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Persona 5 Strikers review: Missing the spark

Phantom Thieves
Persona 5 Strikers review: Missing the spark
MSRP $60.00
“It's all style and little substance in this sequel/spinoff to Persona 5.”
  • Great music
  • Well-written
  • Lacks compelling gameplay
  • Uninteresting antagonists
  • Little challenge

Persona 5 Strikers is more of a sequel than any of the previous Persona spinoffs, but it fails live up to the lofty expectations fans may have for it. Fans of Persona 5 who simply want more of this world, whatever shape that may take, might find themselves satisfied even if what made Persona 5 truly great is sorely lacking. Its stripped-back nature doesn’t offer enough for newcomers either those intimidated by the density and length of Persona 5 will still feel the same way about Strikers, a 30-hour action game in the hack-and-slash mold of Dynasty Warriors.

All of the fantastic visual and audio elements are still present in Persona 5 Strikers, and its story goes in some interesting directions, but it all feels stagnant compared to the epic tale told in the original game.

Strikers feels like Persona-lite

Persona 5 was not only able to hold the attention of players for close to or even over 100 hours, but it told a story so compelling that many people were eager to immediately play it over again from the very beginning. With the main character, Joker, being a fish out of water who slowly grows his social circle over time, peeling back the mystery of his own past and the fantastical world he and his friends find themselves confronted with, it was a game that begged to be played — and one that, for the most part, justified its ludicrous length.

All of the fantastic visual and audio elements are still there, but it all feels stagnant compared to the epic tale told in the original game.

While Strikers is around a third of the runtime, its incentives to continue playing dry up relatively quickly. The enigma surrounding the return of  “palaces,” an otherworldly manifestation of people’s subconscious, is a fairly interesting plot, but it’s the personal side, which was the driving factor of the original game, that is lacking. The characters whose palaces the Phantom Thieves dive into aren’t nearly as interesting or well-developed as the ones in the first game, and the desires that define their subconscious dimensions are only surface level by comparison.

Alice Persona 5 Strikers

The Phantom Thieves themselves are as well-written as ever, but having them fully formed from the jump only serves as a reminder of how great their coming together was in Persona 5. Without that journey, it’s simply a lot of witty banter and poking of buttons that happens among the group. This extends to the gameplay, which features a lot of different elements from the original game, but drops the incredibly popular social stats and links. As such, playing as Joker is like existing as a fly on the wall, with the character’s interjections not holding nearly the same weight.

There are a couple of new cast members that join the team. I don’t imagine they’ll be anyone’s favorites, however, as they’re mostly treated as ways to service the plot rather than fully fleshed-out additions to the Thieves. Given that Strikers serves as a sequel to Persona 5, the lack of the kind of new and interesting characters that endeared fans to Persona 5 Royal makes this spinoff feel rather thin.

Musou gameplay lacks a challenge

The turn-based gameplay of Persona 5 has been replaced with the Musou gameplay of Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series, which is one of the main reasons why Strikers is a shorter affair than its predecessor. The game impressively translates a lot of the combat elements from the original game to the spinoff, and there’s a surprising amount of attacks and abilitie the player can pull off that feel true to the spirit of the series.

Playing as Joker is like existing as a fly on the wall.

Another recent Musou game did something similar. In Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, nearly all of the tricks up Link’s sleeve from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were brought over to the spinoff prequel. Age of Calamity is an example of how to tightly integrate those features together, and it only highlights the failure of Strikers to do so.

Joker Persona 5

Whether you’re mashing the attack button, quickly swapping out characters with a “baton pass,” or dealing big damage with a character’s Persona abilities, there’s very little strategy to any of it outside of conserving your SP for any advanced attacks. The turn-based combat of Persona 5 might have dragged out innocuous battles longer than necessary, but it made every conflict feel decisive one wrong move could prove disastrous for the squad.

The game impressively translates a lot of the combat elements from the original game to the spinoff.

No such threat exists in Strikers, which is exemplified by how often the game hands you a lifeline. Most battles can be exited in a matter of seconds if the player feels the tide turning against them, and dungeons have incredibly frequent checkpoints that allow players to leave and regroup at no cost. In Persona 5, choosing to tackle a palace required careful planning, and once you were in it, the only way through was forward. The dungeons in Strikers offer so little challenge that I did not feel compelled to regularly buy new items or equip new gear.

Our take

Persona 5 Strikers is as flashy as Persona 5, featuring the same gorgeous artwork and animations, great dialogue, and brilliant music. It unfortunately lacks the meat on the bone that made the original such an addicting experience to its loyal fanbase. It also provides little incentive for newcomers to play it despite its egregious length being drastically cut down.

Is there a better alternative?

Age of Calamity is a superior Musou game. Those looking to dive into the world of Persona, as daunting as it might be, are better off spending their time with Persona 5 Royal.

How long will it last?

Even rushing through the main game will take a player between 20 and 30 hours, or between 30 and 50 if they stick around and smell the roses.

Should you buy it?

No. Only Persona 5 die-hards desperate for more Persona content will get much out of this spinoff.

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