This is a game I have personally been waiting for since its tease back when it was simply known as P5S and even more so when it was officially announced as Persona 5 Scramble for Japan. Persona 5 Strikers is the english name and personally, I feel as though it fits the feel of the game much better due to it being a hybrid of musou games like Hyrule Warriors and what we’ve come to expect from Persona 5 (P5). The game is a truly fantastic mix of gameplay and story that any Persona fan will enjoy getting into the nitty gritty of. If you want to avoid any spoilers, please skip over the story section, however I will be sure to keep it to just the first chapter.

Gameplay

With the mixing of the Persona and Warriors franchises, there are obviously a few aspects that are different from the base game of P5 while still keeping a lot of the factors that really define the franchise from other JRPGs. To start off, I will be highlighting what stays the same, followed by what’s missing and then, the new additions that have been added.

Starting off with the gameplay that carried over from P5, a vast majority of it is either slightly altered or just the same, providing that feeling of playing a sequel to P5. Outside of the Jails that you walk around in each city, quite like the different areas you could visit in P5, even starting in Shibuya and Yongen-Jaya, it all brings back nostalgic memories of exploring them for the first time. Of course, the Velvet Room returns as well, however if you haven’t played P5 before, you will come into spoiler territory with the attendant.

Failed executions return as well, causing the fusion to become a random persona, however they tend to be stronger than they would normally be if fused. This however does have the downside of requiring you to repurchase the persona that you tried to fuse if you were trying to simply fill in the compendium.

One of the returning features is requests, which are additional side quests in the game that expand your gameplay from refighting bosses, killing a certain amount of specific enemies or freeing a person's desires from a shadow who captured it. The reward for completing these requests will vary from expanding options in the store, money, gear and weapons for your characters, as well as increasing your Bond EXP cap which allows for more bond levels.

While on the topic of bond levels, this is one of the new features added to Persona 5 Strikers that provides in-game advantages. This system uses points that you gain by levelling up the Phantom Thieves bond level, achieved by completing requests, experiencing team bonding events (such as taking photos at a cardboard cutout spot) and small amounts are added after every battle. The bonuses have a variety of options and costs, varying from simple stat boosts and increased drop rates to recovering HP when you successfully ambush an enemy. This addition to the franchise is an effective way to get players to explore more outside of the main story with enticing rewards that help make gameplay a bit easier.

The changes to some of the existing mechanics are put in place to better fit the action-based combat that defines Persona 5 Strikers. The prime example of this is in the way that personas are used as Joker, with each having a signature spell that can be triggered with a certain combo that doesn’t use SP. The way spells are used when they consume SP puts a hold on combat momentarily as you choose between which spell to use. Even single target spells from P5 are an area of effect now to balance around the increased number of enemies. When you perform an ambush attack against a shadow, it triggers a free attack on all the enemies that spawn, regularly leading an All Out Attack that will kill the majority of the surrounding lower level enemies.

The hybrid gameplay is the best way to show off the newest additions and the fact that it’s mostly focused on combat. Due to blending the musou genre, the combat is very much that of the Warriors franchise minus the previously explained SP cost of spells. Combat flows well and makes full use of the party of four; switching between them sometimes leads to an additional attack or spell. Doing this activates the Baton Pass bonus which will increase your damage and fill your Showtime gauge faster.

The Showtime gauge is the equivalent to that of the special attacks from Warriors games and is a fun little animation that’s unique to the character. One of the newest additions actually has every phantom thief playable in combat with the unfortunate exception of Futaba who plays her navigation role again. Futaba does play another role in the game where she will hack open doors that inhibit your path, however this will trigger a hack battle that requires you to fight off waves of shadows and you must try to defend her from them.

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Unfortunately, there are missing features, with the most notable being the absence of confidants and the time management aspect of the Persona series. One of my personal disappointments from these missing features is the fact that the shops are replaced to a central point. This is upsetting because as a result, it means that the characters Iwai and Takemi have closed up shop for the summer. While there are a lot of carryover features, those that are missing somewhat take away from the game as a whole but are then consequently replaced with new features that do help to shake up the gameplay.

