PERSONA 5 STRIKERS [Review]: Scrambled Greatness Awaits.

Travis Moody
@TravMoody

I’m burned out, bruh. But, oh yeah, it’s definitely my fault. All of it. Back in 2019, around 200 years ago or so, I couldn’t have been more excited for a video game than Persona 5 Royal. Hell, I tried — and utterly failed — to buy a playable, subbed version in Japan at the beginnings of last year. At the time, the [Southeastern] Asia version was just a few weeks away from release and the North-American version was… still a damned few months away. I had to have it. I needed it. I only, sadly, but happily (though kinda regrettably) played 5-hours of the vanilla Persona 5. Then the pop culture boom of this Atlus franchise soared since 2016, Joker was a hit in Smash, and those delish food trucks at Anime Expo, too, yo, made this expanded version of the widely-heralded Persona 5 one of my most anticipated games ever…

But then I couldn’t hack it. Oh, no, I eventually finished Persona 5 Royal With Cheese over a pandemic-wide year later, but not before waving the white flag at 220 hours. Alright, so much of that was leaving the console running for lengthy periods of time while stuck in quarantine with everybody else, checking social media at a lightning fast rate, casually writing articles, binging on Tubi’s 80s cartoons and looking up action figure deals on Ebay and Mercari to burn all my stim money on. Because Persona 5 Royal counts your time played during those moments when you might put the controller down in the middle of one of the title’s 60,000 dialogue exchanges, I really have no idea how much of P5R I played.

Either way, the game was still long AF and it was easily the most time I ever spent playing one video game. Throw in the 62 additional hours it took me to actually finish just before the release of this “sequel” and damn did it burn me. In a good way, yet my buns are still toasty from all of it.. and now really on fire with the launch of its American Scramble…

As expected, I haven’t finished Persona 5 Strikers yet despite being blessed with a review code a couple weeks in advance. I was jelly at the early as hell Japanese release of Persona 5 Scramble, which isn’t as good of a title as this ‘Murica release, despite looking like a cheesed-out musou version of Persona 5— and that’s because I’d be envious of anything resembling P5 that wasn’t yet mine (or anything going down in the Land of the Rising Sun, really). So now that our “Scramble” is here, I love it, but I can’t. Not fully. Not yet. It’s more of the same. And while that’s the highest compliment any critic could possibly give it, because Persona 5 in any form or fashion straight PHUCKS, following 284 (or 224, or 198, or whatever) hours of the same game — no matter how classic — tacking on 45+ more is a tough one to tackle.

That said, I love how crystal clear this version of Persona 5 looks on the PlayStation 5, and that’s without any cosmetic new-gen upgrade. It just looks slicker, brighter and bolder on the new console (and newer LED screens). But two other things about Strikers instantly struck a chord: 1.) Unlike the O.G. when your “Joker” protag begins solo, the game starts off with the entire lot of Phantom Thieves, 2.) Royal who? Royal what? Yeah, this game doesn’t acknowledge the extended version of Persona 5, but that’s whatevs.

Clearly, the most obvious change with Strikers is the aptly named hack-and-slash combat.. but, then again, it feels so aesthetically similar to the non-Striker P5‘s that it takes the hordes of shadows on screen to really note that difference. Similar in a way to Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s new ATB combat, the battle can slightly halt for spells and elemental weaknesses. Even with the many personas at your liege, you definitely still have to think quicker on your toes, so expect Joker to perish a lot faster than usual; if powerful enough, the other Thieves (that you can seamlessly switch between during battle) should thankfully pick up the slack.

There’s new elements to the active combat too. Persona 5 players will be hyped to see Morgan skin up to a bus mid-combat while others maintain much of the same signature flavor as the previous title. That grapple hook Joker so infamously used in Smash (but only really used in Royal to reach newer plateaus) is now a combat mechanic. How each Thief felt in the turn-based RPG combat they now feel in a live fight. Palaces are now Jails, and many missions that take place in those zones become optional later on. Upgrading and customizing your Personas and characters is easier and less robust, which is appreciated after enjoying 200-300 hours of the previous game.

The menus, calendar, UI, etc. feel nearly identical to P5 as well, but condensed, and that’s a great thing if.. you guessed it. Again, the familiarity is appreciated, charmingly reverent, and just different enough to avoid being called a clone. I do wish the soundtrack expanded a tad more though; Strikers uses many of the same great tunes from Persona 5 and tosses in a few new ones, remixing many others, but it does — after a few hours — feel too “samey” and that notion comes after declaring Persona 5‘s soundtrack as one of the best ever in gaming. Then again, I’m only 20-hours in; I’m assuming more tune variety will come the further I push along.

If you’ve already played either Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal, or, hell, both, Strikers is a must have and a lot easier to digest with the previous character adoration. If you haven’t touched P5 since its initial launch playthrough, then I’m jealous of you. As awesome as Royal was at updating the previous title, I wish I wasn’t playing Strikers so closely to that one. But even with that, it’s a sameness that I’m ultra selfish for bitchin’ about after 20 delicious heart-releasing, road trip trekking hours. Let’s get this straight: a direct sequel story to one of the greatest JRPGs of all time with some fun real-time musou combat and all the PERSONAlity that has been revered for years now? Yeah, sometimes you’ve just got to let go of the fresh meal and reheat the gourmet cuisine. 4/5 Bibles.

-Travis Moody

Atlus’ Persona 5 Strikers is available tomorrow for the PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch!

 

 

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