Title: Persona 5 Strikers
Developer: Omega Force, P-Studio
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Persona 5 Strikers is finally out on Switch, PS4 and PC. Personally, and for the sake of this review, I went with the Switch version because I could not resist the siren’s call of a Persona game on the go as PSP and Vita versions of older Persona games were superior (change my mind).
For those in the dark about this game, Persona 5 Strikers is a game that takes place a year after the events of Persona 5. Not Persona 5 Royal though, so don’t go into this hoping to run into Kasumis or Marukis. They’re not here, unfortunately. This game was in the works well before Royal but maybe/hopefully there will be DLC.
Anywho, a year has passed since the events of P5 and the group is a little older, a little more mature and, in the case of Yasuke, somehow hungrier than ever. Joker has returned to Leblanc for summer vacation and the gang has decided to go on a road trip.
Unfortunately, about the same time, bizarre behavior has happened all over the place with people acting insane, stripping down and running around naked, becoming obsessed over others, or just confessing to crimes at the most bizarre moments, all around Japan. Of course, there’s only one group of people the special forces know of that can do this, the Phantom Thieves. So the gang’s vacation is cut painfully short as they must now use their road trip to travel the country and solve this bizarre mystery before they’re all arrested.
But traveling across the country instead of moving around a single set of cities isn’t the biggest change here. It’s the playstyle. Persona 5 Strikers is an action roleplaying game with combat inspired by Dynasty Warriors. You take on groups so enemies instead of the traditional instead of turn-based combat.
When I first heard about this, I was honestly really worried that the story itself was going to get watered down. In crossover games like Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors the stories got reduced to short cutscenes that occurred in mid-battle. Luckily, this is absolutely NOT the case in Persona 5 Strikers. It is a Persona game through and through. In fact, in some areas, there may actually be even more polish. I mean, check out this video I took of the menu. The MENU.
When you’re not in the Palaces (or the battle stages), you’re running around cities talking to people, exploring, visiting shops and just hanging out and having coffee. Everything you enjoyed from Persona 5 is here. You can even manage Joker’s Personas, switching them mid-battle and finding enemy weaknesses to trigger all-out attacks capable of wiping out a massive patch of enemies.
You’re not alone in this adventure. Beyond a host of new villains and an Akechi equivalent detective that gives you a bizarre perspective into how an adult would deal with being a Phantom Thief, the game introduces the complete joy that is Sophia (code name: Sophie).
Very early in the game, you encounter a bizarre woman with a strange way of speaking. You quickly find out it’s an A.I. like a living SIRI. It is also shortly after you meet her that you find out that she’s as much about kicking ass as she is being adorable.
Everything about Sophia is fun. Her Persona is a series of four coffin-like boxes that can become a shield, a melee weapon or a projectile at a moment’s notice. She also has glowing blue energy yo-yos because why the heck not. It also gives her a very fun amount of range and cool-looking combos. Plus, her white outfit really helps her stick out in battles while the rest of the gang still looks like they robbed a late 90’s era Hot Topic.
Not only that but her way of speaking grows on you so fast. Even in the most serious, confusing moments in the game, she has a way of describing things that puts a bandaid on the metaphorical booboo and cheers up the darkest scenes. I didn’t expect to like this character this much but now real-life road trips are just going to make me jealous because I won’t be able to have her travel with me.
While the controls are tight and the combat is fun and the story is a joy, there are a few comments/complaints I have.
The camera is a little wonky. It tries to stay on the character you control but sometimes gets too close. In a game with hundreds of enemies surrounding you, it can get a little irritating to not realize how much is going on next to you.
Another issue, which may be exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, is the poor frame rate and the sharpness. You can kind of see it in the video above where it sometimes gets PS2-level jaggies. It can be a little rough because this game seems to have a lot more details in areas than PS5. One of the weirdest spots I noticed this on is with Haru.
In Persona 5, Haru lived for simple footwear. Sensible shoes with no real detail. It wasn’t a store beat but regardless of what costume you put her in her shoes always seemed the most comfortable. In Strikers, however, she has these bizarre, strappy heels on at all time with a slanted top and exposed toes. Normally I wouldn’t care that much (despite it being kinda out of character for her) but on the Switch with the jaggy problem, it just looks like her feet have been blocked out to protect their identity. When your main character looks like they’re running around on some Lego constructs it kind be weirdly distracting.
But, like I said, beyond the graphical issues on the Switch version and the occasionally wonky camera, the game is an absolute joy that still feels like a Persona 5 game. The team that worked on this completely changed the mold for how these kinds of games can be played. The characters, who are all fully voiced in both English and Japanese, are remarkably true to their mark. Honestly, it’s just really nice having the Phantom Thieves back in action.