The performance on the switch version unfortunately suffers from some slow load times, however I never noticed any issues with the game struggling to process everything that is happening on screen. This is mitigated in comparison to other musou games by having combat occur after ambushing a single shadow in the jail, which will then spawn a larger number of shadows in a sectioned off area of the map, thus removing a significant number of enemies that the system has to process unlike Hyrule Warriors. Blending the two franchises together gameplay-wise is a true work of art, making Persona 5 Strikers stand out from both franchises as something unique while still calling back to them. I hope to see this kind of approach to future additions to the Warriors franchise, and more Persona titles brought over to the Switch.

World / Level Design

Being split between the real world and the game’s Jails (where combat occurs) is more of a gameplay split than a level split in this iteration compared to the real world and Palaces example from P5. While things are themed differently in each of the cities’ Jails, there’s a lot more of the real world infused into these dungeons than previously used in the series.

Sections of the Jails are the same as each of the cities with the key difference that they’ve been slightly altered to fit each theme. This does make sense in the context of the story this time around, but that is something that you’ll have to discover on your own to appreciate it fully. Each individual city, while containing several aspects that are very similar to each other in terms of gameplay purposes, feels unique and holds a variety of small details that can be discovered if you go around and talk to the NPCs.

It was a blast exploring each city and Jail, though while they do share areas across each city and dungeon, it was refreshing to learn about the local areas, even if it’s only surface level information of their real world counterparts in Japan.

Story / Personality

As previously mentioned, this segment of the review may contain spoilers from the game’s first chapter, but I’ll be sure to avoid any major plot points.

Persona 5 Strikers starts off with the crew reuniting in summer, having not seen each other since saying goodbye to Joker earlier in the year. The group make plans to go on a camping trip however in the process of getting ready, they come across a situation where they meet the villain of the chapter. During this encounter, something happens and Joker, Skull and Mona end up in the metaverse before they’re assaulted by a large amount of shadows and try to escape. They end up being caught and brought before the monarch of what is known as a Jail which bears similarities to the Palaces of P5. While in here, they come across a girl in the Jail that comes from a box and helps them escape; turns out, she is an AI named Sophia and lives in Joker’s phone.

The Monarchs of each Jail are somewhat connected to a member of the Phantom Thieves and were somehow given access to send people to these jails where their desires are stolen and manipulated by the Monarch’s shadow. However, each Monarch has something happen in their past which is key to their control and seems to tie into a theme of depression. Overall, I really enjoyed the story and the return of the Phantom Thieves, whilst taking an interesting turn with the story as they travel around Japan to discover the truth behind everything.

Graphics / Art Design

Just like in P5, Persona 5 Strikers oozes style in the art design the whole way through. Despite it losing a little bit of its luster in handheld mode compared to docked mode, it still captures the atmospheres that P5 had established prior. Each Jail is very distinct and blends in with the city that they’re a part of more so than the Palaces of P5 do, resulting in some very unique and fun designs. Lastly, the designs of the bosses are really interesting and are based on core aspects of their character, also just like in P5.

Music / Sound Design

As a franchise, Persona has one of the best soundtracks and Persona 5 Strikers does not disappoint. This iteration comes with its own original additions to the series, while also including some of the best music from P5 and P5 Royal. The new additions are really fun to just chill and listen to, however due to combat being action orientated, now you can't just stop and listen anymore unless you pause the game. The game's music makes strong use of its Jazz inspired predecessor and is one that you can listen to at any time and bop along to.

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Final Score: 94%

Persona 5 Strikers is a fantastic addition to the franchise and the first venture of Persona on the switch, hopefully leading to more titles being added in the future. The hybrid gameplay of Persona 5 Strikers is a refreshing addition that makes combat feel more fluid while adding a different kind of challenge, requiring you to think more on your feet than the slower methodical process of the turn-based combat in P5. With stellar music, attention-grabbing gameplay and an in-depth story that's become a known feature of the franchise, Persona 5 Strikers provides a fresh new take on the Phantom Thieves and is a title I will come back to at a later date for another playthrough, even during the busiest of times. With Persona 5 Strikers being multi-platform, you have to make a choice between the portability of the Switch or faster load times and better performance on the other systems.

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