Hello dear readers and thanks for joining me. Today I’ve put together another in my occasional ‘The Rookie Plays…’ series where I take an in-depth look at a game I’ve finished recently. The game I am examining today is Persona 5 Strikers which I’ve been excited to write about for ages, so please join me as I chat through my thoughts on it.
As some of you may know I am pretty obsessed with Persona 5. Having finished the original game last year I have since indulged in buying vast quantities of merchandise, reading every fanfic I could find and generally getting excited about any new content. Therefore, when a western release date for Persona 5 Strikers was finally announced I was practically bouncing off the walls.
That said, I was also quite nervous about playing it. This was partly becaue of the gameplay style and partly because I was worried it might not live up to my expectations. I’d never played a Musou or Warriors-type game before and I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the pace. I also expected it to be all combat with very little in the way of story or character development, but boy was I wrong.
So after starting it in March and finishing it in December, racking up a ridiculous 97 hours, I’m finally ready to talk about it.
Please note that there are lots of possible spoilers ahead.
Setting and Feel
One of the things I particularly liked about the game were the variety of locations. As someone who has never been to Japan it felt like a whirlwind tour of some fascinating places (most of which I now want to visit), and although you only get to see a tiny portion of each place, they still had personality which was well conveyed by the visuals, the conversations and the music. The only big letdown for me (and Yusuke) was that we didn’t get a chance to see more of Kyoto. Apart from seeing a lot of real-world locations you also spend a lot of time exploring different locations in the metaverse (a kind of cognitive universe) called jails. These too had a lot of personality and were an effective way of conveying information about the individuals who were in control of them.
Although it covers more real-world ground than Persona 5, the settings and feel are very similar to the original game, with lots of interesting observations of Japanese culture and the human condition, mixed in with a sense of dread which grows exponentially as the game progresses. It is of course not all serious, and despite its serious message is a game with a huge amount of humour and fun, something Persona games seem to excel at.
The gameplay is probably the thing that is the most different to the original Persona 5 game. At first I struggled with the combat and exploration in the jails as I’d expected too. It is tremendously fast-paced and there are about a million things to remember. Faced additionally with trying to control the camera properly (something I always struggle with) and contending with the stealth element, it was all a bit overwhelming and I had to grind significantly before beating the first boss.
Once I’d got used to it though I absolutely loved the combat, and although the stealth thing and occasional platforming sections never grew on me, I learned to relax and accept it. The difficulty was, if anything, on the easy side and I rarely had to do any grinding to beat the subsequent bosses. I loved the options the different party members brought to combat and I felt that throughout the game I was constantly learning new ways to take down enemies other than simply hitting their elemental weakness, which was essential due to the limited amount of SP you get for elemental attacks. There were times the combat got a bit glitchy, particularly the camera control in tight spaces, but overall it felt pretty smooth.
There is another game-play element focussed on the real world rather than the jails and I really enjoyed this too. You could visit shops, chat with people, cook stuff (one of my favourite elements of the game), progress the story and generally mooch around Japan. Although it felt a bit too compact at times, I still felt they pulled it off well and it added a huge amount of content to the game which I had assumed would be almost entirely combat based. Additionally there are numerous side-quests which involve a variety of different activities and serve as a good distraction if you are bored exploring a particular jail.
As is often the case, the final boss battle was a bit of a weird one but I absolutely loved the fact that you had sections where Joker was not in the party as this illustrated just how much of a team the Phantom Thieves are.
Characters and Story
Probably the most important aspect of the game for me, the characters and story are pretty similar to the original albeit with a few important differences. There are far less characters in Strikers, but all of the main party are there and there are a handful of new characters who are fantastic additions. Whilst Sophia is extremely likeable, of the new additions it was Zenkichi who stood out the most for me, and it was nice to see the story from a point of view completely different to the other main characters.
Main character-wise, this game gave me a further opportunity to get to know the fantastic cast and grow to love them even more. Although it doesn’t go so far in terms of character development, there is enough focus on the characters that my opinions of a couple of them actually changed significantly whilst playing the game, and my only complaint is that there was at least one main character who didn’t get enough opportunity to shine. Due to having a different focus to Persona 5, the antagonists were also very interesting, and whether or not you sympathised with their plights is I think an interesting topic for discussion.
As I suggested above, the story is very similar to that in the original game but the switch from focussing on nasty adults who are out for themselves to people whose trauma has made them turn to desperate measures is brilliant, and whilst there were a couple of twists I suspected were coming, the way they happened or what happened after was often unexpected, leading to some big emotional moments.
Persona 5 Strikers is for me a true sequel to Persona 5 and I found it a near perfect experience despite having a few technical issues that could have been improved upon. Although a much stripped-down experience compared to the original game, Strikers has gone up pretty high in my favourite games list as it expanded my experience of the Persona 5 universe in ways I could only have previously dreamed of.
Whether it is the soundtrack, the combat or the exploration of real-world Japan, this game has a hell of a lot to offer and some of the personal stories it tells are genuinely moving and tragic. It surpassed every one of my expectations and also gave me my first (but hopefully not last) experience of this particular type of gameplay. With everything combined I do not think it is an over-exaggeration to say this game has been a significant positive in my life which will stick with me for a long time.
So that’s it! My thoughts on Persona 5 Strikers have been captured. But what did you make of the game? Did you enjoy the gameplay and story as much as me or were there things you felt let it down? Maybe you’ve got some thoughts on how it compares to other Musou games? Let me know all below in comments and don’t forget to join me next time for more video game and anime ramblings.
Thanks for reading,
All images belong to Atlus, please don’t sue me.