Persona 5 Strikers - Review
At the heart of one of the working concepts of the original Persona 5 Strikers in the early stages of its production was the idea of a large journey of the central characters in different cities and even countries.
However, in 2011, after a large-scale earthquake in Japan, the idea was completely abandoned - the head of development Katsura Hoshino changed the focus of the project, making it as Japanese-centric as possible. Hardly anyone could have imagined that many years later, one of the draft versions of the fifth edition of Persona would return, albeit in a slightly modified form.
Persona 5 Strikers (released in Japan under the more cumbersome title Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers) is a collective work of Atlus itself, Koei Tecmo publishing house and Omega Force studio, known for working on the action series Dynasty Warriors and its various variations. By itself, such a production team in the hardcore part of the audience should cause sharp associations, resulting in certain expectations. However, from the very first minutes, Persona 5 Strikers easily destroys any possible prejudices.
The key point for perception is hidden in the fact that Persona 5 Strikers is in all respects a full-fledged sequel to the classic Persona 5. Not a thematic offshoot, not a small pleasant set of fanservice like Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, but a full-fledged big game that tells a new story from the life of the Phantom Heart Stealers. And to make it feel that way, Atlus and Omega Force worked in an almost uncompromising way, finding a way to re-implement many elements of the original Persona 5, but on a new and somewhat unusual system of genre coordinates for players. At the same time, the authors also did not skimp on production costs. The game contains a huge number of voiced dialogues (you can switch between Japanese and English audio tracks) and a lot of cutscenes made both on the game engine and traditionally animated, and such a high level of performance does not lose quality throughout the passage.
The plot of Persona 5 Strikers begins six months after the end of Persona 5. For the summer holidays, the Joker and Morgana return to Tokyo with the hope of spending their free weeks in the company of their friends. Gathered in the attic at Sojiro's cafe, the protagonist, Futaba, Makoto, Haru, Yusuke, Ann and Ryuuji vividly exchange impressions, tell each other (as well as the player) about the new pages of their biography, setting the right mood. The tie covers the first hours of the game.
Various unhurried and endearing episodes from Persona 5 Strikers actually speak quite loudly about the overall tone of the project-Strikers is a much lighter and kinder game than Persona 5. Here, the band of Heart Stealers is presented as more mature, having already overcome a series of hardships and adversities. Therefore, instead of analyzing the personal crisis of the characters, the screenwriters focus on other things, namely the chemistry of the characters and their interaction with each other as close companions. Based on this, if you did not pass the original Persona 5 or at least did not get acquainted with its anime adaptation, then the lack of even a minimal emotional attachment to the characters can play a cruel joke with you-Strikers is exactly that “game for your own”.
The desire of screenwriters to spend time on fun gatherings with friends, however, does not mean that the global narrative is devoid of serious narrative conflict. Having gathered for a noisy picnic, the Joker and the company, resorting to the help of the smart mobile app EMMA, go shopping, but the household mission leads to a crisis. By chance, the characters find out that the alternative cognitive reality has not gone away. Moreover, its laws have changed somewhat, and the eccentric rulers of Palaces (now Prisons) with a perverted idea of morality are a very real threat.
After a fateful meeting with the popular pop idol and fashion designer Alice Hiiragi, the Joker and Ryuji are captured by the mistress of the Prison and quickly come to understand that the fame and popularity of the girl is not quite simple – she steals the “Desires” of her fans, in fact turning them into weak-willed slaves. Realizing that ordinary people are simply not able to stop the outrages, the Joker and his friends again take the initiative in their own hands, which becomes the catalyst for the triumphant return of the Benefactors of Hearts.
After the antagonist of the first story arc enters the scene, the narrative is temporarily paused, and Persona 5 Strikers begins to introduce players to its action part. To a large extent, the game is really dedicated to fighting a whole host of opponents at the same time – in the manner of any release of Dynasty Warriors.
Under your control, you can take all, with the exception of Futaba, the gang of Heart Stealers (and freely switch between four of them at once), as well as two newcomers - a girl who is a living embodiment of the artificial intelligence EMMA, and another character whose identity is better not to disclose to avoid spoilers. All heroes have unique skills, which are divided into several types at once. You will find different combinations of simple attacks, special passive and active abilities, attacking and supporting skills of the persons themselves, as well as several separate mechanics for each of the team members.
At the same time, the variety in the combat system is not at all nominal – Omega Force took a surprisingly thorough look at everything that the original Persona 5 offered, and tried to implement the maximum number of systems from the cult role-playing game Atlus. In other words, the familiar elements are present here in full size – skills are divided into spontaneous directions, can impose status effects, a combination of correct attacks leads to the activation of special technical damage, and buffs and debuffs remain one of the most important keys to victory in a difficult battle. If the heroes of Persona 5 could use firearms in battle – do not doubt that in Persona 5 Strikers you can cover the Shadows with fire with the same efficiency.
At first, the variety of attacks in Persona 5 Strikers is even somewhat discouraging. The project offers an extremely slow, thoughtful and easy-to-learn tutorial, introducing the main points of the gameplay. Talking, for example, about how to sneak up on opponents to catch them off guard, or how the All Out Attack collective attack works (surprise-just like in Persona 5). But many things the game does not hurry to explain, at best only briefly mentioning the presence of a particular system.
