Persona 5 Strikers Hands-off Preview

I’m a big Persona fan. Enough of one to import most new Persona games despite having learned only Hiragana. An action game sequel to Persona 5, one developed by Omega Force, was a no brainer of an import to me. I’ve sat here for around 10 months waiting for you all to get a chance to play this frankly radical action game. Persona 5 Strikers is coming west on February 23, 2021, for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.

I was thankful to get a chance to sit in on an online event where I got to see the trailer a few hours before the entire internet then accidentally saw it. In addition to this, I got to ask a few questions and see 30 minutes of exclusive footage of the new English build.

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Persona 5 Strikers takes place the summer after the Phantom Thieves’ original adventure. This time the adventure doesn’t take place only in Tokyo, but across Japan in six different cities. In the 30 minutes of gameplay I got to see, I saw the game starting out in Tokyo as Joker explored both Yongen-Jaya and Shibuya’s shopping district in the real world before his team dropped into the metaverse. In my time playing the Japanese release I was a big fan of this formula. You start by seeing a small part of the real world city to gather clues, buy a couple of things, or talk to your friends, and then jump right into dungeons. 

When one hears of a Dynasty Warriors-inspired spin-off of a popular franchise, our minds are quick to jump to Omega Force falling back to their usual formula that seems to work out for them time and time again. Persona 5 Strikers is not one of those instances. It exists as more of a Persona game with musou combat than a musou game with a Persona skin. The metaverse dungeons aren’t constantly flooded with enemies to mow down constantly, instead playing out just like we remember from Persona 5. Guards will roam the streets, so the Phantom Thieves have to sneak around and catch them off guard. The gameplay I saw showed Joker and team zipping between cover and ambushing foes to start combat. 

Another big way the game feels more like a Persona title than a typical musou crossover game is the Persona system. With the click of a button, your active character will pull up their persona menu, which freezes time to let you cast spells or use special actions. Joker’s Wild Card is back, letting you gather Persona cards from some downed enemies and fusing them together in the velvet room. The compendium might not be the size of previous games, but thankfully I know that from experience that Strikers is balanced well around this. 

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Omega Force has worked extra hard to add numerous little touches to the experience to make fans of Persona 5 feel right at home. If you stagger an enemy, you get to see your active party come together for an All-Out-Attack. There’s more of an emphasis on dungeon exploring, and none of the stages are plagued with a barren flatness like most games in this genre. You frequently find yourself platforming, running from rooftop to rooftop, and using parts of your environment to sneak attack enemies like a true phantom thief.

The question on many peoples’ minds is why Persona 5 Strikers took so long to receive a localization. I think it's safe to say that the announcement of a PC port, as well as everything surrounding the pandemic, was largely responsible for this. I got confirmation from Community Manager Ari Advincula that the English voice acting was recorded remotely like with 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim earlier this year, and from what I’ve seen so far the quality lives up to Persona 5. There will of course be Japanese voices too, for those who prefer playing the game with the original audio. There is quite a lot of voice acting in this game, and I’m impressed with Atlus’ efforts to record high-quality English dubs in a manner that keeps the staff and actors safe.

When asked if there were plans to bring the demo that was seen in Japan for both PS4 and Switch, I was told that unfortunately there were none. I hope this changes as we get closer to launch, but thankfully there isn’t that much time until we’ll all be able to get our hands on the game. For those who are as impatient as I am, the Digital Deluxe version seems to be for you. For $69.99 you’ll not only have access to a Digital artbook, in-game Persona Legacy BGM, and a few other bonuses, but also 4 days of early access

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I asked if the English release would see any improvements for PlayStation 5 since it is launching after the release of the “Next-Gen” systems that weren’t in the cards when it came out in Japan. They had no concrete information about specific improvements the title would see, but I learned that it would see an improvement in loading times like all backwards compatible games. What I’m really excited to see more about is the PC release, and I hope it's able to fix any visual presentation gripes I had with the game when playing it on PS4 earlier. 

Persona 5 Strikers is the most ambitious Persona spin-off yet, and one I adored playing in Japanese. It's a lot more than just a simple musou game, existing as a surprisingly great Persona action game hybrid that I didn’t know I needed. It might just be my favorite games that Omega Force has developed yet. Seeing the English build finally was exciting, and I have to thank Atlus for giving me the opportunity to see this first look.

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