Persona 5 was a classic, traditional JRPG. It featured a strong narrative, an intriguing cast of characters and turn-based battles that required a well-planned strategy. You’ll get all that in Persona 5 Strikers, but but there’s a key difference that changes the entire game: the combat.
Unlike Persona 5, Strikers features ‘real-time’ hack-and-slash combat based on the musou genre. It means rather than waiting your turn and striking when the time is right, you’ll find yourself on a reactive battlefield packed with enemies and friends. It tends to get crowded fast but thanks to some clever design choices there’s a surprising amount of strategy involved in the game.
While you can get away with a traditional button-mashing approach, larger bosses in Strikers need a lot more finesse. Even on easier modes the game is hard and you’ll need to think before you leap. Focusing too much on ground-based attacks means you’ll end up biting the dust and wasting your teammates’ health. But if you balance your attacks with environment-based and timing prompts, you can pull of a perfect strike.
Enemy attacks are usually powerful, occasionally leading to a one-hit kill. It’s why you’ll need to focus on where you are in the battlefield and what tools you have at your disposal.
That’s where the nuance of Persona 5 Strikers‘ combat comes in. You have a couple of options when you find yourself lost on the battlefield: a ranged attack, a head-on slash, a Persona blast or an environment attack. Each has their own benefit (a ranged attack, for example, will usually stagger an opponent) and a balance between all of them is needed to progress.
If you can knock out an enemy, you can then unleash a spectacular ‘all out attack’ which lets you blast the absolute shit out of an enemy horde and vanquish a bunch in one hit. If you build your power enough, you can then unleash a devastating ‘Showcase’ special which sees your entire team join you for a high-powered attack. The system also incorporates Persona 5’s weakness system, forcing you to factor in combat types on the fly.
It all adds up to a consistently exciting and clever combat system that feels right at home in the Persona universe. Arguably, it’s better system than Persona 5’s combat. Turn-based battles have their merits, but the muso system means the danger of the Jails you explore feels immediate and fluid. The packed-in nature of the battlefields also creates a claustrophobia and a stress that’s fitting for the game’s subject matter.
You transition directly from exploring Jails and quietly avoiding enemies to being attacked head-on by hostile forces, and it feels great.
But the combat in Strikers isn’t just exciting: it’s very, very stylish.
The Persona franchise is known for its bold, high-contrast visuals. It has a snazzy pop art style that takes inspiration from classic manga and cartoons, as well as modern art. You can see a lot of this inspiration in the combat system.
When you charge your weapon or perfect a special attack, you get a sweet, electrified halo around the screen. ‘Showcases’ take over your entire field of view with onomatopoeia sound effect and whirling black lines. The effects are spectacular, and it means the combat is always slick and extravagant.
While the narrative mirrors many of the things that made the original game so great, Strikers’ updated combat, which many thought would bring the title down, is what really makes it shine.
If you’re hesitant to try the game because you don’t like the musou format, you shouldn’t worry. Persona 5 Strikers pulls it off with incredible panache, and the combat elevates the game to a whole new level. As the next chapter in the Persona 5 story, it’s an incredibly worthy sequel.
Persona 5 Strikers releases on February 23, 2021 for PlayStation 4 (reviewed via PS5’s backward compatibility), PC and Nintendo Switch.