Persona 5 Strikers, the latest Persona spinoff title in an increasingly large crowd of spinoff titles, takes all the charm and art style of Persona 5 and marries it with Dynasty Warriors gameplay. At first blush, “musou” mechanics where large-scale battles are commonplace might seem like a poor fit, but Persona 5 Strikers largely manages to make it work without comprising either side of the equation. It’s a tricky balancing act, but the video game makes it feel seamless when at its best.
The plot of the video game picks up after the conclusion of Persona 5, and while those events overall inform what happens, it’s not entirely necessary to have played the original to understand what’s going on. In Strikers, a new string of cases have cropped up that are reminiscent of those performed by the Phantom Thieves in the past. The group is quickly recruited to investigate these occurrences in order to exonerate themselves and come into contact with several different areas that are similar to Persona 5’s Palaces, which they deem Jails.
It’s inside one of these Jails that they meet Sophia, an AI and new companion with a mysterious past. Persona 5 Strikers is all about shutting down these Jails, getting their Monarchs to repent, and generally figuring out what it is that’s going on and how Sophia factors in. All while travelling cross country with all of the Phantom Thieves crammed into a van and, in Sophia’s case, a smartphone. Half of the video game plays out in various Japanese locales while the other half -- the “musou” part -- occurs within the Jails that they discover along the way.
Combat in this game, which is confined to the aforementioned Jails, is no joke, and if you aren’t paying careful attention to the various bars, gauges, and button prompts, you’re going to have a bad time. About halfway through Persona 5 Strikers, I turned down the difficulty to Easy rather than Normal, and even then it wasn’t exactly simple. The Dynasty Warriors franchise might be known for having players leap into the fray and whirl about to disperse mobs, but a little more care and tact is necessary here.
Being “good” at combat in Persona 5 Strikers requires keeping track of weaknesses, what Personas you have at your disposal, what combinations of buttons do special actions, whether your Showtime gauge is full, whether one of the Phantom Thieves wants to do an extra move, environmental hazards, and more. Much of this is handled with popups suggesting various actions, but it’s an overwhelming amount to juggle.
More than once I found myself dashing to a pillar during combat when I meant to perform an entirely different action. Other times, it was missing out on performing powerful attacks because of just how much information I was trying to process. It’s just short of being one too many plates to keep spinning. Just as an example, it took me 24 hours of playing to realize each character had an individual gun that could be used independent of other actions. That’s not an exaggeration.
Speaking of late realizations, it might initially seem like Persona 5 Strikers is fairly light on the camaraderie as compared to its mainline sibling, but it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t actually the case. As you visit Jails and other places in Japan, the Phantom Thieves will individually open up about their own wants and desires. While there might not be much to do in Shibuya overall, there’s plenty more where that came from down the literal and figurative road.
To be clear: don’t expect the same amount of content as Persona 5 proper and especially not Persona 5 Royal. Persona 5 Strikers is a much more confined adventure despite the fact that it travels all over the country. In terms of total time spent, think more along the lines of “a couple dozen hours” and less “well over 100 hours.” That’s with returning to various areas in order to complete Requests, which offer new gear and other perks once finished, multiple different times.
Speaking of Persona 5 Royal, it’s worth noting that Persona 5 Strikers is not a direct continuation of that title despite the release order. If you were looking forward to seeing more of Persona 5 Royal’s Kasumi or, well, anything from the expanded version of the original, do not get your hopes up. The official reason for this is simply that Strikers is a story based on the original Persona 5 rather than Royal, but given the timing of Persona 5 Royal and Persona 5 Strikers’ original release in Japan -- October 2019 and February 2020, respectively -- it feels like a byproduct of development cycles not necessarily allowing for it.
If you’ve downed Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal and maybe even Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight and still want more of the Phantom Thieves in your life, Persona 5 Strikers should absolutely be your next stop. Even without an overwhelming need to play it simply to see more of these characters, it still manages to be a solid video game with stylish art and action. That “action” doesn’t always line up with the expectation of what a Persona title is and can be, but for a spinoff, it lands its beats more often than not. And it’s not even the rhythm game.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Persona 5 Strikers is set to release for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on February 23rd. A PS4 code was provided for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a PS5. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Persona 5 Strikers right here.