Yusuke Kitagawa, armed with a katana, for example, is able to counterattack the attacks of enemies. Having made an attack in the correct frame range of the enemy animation, the character completely cancels the damage directed at him and deals his own blow, which can be continued in a full-fledged combo. This is a simple but very entertaining system, reminiscent of Devil May Cry. However, it is almost impossible to master it in the heat of battles with hundreds of Jack Frosts, as your attention will be sprayed on many other variables, as well as a bright explosion of colors.
Perhaps, the full battle system of Persona 5 Strikers begins to unfold precisely in boss battles. Periodically, the game dilutes collisions with ordinary opponents with fights with particularly strong enemies. Most often, this is dictated by the plot context – the characters met a particularly strong Shadow or finally it was time for an open confrontation with the owner of the Prison. Bosses are often characterized by a large size and an expanded number of attacks, and their damage is much higher than anything that ordinary monsters can threaten you with. The combination of these factors forces you to abandon the mindless pressing of all the buttons of the gamepad at once and forces you to carefully monitor the enemy's animations, its weaknesses, status effects, and behavior patterns. Here, a variety of tactics and mechanics are used - the abilities of the Personas are used to destroy the shields of the bosses, the limited health of your party members pushes you to carefully analyze their actions, and smart positioning can easily become what separates you from a stylish victory in favor of a clumsy defeat.
But the interludes between the battles may seem somewhat bland. Unfortunately, the Prisons from Persona 5 Strikers rarely boast a thoughtful elaboration of the level of the Palaces from Persona 5, and rather represent small arenas connected by various transition corridors. Artists can not be scolded – the locations look bright and have a unique identity, but the process of their development sometimes gives secondary. In order to open the gate, you need to activate three different levers located on three different parts of the level. Do you want to turn off the enemy searchlights that are dangerous to you? Please collect three magic spheres. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the authors diligently dilute individual sections with some special activities, such as a simple puzzle or a simple puzzle tied to navigating through a tangle of corridors.
The background for battles and exploring locations in Persona 5 Strikers is the local role-playing system. Its main provisions, without any surprises, are directly inherited from Persona 5. Getting a level, the heroes increase their characteristics, and pumping the Person gives them new skills.
The Joker, who still owns several Characters at once, can turn to Lavenza for help in the Velvet Room, adding to his collection of masks and combining shadows previously obtained in battle. The mechanics with inherited skills, familiar to games in the Shin Megami Tensei universe, are in place.
The most noticeable difference in the progression system of Persona 5 Strikers in comparison with the original Persona 5 can be called the lack of direct influence of the “social” element. The structure of the new game and the features of its narrative do not imply the return of social ties, so the idea of developing heroes, tied to strengthening their relationships, was abolished. It was replaced by the Bond mechanics (in fact, the same connections), which, in simple terms, is a long list of passive bonuses, which you can open by getting special points. They are earned both in the course of battles with monsters, and within the framework of the plot narrative. Some of them improve the team's performance, while others can offer discounts at a local online store.
The rejection of social connections is primarily justified by one simple point – there is no calendar in Persona 5 Strikers. Formally, all plot events are still divided by day, and even the loading screen emphasizes this fact with stylish visual transitions. However, there is no element of management of its time here. You are free to explore the Prisons and leave them as many times as you want. You can walk around the locations without fear of plot deadlines. Any optional activities do not take up your time and do not entail any agony of choice because of the fear of not having time to pay attention to some interesting alternative. Such decisions on the part of the developers are clearly painted and perfectly integrated into the overall structure of the game, respectively, the approach is perceived very naturally.
By the way, after a slow start and the opening of the dungeon, the narrative gradually acquires the necessary dynamics for a bright adventure. Defeating the mad Alice, the characters are faced with an ultimatum. Thanks to the help of a caring detective, Zenkichi Hasegawa, the Joker and his friends realize that they are once again interested in the Japanese police. In an effort to clear their good name, the gang goes on a big trip in Sojiro's van in order to conduct their own investigation, and along the way, perhaps even enjoy the holidays.
Without going into details, to avoid spoilers, we only note that during their trip, the Heart Stealers will visit several cities in Japan, take part in the conflicts unfolding there and simultaneously try to uncover a global conspiracy, meeting both unexpected allies and formidable opponents. The idea of a road trip perfectly fits the conventional structure with different Prisons – each new location tells its own story, through which the general plot is stretched like a white thread, over which the shadow of the central antagonist gradually grows.
Describing Persona 5 Strikers, of course, it is impossible to keep silent about its visual component. The signature style, full of a catchy mix of shades with dominant blacks and purples that became the face of Persona 5, has not gone away. Models of the characters, their animations, expressive special effects and portraits of the characters created by illustrator Shigenori Soejima-all this is instantly recognized and completely blurs the line between Strikers and the original release. The game lures you even more into its networks thanks to the musical accompaniment. The soundtrack includes both the already iconic melodies presented in unusual arrangements, as well as completely new compositions from Shoji Meguro and Lin Inaizumi, which equally complement the combat segments and touching story scenes.
Persona 5 Strikers can be called a real gift for Persona 5 fans. It's a lovingly crafted game, overly protective of its big brother's legacy. Yes, sometimes the combat system can suffer from excessive randomness, and the study of dungeons can turn into not the most exciting activity. But if you have already missed the Phantom Thieves and the cat Morgana on your shoulder in your bag, then you can not miss Persona 5 Strikers-your friends have been waiting for you for a long time.