Persona 5 Strikers Feels More Like Persona 5 Than I Expected

Persona 5 Strikers Feels More Like Persona 5 Than I Expected
Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku
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When I heard Koei Tecmo studio Omega Force was making Persona 5 Strikers, I imagined a Dynasty Warriors game with Persona 5 characters. Turns out it’s not quite that at all. After playing through the first few hours of the full game, Strikers feels more like an extension of Persona 5 with a different combat system.

My confusion is understandable. Omega Force makes musou games, action role-playing games on a massive scale, with fields full of disposable enemies anchored by a few more powerful foes. Most Omega Force-developed games from other series follow suit. Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest Heroes, Fire Emblem Warriors and the like all feature hordes of enemies you must wade through in order to conquer battlefields and win the day. I was expecting much the same here.

Persona 5 Strikers does things differently than other Omega Force-developed third-party games, with Joker and his Phantom Thieves sneaking their way through colourful metaversal dungeons avoiding or ambushing wandering enemies, much like they did in the original game. The major difference here is that engaging with enemies launches the gang into real-time action-RPG combat against dozens of enemies, as opposed to Persona 5’s turn-based battles against small groups.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Though these large-scale encounters might feel a bit like the historical fantasy battles of Dynasty Warriors, they’re much more contained and strategic. Enemies have elemental weaknesses that must be exploited in order to activate powerful all-out attacks. All four characters in your party have different special skills and fighting styles, so knowing when to tag which characters in and out is important. Certain battles take place in areas with environmental objects that can be exploited, like scaffolding you can drop on enemies. It’s a far cry from the button-smashing hack-’n’-slash of the Warriors games.

But Strikers doesn’t completely do away with the turn-based elements of Persona 5. During battle you can hold down the right bumper, which pauses the action and grants access to your equipped Persona’s special abilities. Joker maintains his ability to equip multiple Persona at once, while the other playable Thieves are stuck with their signature spirits. As the game progresses Joker captures more and more Persona, which he can take to the game’s Velvet Room to crossbreed and enhance.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Story-wise we’re back in familiar Persona 5 territory, which is where at least the first several hours of Persona 5 Strikers takes place. Picking up six months after the events of Persona 5, Strikers opens with Joker and friends reuniting after some time apart. The gang plans to spend their summer camping and road tripping together, but before their vacation can begin they get mysteriously transported to another dimensional prison run by an outrageous fashion icon named Alice.

In the video below we see Joker, Ryuji, and Morgana captured by the evil-seeming Alice, only to escape with the help of new character Sophia, who might be the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

It also sounds like Persona 5, using many of the same musical tracks and cues. The opening hours take place in familiar locations, from Café Leblanc to the streets of Shibuya. These places feel as if they were lifted directly from Persona 5 and dropped into this new game. The characters are mostly the same, their voice actors slipping back into their roles without skipping a beat. Standouts include Ryuji actor Max Mittelman and Futaba’s Erica Lindbeck, both of whom are bringing their A game.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

So far Persona 5 Strikers feels much more like a proper sequel to Persona 5 than the simple Dynasty Warriors gameplay crossover I expected. It’s got all the charm of the original game, with an all-new way to play. I thought the musou-style battles would take away from the experience, but they’re quick, entertaining, and seem to fit right into this twisted RPG world.

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