Persona 5 Strikers

released on Feb 20, 2020

Persona 5 Scramble is a crossover between Koei Tecmo's hack and slash Dynasty Warriors series and Atlus's turn-based role-playing game Persona series. As a result, it features gameplay elements from both, such as the real-time action combat of the former with the turn-based Persona-battling aspect of the latter. The game is set six months after the events of Persona 5, and follows Joker and the rest of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts as they end up in a mysterious version of Tokyo filled with supernatural enemies.

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This review contains spoilers

Surprisingly good! I thought for sure that P5S would be a boring or uninvolving musou that struggled to combine the usual Persona RPG elements with the Warriors series' hack-n-slash theatrics, but Strikers combines the two worlds pretty damn effectively. The tower defense mechanics from the Warriors series aren't present here, but this winds up being a boon for Strikers' overall pacing because it keeps the game nice and brisk throughout. Combat flow is fast, flashy, and set at a breakneck pace, but it never feels too confusing or gets too difficult to telegraph what's going on, so Strikers does a good job at keeping things chaotic but coordinated. The 'Showtime' mechanic has been turned into a chargeable meter for a super move, a subtly genius decision that encourages the player to make some risky moves and keep fighting the enemy in order to build up the gauge. Swapping between characters is buttery-smooth, to the point where battles gradually turn into a well-coordinated dance much like they do in the slickest moments of Persona 5's battle system. They pretty much nailed the RPG-hacknslash hybrid gameplay right out of the gate, and I have to give Omega Force and Atlus credit for having such immediate synergy on their first go. Not everything is perfect gameplay-wise; I definitely think the game could have benefitted from having overall longer dungeons instead of a few long ones and a few insultingly brief jaunts, and I wish that accepting requests and taking on sidequests were more intuitive than they wound up being, but I wound up not doing a fair deal of the sidequests because they ultimately amounted to needless busywork that didn't add much to the overall experience. Still, for the most part, Strikers clicks on a gameplay level in a way that sometimes even Persona 5 didn't, and I have to give it kudos for that alone.
Story-wise, Strikers is a mixed bag. It's fun to see the Phantom Thieves again and it's heartwarming to see them just palling around, goofing off, and being friends with each-other. The two new additions to the team are surprisingly well-implemented, too. Sophie is as cute as a button, and her arc centering around learning about humanity and understanding the human heart is a fairly engaging one, even if it isn't exactly airtight or particularly interesting. Zenkichi, on the other hand, provides some welcome cynicism and sly commentary on the PTs' sometimes-goofy sense of idealism and justice, and his character arc about learning to care for the Phantom Thieves and his own daughter over that of the police he works for is heartwarming and well-paced enough, even if I could see most of it coming from a mile away. They're not the most unique characters in the world, but they're satisfying enough and they provide some much-needed pathos and unique charm to the overall group dynamic.
My biggest issue with the story isn't even with the characters - none of the PTs besides Sophie and Zenkichi have an arc of any kind, but that's fine, they've all had their character development already and they mostly act as facilitators of change for other characters. That's fine. The problem with Strikers' story is how flagrantly it steals from P5 and P5R's own storyline. Pretty much every single Jail feels like a loose recreation of an adjacent Palace from Persona 5, with the sole exceptions being Alice's Jail and Hyodo's Jail. Everyone else suffers from a case of homework-copying, and this becomes especially egregious towards the end! Shadow Akane is just Futaba, Konoe is like three P5 antagonists sloppily thrown into one (Shido, Okumura, and Akechi), and the final stretch of the game is such a blatant ripoff of the Mementos Palace that the characters even have the audacity to say "hm yeah this reminds me strongly of Mementos. Weird right?" Strikers does, like, the bare minimal amount of effort required for it not to be a carbon copy of P5's narrative, but just barely, because the final boss is actually fucking God once again.
The backend of this game is particularly rushed, with a lot of interesting ideas just kind of happening and then fading out of existence. The abandoned lab where Sophia and EMMA were made seemed like such an interesting place, but we never visit it again, robbing the promising mini-dungeon of a tidy conclusion. Konoe and Ichinose are interesting villains on paper, but they're introduced as threats so quickly and so haphazardly that they have to exposit and explain a lot of what makes them cool, presumably so fans can jot it all down and put it on their corresponding Fandom pages. Konoe being like an evil version of the Phantom Thieves and a blend between Shido and Akechi is a cool idea with a lot of merit to it, but he doesn't even interact with the PTs until it's time to fight him. And as for Ichinose, she gets redeemed at the end for reasons that seem somewhat unclear to me. Why does the mastermind behind EMMA get to walk away whereas many of EMMA's clearly-manipulated victims simply do not? She may not have been using the app all that much herself, but she is literally responsible for it, so some level of accountability is required here. For Ichinose to get redeemed an hour or two after she's revealed to be a bad guy feels... strange.
With all that in mind, I will say that I do enjoy Strikers' villains a lot more than P5's cast of bad guys with some exceptions (Akechi, Sae, and Maruki). The villains in Strikers are kinda messy more often than not, but I like how the plot frames them as sympathetic victims of abuse that responded to their trauma in unhealthy ways, like Alice trying to get back at the people that abused and bullied her as a teenager. It compares and contrasts them nicely with the healthier and more liberal-minded Phantom Thieves, who view them as tragic people that need to be saved instead of defeated, and I like that. I'll take a messy-but-multifaceted antagonist over P5's lame, unthreatening, and cartoonishly evil sacks of shit that impress no one and serve only as Phantom Thief Punching Bags. (Does anyone on Planet Earth even give a shit about Kaneshiro or Okumura?) Most of the villains in Strikers lack the proper screentime to really stand out, but at least they make me feel something other than boredom or spite. They gave me something to think about, and that's better than being absolutely thoughtless.
Other than that, Strikers is pretty damn enjoyable. The game looks really, really nice, going for a cozy and futuristic summer look that contrasts nicely with P5's splashy, edgy visuals (Sophie's online shop alone is pure eye candy to look at). Every town you visit has its own unique flair and sense of charm to it, I like that you can revisit Jails virtually whenever you want (even if I wound up never doing it all that much), and it's honestly hard not to smile when playing through Strikers as a whole. This is a game that prioritizes being fun and wholesome above everything else, complete with having sympathetic antagonists and a softer visual style, and it absolutely succeeds in that department. Strikers knows that you've grown attached to these characters, and it's more than okay that just having them exist and do funny or charming things together. If the game was a little longer and had a more airtight story, I'd honestly struggle to name any genuine problems I had with Strikers. I got exactly what I came for, and it just so happened to be a very good version of what I came for. Can't wait for whatever's next.
Also the soundtrack's really good, like holy shit it's fuckin quality

Kinda boring and adds nothing to story

The game did a pretty poor job easing players into a completely new genre, and not even my love of Persona 5 could keep me going. Bailed pretty early on this one.

it was ok its a nice sequel to persona 5 did all it could and thats good enough

it's pretty good and i do like sophie a lot :3 but i prefer the turn based combat of regular P5.