyance.
Having played my fair share of Omega Force games now, Persona 5 Strikers by far has the most enjoyable combat system of them all. Each character has a light and special attack. Special attacks differ from character to character but basic combo strings are made up of a combination of those two moves. It’s simple but because you’ll be switching between party members a lot and each character has a distinct playstyle, the basic flow of combat never feels dull. There are signature Musou style battles as well where you’ll fight hordes of enemies all at once, but those are relegated to special encounters. Normal encounters only spawn a few enemies at a time which really helps the pacing as every other Musou is just non-stop large scale combat scenarios. The biggest hook however is the Persona system.
Strikers effortlessly translates the usage of Personas from the original game to fit into the more action orientated combat system. With a tap of a button you can freeze time and summon your Persona to pull off special magic and physical attacks. The weakness system makes a return as well but whereas in the original game if you attack an enemy weakness you’d get an extra turn, here, doing it enough times can lead to a strong follow up attack or the signature All-Out Attacks. The way you can seamlessly go from attacking to summoning your persona to executing follow-up attacks just feels so good but there’s also quite a bit of strategy that goes into combat.
If you’re playing as Joker, then which persona you’ve currently got equipped affects your stats and what you’ll be weak to. You gain more Personas from either picking up masks that are dropped from enemies after they’re defeated or from fusing personas together to create new and stronger ones. So it becomes important to have a wide variety of personas in your arsenal. On normal difficulty this doesn’t matter all too much but when playing on hard you really have to make sure enemies aren’t exploiting your weakness as battles can get really tough. The difficulty however is a bit unbalanced.
I found normal to be too easy and hard just felt downright unfair at times. The biggest issue I had was that enemies have an incredibly short wind-up time for their attacks, so it can often feel like you’re dodging more than actually attacking. Persona’s magical attacks can actually be pulled off during a combo which saves SP but to actually get the opportunity to do it sometimes feels impossible given how frequently you’ll be bombarded with enemy attacks. Still, despite that I couldn’t help but enjoy the challenge because the core combat system is just that enjoyable.
I went into Persona 5 Strikers expecting a straightforward Musou experience with the visual and audio flair that the series has always been known for. To be fair, the game looks and sounds absolutely amazing and I’m already listening to the OST every day, but this is not your average Musou game. Strikers cleverly transform Persona 5 into an action RPG while retaining so much of what made the original great. While the incessant hand-holding and unbalanced difficulty sometimes detracted from my enjoyment of this game it ultimately ended up being a worthy sequel to a classic RPG.
Last Updated: March 12, 2021