Persona 5 Strikers is a game that fuses elements from Persona 5 as well as Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games and takes place just months after the events of Persona 5, but note that it does not reference anything specific to Persona 5 Royal. Now I absolutely loved both Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal so it was an easy decision to pick this game up. I was initially concerned at how a stealth based game like Persona 5 would combine with the Warriors hack and slash elements. Additionally while the Persona 5 games were exclusive to the PS4, Strikers was released for the PS4 and the Switch. So in this case I decided to get the Switch version because I just love how you can play games on the go using the Switch.
The way the story works is that after the events of Persona 5, the main character Joker returns to visit the rest of the Phantom Thieves to enjoy summer vacation together. However, as they plan for their trip they realize that they are able to access their powers to access the cognitive world, a world created by people’s cognition, and they soon learn a new threat has appeared. The bosses for Strikers all have what’s called a Jail in the cognitive world where a shadow version of themselves is sealed deep within along with the desires they stole from other people. Once a desire is stolen the people practically worship the ground the boss walks on. The Phantom Thieves must infiltrate the jails and steal the desires back so that people can make their own decisions all while healing the trauma that the bosses endured that made them tempted to use this power to steal desires in the first place.
Overall the story took a beautiful direction that feels like a perfect continuation to Persona 5 while also making itself a unique experience. In Persona 5 we got to see all the Phantom Thieves as victims as they recover from their own personal trauma to change the hearts of those whose desires made them wicked. However, in Strikers these characters now take what they learned from their recovery process to heal the bosses of Strikers who are suffering through a trauma the Phantom Thieves can relate to. In Strikers the bosses aren’t so much wicked as they are in pain and that pain took them down a wrong path which is a nice separation from the bosses in Persona 5 who were just bad people that needed to be shown the pain they were causing. There’s a boss that seems to really connect to an individual member of the Phantom Thieves and it was really powerful to see how these characters went from victims to healers as they fought to help the bosses that needed saving. As someone who went through a traumatic experience a game that is focused not on stopping a bad person but instead healing victims whose pain took them down the wrong path really spoke to me. I will admit I found a lot of similarities between the motives of the final boss in Strikers to the new final boss in Persona 5 Royal but even when they were similar I was impressed at how different their paths were that lead them to take such drastic measures and found it to be enough of a change to make this a new twist on a similar motive.
We are also introduced to two new members of the Phantom Thieves, Zenkichi and Sophie. Now I absolutely loved these new characters and they added so much to the game. Zenkichi is an adult and a cop so the Phantom Thieves are very slow to trust him, but he honestly stole the spotlight in most of the scenes he was in. His flamboyant reactions to things like the cognitive world and his natural charm just made him a really lovable character. His trauma, which to avoid spoilers I won’t talk about in detail, is really heartbreaking and it’s incredible to see how his character grows when he faces that trauma head on. His character development was one of my favorites in all Persona 5 related games so I was sad that we didn’t get to develop a bond with him like we did with the other Phantom Thieves in Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal; however, at least he got a lot of screen time so that we can learn a lot about him and enjoy what he had to offer. Sophie is also a really interesting character as she is an A.I (artificial intelligence) that strives to be humanity’s companion but has no idea how the human heart functions so she learns all about emotions and how they work and what they are used for through her experiences with the Phantom Thieves. When one of the Phantom Thieves responds to a boss suffering from trauma they can relate to she pays close attention to understand what is the motivation behind their feelings and it was enjoyable to watch this process unfold. I really have to give a round of applause for the voice actors for Zenkichi and Sophie, Tom Taylorson and Megan Taylor Harvey, for really doing a great job making these characters so lovable.
The last thing I want to say about the story is that it really doesn’t do any handholding. You really need to have played Persona 5 in order to understand what makes the Phantom Thieves empathetic to the bosses in Strikers and there are a lot of subtle and not so subtle references to the game that would go missed without that experience. Now I don’t mind this but it also means that it’s not a game I can recommend playing if you haven’t played Persona 5.
The gameplay is really interesting. I went into this game thinking it was going to be a Warriors game with characters from Persona kind of like how Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors were to the respective franchises they were based off of. However, I was wrong in thinking that. Persona 5 Strikers plays very different from both Persona 5 and the Warriors games but borrows elements from both. You see the need for stealth and infiltration that made Persona 5 so enjoyable as you sneak up on enemies to trigger encounters. The encounters is where the Warriors elements shine as the game is not a turn based strategy like in Persona 5, but rather a real time combat game like Warriors. You do battle a lot of enemies; however, you’re not defeating thousands of enemies every time because the goal is not to wipe out a ton of foes. Instead each encounter triggers a group of enemies to beat and then you use a combination of the button mashing combat found in the Warriors games as well as using your Persona to attack by having them use special moves in the middle of combat. These special moves pause the combat as you filter through which one you want to use and the effect is dependent on the type advantages/disadvantages of each enemy, exactly like in Persona. So overall I found it to be an interesting blend of the playstyles of both games which made for a unique experience. I will say that it was a little tough to get the hang of so I struggled a bit in the beginning to beat the enemies.
Now for my one and only complaint about this game. I did not care for the side quests. In Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal each side quest had a mini story to them that made them interesting. Strikers unfortunately stuck with a lot of quests you see all over the place like find this item or beat this enemy. They were still fun to do but I had no motivation to do all the quests once my party was strong enough to beat the game. So while I took care of all the side quests in Persona 5 I probably took care of maybe half in Strikers because I admittingly lost interest.
Overall the story was immaculate and wonderful. An amazing continuation of Persona 5 that felt unique and also expanded upon the complex characters of each of the Phantom Thieves. The two newcomers to the group Zenkichi and Sophie were amazing and made incredible additions to the game. The gameplay felt like a fun hybrid of what you would find in Persona 5 and the Warriors games which was a lot of fun to experience. The only downside is the side quests were bland and monotonous so I got bored of them quickly. I will add that it can be a little tricky for Nintendo Switch owners to get this game as you really need that experience playing Persona 5 to really feel how powerful and amazing the story is and that game is not on the Switch. If you have played Persona 5 then I recommend getting this game, if you haven’t play Persona 5 first then get this game.