Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Since playing Persona 5 Vanilla back in 2018 I’ve been in love with the style, characters and, more than anything, the soundtrack. When Persona 5 Strikers was announced as a western release in February of this year, needless to say I may have gotten a tad excited.
Straight off the bat, the game immediately had the familiar style and beautiful aesthetic that I had fallen in love with and the opening cinematic to the amazing track “You Are Stronger” the familiar sense of being back in Tokyo with the Phantom Thieves set in.
I’m not about to go in to all the reasons I fell in love with the Persona 5 series in this review, however I will say that the art style and storytelling of this series of games have had me smitten with them since I first played the original P5 back in 2018.
Strikers took the style and amazing storytelling Atlus managed to convey in both P5 and P5R and set it to the backdrop of wider Japan in a genuinely amazing sequel to the vanilla version of the original game.
Despite my excitement with the western release of Strikers, there was one aspect that had me concerned – the combat. I had only ever played 2 Dynasty Warriors style games, Dynasty Warriors 4 & 5 on PS2, and the combat was completely mad. A multitude of enemies all spawning at once while you mash buttons like a lunatic trying to clear them out. There were some exciting combos, but all in all the combat was frantic.
This was where my concerns lay. P5 and P5R were such stylish games with turn-based combat that complimented the cool and suave aesthetic of them, so how on earth was the mad mashing of the Dynasty Warriors combat going to work?
Quite well it turns out. The combat system brought a new perspective to the Phantom Thieves journey, still relying on your ability to summon Persona’s for specific attacks, buffs and debuffs. The overall Dynasty Warriors based combat system nicely added an accelerated pace to the focused infiltration of the enemy Jails.
My clearly unnecessary concerns over the combat aside, Persona 5 Strikers really shone as a true canonical sequel to the vanilla version of P5. Picking up about 6 months after the events of the main game, Joker and company head off on a summer road trip to see various places across Japan while working to piece together information that is leading to a “Change of Heart Epidemic”.
The writing for the characters really showed how each of the original Phantom Thieves have evolved during their time apart, and the Jails and their associated storylines really allow players to view some of the more gang, providing further insight into their lives and what drives them forward following the events of the main game.
What struck me with the writing this time was how it went into more depth around Anne and Haru, giving both more depth to their characters from the original game, and also giving us one of the most hilarious Haru moments ever.
What’s more, the introduction of new characters Sophia and Zenkichi doesn’t feel forced, they blend in to the narrative and become crucial parts of the main story allowing them to shine in their own unique ways.
On the subject of shining in their own ways, Strikers characters, story and combat, as well as the large more open-ended Jails, come into their own thanks to the amazing soundtrack of this game.
From the open cinematic with “You Are Stronger” to the amazing remixes of some of the tracks from Persona 5 (“Rivers in the Desert”, “Keeper of Lust” and of course “Last Surprise”) the whole game seems to have stepped it up in terms of speed and pacing. Opting for heavier use of electric guitars, while still keeping the gorgeous string sections fans will remember from the original P5 games.
Culminating in a soundtrack that, much like P5 and P5R, matches the tone and atmosphere of the game perfectly.
[SPOILER WARNING] The final confrontation with the Demiurge has one of the best instrumental pieces in the game as the music takes the heavy rock piece from the first phase and seamlessly blends it to the “AI and the Heart” piece (or Sophia’s theme for most people). Resulting in the final confrontation against the false god to be elevated to a new level.
On the whole, Persona 5 Strikers was everything I wanted from a direct sequel and more. It captured the style and artistry of the original games while bringing with it a boat load of new mechanics that made the game feel fresh while still in keeping in tone with its predecessors.
The pacing was done skilfully so as to build tension while keeping players engaged and wondering how things will continue to ramp up. Using the characters we loved from the originals in new ways that showed their growth and posing an interesting view on the role of social media and AI in our lives. With a soundtrack I could easily, and have, listen to for days the game took what it did well and added to that to create a great experience.
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