Does The S Stand For Sequel?

HIGH The story and characters.

LOW Damage sponge enemies.

WTF Is this an action game or a cooking and travel show?

Persona 5 Strikers (P5S) might seem like a standard musou action game in the 1-vs-1000 Dynasty Warriors style, but in a surprise move it’s essentially a full-on sequel to Persona 5.

While P5 was a true JRPG in the sense that it offered turn-based combat and tactical thinking much like the earlier Persona and Shin Megami Tensei titles that inspired it, P5S does away with that formula and replaces it with realtime action. It also sacrifices a few other series staples to better match this new style of play, but overall it’s a short — yet sweet — continuation of the Phantom Thieves story.

For those thinking of jumping into P5S without playing P5 first, my sense is that they’ll undoubtedly be lost. Strikers picks up roughly a year after the events of P5 and does nothing to explain the world, the characters, or the events that came before.

For those already familiar with P5, they’ll know that its action took place inside Palaces, but Strikers introduces new levels called “Jails”. These Jails are all custom-crafted (not randomized) and have challenges to overcome, most of which revolve around engaging waves of Shadows inside combat arenas.

Once in the thick of it, the player most often controls Joker, but I would often switch between party members to control the flow of combos and to hit enemies’ weak points. This was mostly entertaining, although to be honest, I did miss the turn-based combat — heroes versus large numbers of opponents feels far less tactical and overly hectic at times.

Also, some fights would devolve into long slugfests where I would successfully launch combos and target weaknesses, yet a brawl would still drag on to the point that it felt excessive. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case for every opponent, but it cropped up enough to dampen the core gameplay loop.

Once players get a handle on this new combat, they’ll notice that everything else advances in typical Persona fashion by slowly building up the story and characters. Outside of Jails, Persona 5 lets the player explore the city, go shopping, speak to party members, cook and take care of inventory management. These segments are much-needed breaks from the action. This is also a great time to equip and level Personas, as well as combine them into new ones. This series hallmark is simplified here, but the alteration fits the more streamlined approach of P5S.

Another aspect that’s been trimmed is the Social Link system, now replaced with a group “Bond” stat where the player gains points to spend on a board of abilities and stat boosts that benefit the entire party. While I missed the rich sidestories that shone in P5 and other Persona games, the Bond system makes sense as the campaign unfolds into a road trip across Japan. That said, I did wish for a few more personal character moments.

As a way of compensating for the lack of Social Links, P5S includes “Requests” — arbitrary Achievement-like tasks that ask the player to return to prior Jails. The few that stood out were those regarding my own companions, but the scenes that act as a reward only come in the form of dialogue. It’s disappointing, as doing these is often necessary to increase Bonds, which in turn increases combat effectiveness.  

With the knowledge that P5S makes several large changes to the traditional Persona experience, I will say that Strikers absolutely delivers as a sequel in terms of narrative. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, who was behind what plot, and to delve deeper into the psyche and trauma of the new cast. Much of the game also highlights discovering and enjoying food together throughout the country — entertaining, and a viable way to get some of the best items!

While not for first-time Persona players, Persona 5 Strikers absolutely delivers an unexpected sequel to P5 by offering an engrossing story and more time with these charming characters. Also, at roughly thirty to forty hours, it’s certainly a faster ride than its nearly two hundred hour predecessor — not a bad thing, since it left me hungry for another adventure with this crew.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Atlus, Omega Force and P Studio, and published by Atlus and Sega. It is currently available on Switch, PS4 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 30 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an action role-playing game in which players follow high-school students operating as Phantom Thieves in two different worlds. As players explore dungeon-like areas, they engage in battles against fantastical creatures (e.g., demons, evil spirits, shadow creatures). Characters use blades, guns, and Personas (i.e., creatures with magical powers/attacks) to defeat enemies. Combat can be frenetic, highlighted by impact sounds, occasional gunfire, and cries of pain. One dungeon contains several large bloodstains on the floor/walls; characters occasionally rip masks off their faces, resulting in splashes of blood. Several female monsters/demons/Personas are depicted with partially exposed breasts, and one creature has a phallic-shaped head and torso. Various Personas (e.g., Succubus) have sexual characteristics described in text (e.g., “A demon who tempts sleeping men…”; “They visit sleeping men and have sexual intercourse with them.”). The words “f**k” and “sh*t” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. Subtitles are large and easy to read on the default setting, and they can be resized. The game uses visual cues for all information, and audio cues have visual tags. During combat, dialogue text appears on the top-right side of the screen and can be difficult to read while fighting.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but movement is on the left stick. Camera is the right stick. Jumping is X. Selecting items on menus is also X. Combat controls use all buttons on various combinations of the face and shoulder buttons to cast Personas and move combinations.

Nikki Waln
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