Does Persona 5 Strikers live up to its predecessor?

“Persona 5” is an Atlus fan-favorite, and when “Persona 5 Strikers” was announced, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new game. The real-time action based combat takes inspiration from the “Dynasty Warriors” series, which I have never played, so I didn’t know what to expect when I jumped in. 

This story takes place over summer vacation and the main character Joker returns to Tokyo along with Morgana to spend time with the Phantom Thieves. 

Jails, which are the “Strikers” version of palaces, spawn with a new app called EMMA. EMMA is used by the characters to connect with each other in the game, but its mysterious and sinister undertones are quickly revealed. The Phantom Thieves noticed that the ruler of the first jail, Alice Hiiragi, a pop star who’s captured the hearts of Shibuya a little too quickly, gained the ability to steal peoples’ desires after adding them on EMMA. 

In the first jail, Joker and Ryuji stumble upon Sophia, an AI who identifies herself as “humanities companion.” She has special abilities that help the phantom thieves both inside and outside the metaverse, although she has no memory of her own creation. I was skeptical about Sophia when I first started the game because I thought having an automated character in a game about friendship was pointless. As I kept playing, Sophia began to learn more about the human heart and eventually she won mine. 

When I jumped into the first jail, I couldn’t stand the fighting style. This game allows the player to freely switch between characters inside and outside of combat, and this drove me crazy because I had no control over what attacks my party was using when I wasn’t in control of them. However, this creates an advantage because you can decide when you want to use certain characters during combat and time your attacks strategically. When I got the hang of it, the new combat style started to grow on me because it allows the player to develop their own strategy and get creative.

Jails resemble the streets or whichever city they take place in, and the Phantom Thieves travel Japan in a stylish RV for a Summer road trip. While I missed the way the player can integrate themself into their new surroundings until Tokyo feels like home in the first game, I appreciate the new experiences the characters have as they travel. I learned some fun facts about Japanese history and culture while playing Strikers and exploring new places was a great way to advance the storyline. 

I felt like there was an inconsistency between the difficulty of the jails opposed to combat with shadows. I played Strikers on easy mode because I found the fighting style so difficult to get a hang of at first, but I barely felt challenged at all by puzzles in the jails. My favorite jail (I won’t say who’s because it’s a spoiler) was the shortest one, but the puzzles and the boss fight are unforgettable.

I adore the plot of “Persona 5 Royal” and the sequel is a satisfying continuation. The new characters will grow on you even if you’re skeptical at first, and the end had a plot twist that I felt like I should’ve seen coming even though some aspects were predictable as I picked up on the clues. In the first game, the metaverse felt much more elusive. 

The dialogue in “Strikers” is just as fun if not even more entertaining than in “Royal” and I loved watching the characters’ friendships develop even further as the story progressed. 

My biggest complaints about “Persona 5 Strikers” sadly have to do with the gameplay, but I commend Atlus for taking a risk and giving us something different. Even though I prefer “Persona 5 Royal” at the end of the day, “Strikers” kept me entertained for hours and I’ll probably end up replaying it like I am currently its predecessor. 

The visuals in “Strikers” are just as spectacular as “Royal” and the soundtrack has some bangers along with a few duds. Although I missed the turn-based combat, I can appreciate the change of scenery the new style of gameplay provides.

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