Japan and releasing sequels on platforms that don’t have the original, name a more iconic duo. Persona 5 Strikers is a direct sequel to Persona 5, which was never released in any form on PC (or Switch for that matter, which Strikers is also releasing on). Regardless, at least ATLUS seems keen on bringing their games to more platforms, so I was excited to finally give Strikers a play.
Now let’s start with the major difference between Strikers and pretty much every other mainline Persona game: the fact that combat went from turn-based to hack-and-slash. Unlike Persona 5, Strikers is co-developed with Omega Force, the studio most well-known for the Musou series – including Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and the recent Hyrule Warriors games as well. Strikers adopts that same kind of gameplay, but with a bit of a Persona twist.
For example, while you are still mowing down hordes of enemies at a time like in a Musou game, you’re also able to pause mid-combat to make use of your Persona skills. These skills have elemental traits and there are matchups with enemies that can cause you to do more or less damage dependent on their traits. In fact, you pretty much have to account for these matchups with bigger enemies as otherwise you’ll be merely tickling them.
The combat difficulty can be a bit hit or miss in this regard. It’s always fun to blow through these massive groups of enemies with your big persona skills, but the boss fights can drag a bit – as all of them are effectively giant damage sponges. This is rooted in the combat’s lack of impact. You don’t really FEEL like you’re hitting most enemies or taking damage, you just kinda see it reflected on-screen. There’s little in the way of audio and visual feedback to really give the combat that sense of meatiness. I mean, there’s not even controller rumble, although that might just be a bug.
This is par for the course for a Musou game though, which I am a fan of by the way so I can’t say this was too unexpected, but I had at least hoped that a Persona crossover would have upped their game a bit. That or maybe I was just spoiled by the masterpiece that is Nioh 2’s combat a few weeks ago.
So, while that aspect remained the same, the combat did evolve in its depth. This is not your traditional Musou game where you can go in and just start swinging – there’s a lot more of a tactical emphasis this time around. The persona mechanic I mentioned earlier is easily the biggest change there. As Joker, you’re able to equip a set number of these personas and they can be customized, fused, and upgraded to your liking in the velvet room. It can get pretty complex there too, especially once you start fusing more than two at a time and have to take into account which skills can be inherited and whatnot – there’s a lot of fun to be had for those that enjoy min-maxing.
However, the combat also has an increased emphasis on movement. Not only are you going to have to make effective use of your dodge ability, but there’s also follow-up attacks that will have you zipping across the screen and a neat “phantom dash” mechanic that allows you to make use of the environment to do certain special attacks. You will quickly find yourself dashing all over, swapping personas, and using the most optimal skills for each battle – it’s much more involved than just spamming two buttons.
And this is on top of the fact that you can swap to and from your different party members at any time – each with their own unique combat quirk. For example, Ryuji has both electric attacks and special moves that can be charged to deal more damage whereas Yusuke has ice attacks and a unique parry mechanic that allows him to enter into chain combos. I had a lot of fun figuring out how each played and coming up with an optimal party, swapping members out occasionally to suit certain bosses and such – it’s far better depth-wise than what we usually get from Musou games.
Otherwise, it’s the same old formula. You enter a new area, wipe the enemies, proceed to the next, and repeat all the way until the boss. It can feel a bit repetitive at times, but the added depth kept me interested enough to keep going – and again, this is all with a Persona twist, so you’ll get a lot of story scenes and such in-between (which I’ll get into later).
Some minor changes I would like to see are improvements to the ally AI (as they sometimes will run right into enemy skills) and the ability to skip battle cutscenes. Seeing that flashy super move for the first few times? Great, but not the hundred or so times after that, it just gets old.
Now I should talk about the level design, as that also has its ups and downs. On one hand, it has that same thematic presentation that the Persona games have now become known by. Vivid color usage, abstract set design, it’s got the visual part on lock. What it doesn’t though is level layout. Unfortunately, Strikers falls into that JRPG pitfall of having incredibly basic and oftentimes blocky levels. Hallways connecting square rooms, invisible walls everywhere, and crude use of the already limited movement abilities – it’s all there and unfortunate to see in what otherwise is a visually appealing game.
The exploration of course takes a hit in the process. The blocky layout makes for much more linear levels and the chests and other hidden goodies are usually just down another hallway or in some other easily accessible location – there’s no sense of “wow, they actually hid a chest here?”, it’s a much more structured affair. Granted, the customization is limited to begin with – one weapon, defensive item, and accessory per character – so there’s not much to explore for in the first place.
I also found it annoying how each level gives you a bunch of checkpoints to use, but they don’t refresh your HP and SP. Instead, the game has you use these checkpoints to completely exit the dungeon and re-enter it at the same place. There’s no penalty for doing so, so I fail to see why they don’t just make the checkpoints do that for you, instead forcing you to sit through the 30 seconds of loading screens.
In fact, on the topic of loading screens – there’s a lot of them to this game. And not even just ones between levels (which of course, there are), but a ton for more minor things too, like simply opening shop menus. A minor complaint for sure, but it’s something I don’t usually notice in other games that felt very present here.
