Nintendo Switch owners have been eager for Persona content on the Switch ever since Joker from Persona 5 joined the Super Smash Bros. fighters roster of the first DLC fighters pass. And now a year after the game was released in Japan, Switch owners can experience Persona 5: Strikers here in North America.
My first Warriors/Muso style game experience was with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity just last year. The core gameplay of these types of Warriors games involved hacking and slashing through hordes of enemies usually with flashy moves and combos themed around the franchise that those characters are from.
So it’s not surprising to see some hesitation from players who are accustomed to the slower paced, turn based RPG.
But this isn’t just a Persona themed Warriors Game as you’ll find out in this review of Persona 5: Strikers.
Preparing your tools
The wonderful part of Persona 5: Strikers is the story being incredibly solid with a continuation of the Persona 5 characters’ story at the forefront. You get to reunite with all your favorites Phantom Thieves a few months after the events of Persona 5 and aim to spend summer vacation doing all the things that regular teenagers do like hit the beach, go camping, and clear their name from a police watchlist.
Oh wait, these aren’t regular teenagers are they? Well looks like nothing normal can happen when this group comes together as they quickly find themselves back in the Metaverse helping an AI named Sophia escape from a Jail. She manifests as a regular person in the Metaverse but travels inside Joker’s phone when in the real world.
Unfortunately Sophia has lost her memory and it’s up to you to teach her how to be humanity’s companion.
Jails are similar to the Palaces with a few changes including checkpoints, accessibility to more people, and Desires instead of Treasures. They function pretty similarly to Palaces but you’ll discover the deeper differences as the plot progresses.
Together with Sophie, the Phantom Thieves are off to discover how these Jails are made and shutting them down across Japan as influential figures spawn them in a variety of places along their roadtrip.
Scouting the Location
Combat strikes that balance between simplicity and strategy while the story portion of the game carries most of the narrative through long group conversations and interactions as you travel to different places. The soul of Persona 5 is very much alive here with the story elements and group dynamics that made the Phantom Thieves so special in the original game.
The mass carnage and destructive battles of muso games are something that may cause Persona fans to be wary of this new entry in the series. But the game had an approach that differs from their usual formula.
While the sequences of mowing down enemies does manifest in Strikers, the strategic approach to battles from it’s turn-based predecessor has a large presence as well. It’s definitely not just mindless brawling since your health and SP are limited and stealth is encouraged. Enemies can easily stun you if you’re not careful while sneaking around and you can gain the advantage in encounters if you perform an Ambush to start the right.
In my experience, this varies heavily from other Warriors games on the Switch which have a map clearing approach which expects you to move your characters around to different areas and switch between them. I found it to be a successful adaptation of Persona 5’s themes into an action style adventure.
You can summon Personas as different characters to use abilities best suited to the situation. If a skill is effective against the enemy you’re facing it let you know that they are weak to your attack.
Enemies consist mostly of shadows. Weak ones show up in hordes while named Shadows are tougher to take down as they show up solo or in small groups. Defeating named Shadows may let you collect new personas for the player character, Joker, to equip and use
And the long cutscenes with well written characters are all back along with bonding between characters, Persona fusions, calendar progression, and dungeon crawling albeit with a few changes. The confidant system is not present in this game with a leveling system taking its place to simplify the skill earning. You will have plenty of opportunities to take a break from most dungeons which I think strengthens the game since fighting lower difficulty enemies may get boring after a while. And Persona can be leveled up using yen to enhance them as you progress though this can get quite expensive.
Flaws in the Plan
The first section of the game has an SP shortage since items that restore this gauge are limited and the only other way to regain SP is by leaving the Jail entirely. But as you progress through the story you will find new ways to make this less tedious without having to leave a dungeon each time.
I also found the camera a little annoying at times since there was a lot happening on screen and the constant movement of player character a bit confusing to aim. Luckily you can pause time by summoning a Persona and use that time to turn. But I would still recommend players to adjust the camera speed in their settings to a higher speed for less frustration in these situations.
While the new shop feature is convenient, some of the UI could have been tweaked for a better in selling items specifically. There’s only two ways to sell items, individually or everything in your inventory. And all sellable items are grouped together with your healing items. So you have to pick each one individually if you want to earn yen which becomes tedious after collecting a lot of valuables in the Jail. A quick fix would be to let players pick items to sell as a batch rather then going through the same dialogue multiple times.
The framing of this story as a summer vacation trip may give the impression that it’s just a spinoff game that is far from true. If you haven’t played either Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal you will be extremely lost as most of the game’s foundation is based on being familiar with the characters and the events of the first one. So it’s highly recommended to spend some time learning about Persona 5 before jumping into Strikers.
Setting the Mood
The music is phenomenal and lives up to past soundtracks in the Persona series. It has similar tracks to Persona 5 but with even more rocking ambiance to match the high action combat of Strikers. Playing on a Switch containing Smash Bros. save data with the Joker fighter DLC will unlock the standard Persona 5 music which you can adjust in System configurations for the game.
There were few issues graphically besides slightly blurry character models in cutscenes compared to the Playstation version but nothing significant. The most impressive part is the lack of frame drops or slowdowns during the combat which is the most visually intense section of the game.
Menus and UI are just as stylish as ever and make it feel like you’re playing Persona 5 on Switch to anyone passing by. The game’s signature style is back in full force and doesn’t miss a beat.
Overall, I think Persona 5: Strikers is a great game that will satisfy both fans that have played the original game and fans who have only absorbed the story but haven’t had the chance to play the game themselves. As someone who was familiar with the story and world of Persona 5, I felt pretty comfortable playing Strikers even without having played it firsthand.
There are a few minor improvements that could be made, not much got in the way of my enjoyment of Persona 5: Strikers. It has that distinct Persona 5 flavor in a new dish which only expands how the world of the Metaverse can be explored.
- Incredible style
- Immersive world
- Quick combat
- Story Accessibility
- Resource farming
- Saturated tutorials
A review code for Persona 5: Strikers was provided by Atlus Games for the purpose of this review.