But of course, this is a Persona game and many come to the series for its story elements. Put simply, Strikers will not disappoint there. If you liked the story in Persona 5, you will absolutely like the story here as well. It’s got the fun character interactions, the plot twists, the social commentary (even if heavy-handed), and some decent pacing backing it all up. It was nice to see the gang get back together for another adventure, one that quite literally has them traveling the country.
The plot follows a similar structure to the first game. You’ll find some new location, discover that there’s a jail there (basically a palace), and then have to tackle that jail and uncover its secrets. The first few jails I was like – okay, this is basically the same thing as the first story – but it started to deviate as it went on and the differences between the palaces of the first game and the jails of Strikers became more apparent. Then, towards the end, it ramps up and becomes this much bigger thing – in classic Persona fashion. It is quite the journey and, although not quite as good as the story from the original, a nice addition to the overall Persona series regardless.
However, it is important to note that since the game is a direct sequel, you will need to have knowledge of the first game’s story in order to understand anything. There’s no “catching up” here, Strikers just dumps you right into things expecting you to know who all of these characters are – which was actually kinda refreshing as someone that was already familiar, you don’t waste any time getting right into the good stuff.
For those that aren’t familiar though, there are a few options. Of course, the best would be to just play Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal – although the additional story stuff added in Royal does not appear in Strikers. However, as neither were ever released on PC, that might not be an option for many. The second would be to simply watch Persona 5 the Animation. I know fans like to dunk on it, but it’s honestly not that bad and will set you up perfectly to understand the story in Strikers – I say as someone that just watched it for the first time last week. In fact, even the game’s producer recommends this method if you can’t otherwise play the original. If neither of those work, well, you could just read or watch a summary, but that’s definitely not an approach I would recommend.
There are also a few notable differences to mention here. For one, the game does not have the social elements that Persona 5 did, which I know many will find disappointing. There’s still a bit of free time and talking with the crew in-between missions, but nothing fully developed. Strikers is also nowhere near the length of the original Persona 5. It’s about a third and should take somewhere around 30-40 hours to clear or more if you want to go the 100% route. There is a little bit of post-game to complete after that that then unlocks new game+, allowing you to carry over levels and equipment, unlocking a new difficulty mode, and adding a few other cool bonuses.
So let’s move on to the graphics and music – because that would be a crime not to mention for a Persona game. Right off the bat, it… doesn’t look any different from the original – so if you liked that look – well, nothing changed. I certainly did, so can’t say I’m disappointed there, but I may have been hoping for further refinements to textures and models – maybe that’s expecting too much. The anti-aliasing could be improved though, it’s kinda rough in its current state, especially so for a PC release.
The music on the other hand, that absolutely slaps. It did in Persona 5 and it does again with Strikers, adding a bunch of new music while also including some excellent remixes of tracks from the original. Last Surprise, for example, has been remixed into a rock song and is the perfect companion piece for when you’re mowing down a group of thirty or so enemies at once. Persona continues to raise the bar for video game soundtracks and Strikers is no exception.
And before I close out this review, let’s discuss the PC port. I won’t say it’s a bad port, but it’s far from great. The biggest disappointment comes in the fact that it is locked to 60 fps. This is absolutely a game that would have benefitted from an uncapped framerate, so I was immediately disappointed to see it was capped. That 60 fps is at least stable though, only dipping during loading screens where you can’t tell. Strikers also has higher resolution support, including 1440p (which I played at with no issues) and 4K.
I’ve seen a lot of posts describing constant crashing issues and infinite load screens, but the game only ever crashed on me once, and it was during a dialogue scene shortly after I saved, so nothing lost there. Regardless, this is something that I hope the devs look into, as any crashes at all is worth fixing. Otherwise the game ran flawlessly. I had no further bugs or technical issues of any kind.
As for how it controls, I went with an Xbox One controller and had no issues aside from the lack of rumble, but I believe that to be a bug as it also affects PS4 controllers and I know the game has rumble as it’s in the settings – so hopefully a patch for that comes sometime soon. On keyboard and mouse, the controls are functional (and can be remapped) but are not ideal. On mouse especially, there’s a permanent negative acceleration effect, where the faster you move the mouse, the slower the camera moves. There is at least mouse input in menus, but I would recommend a controller for this one.
Persona 5 Strikers is yet another nice addition to the series, offering up several changes of its own while staying true to what makes Persona great. There’s the interesting story with all its twists and turns, the fun characters with all their quirks, and the top-notch visual presentation and music on top of that. The combat – now in real time – has its ups and downs though, bringing more depth than what is usual for a Musou game, but bringing that genre’s problems along with it (particularly the lack of impact and damage sponging).
Regardless, it’s still a fun time and a worthwhile experience if you want to see the story continued – just be sure to go into it with knowledge of that story, as it’s definitely not designed for newcomers.
Quote: Persona 5 Strikers is yet another nice addition to the series, offering up several changes of its own while staying true to what makes Persona great. Worthwhile experience for fans of the original!
You can buy Persona 5 Strikers on Steam here. The game is also available on PS4 and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.