The Musou genre, and Warriors franchise, in particular, has become ubiquitous with crossover in the last few years. Hyrule Warriors was a high profile release that set the scene for other franchises to dip their toes in. Now, after it was released in Japan last year, Persona 5 Strikers is the latest crossover to hit stores.
It’s also the best Musou crossover ever.
I’ve never been a fan of Dynasty Warriors or other Warriors titles. They feel very samey both for the duration and when compared to one another. Even Hyrule Warriors fails to grab me despite being a Zelda fan. Generally, for me, these kinds of games devolve into button mashing for dozens of hours with no real challenge, storytelling or hook. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys them, they’re just not my thing.
However, Persona 5 Strikers is. It’s both a proper Persona RPG and a Musou game in one. It’s got a deep, complex narrative, tonnes of character, incredible battle mechanics and it’s got the Phantom Thieves.
What more could you want?
Persona 5 Strikers Review
Set a few months after Persona 5, Strikers sees Joker and Morgana back in Tokyo for summer vacation. The members of the Phantom Thieves get together to plan their summer together and all seems well until the encounter up and coming idol/influencer Alice while shopping for supplies in Shibuya. Alice gives the group a card with a special codeword to add her as a friend on the new app EMMA and on using the codeword, the Phantom Thieves are transported to the Metaverse. It seems a new change of heart epidemic is occurring all across Japan and EMMA is at the core.
Once inside the Metaverse, the Phantom Thieves meet new playable character and AI companion Sophia. They also discover that Alice and other powerful people are using the Metaverse to build jails, steal people’s Desires and use them to make themselves more powerful.
As Persona 5 Strikers was released in Japan last year, the entire plot is already available online if you want to spoil it for yourself but I won’t be giving any more away here. It’s also Persona, so detailing the plot would take hours of time, so why not just wait until you play it?
The jails function similarly to Palaces in Persona 5. Players need to explore and work their way through until they can face off against the boss. They’re filled with Shadows who attack on sight and who can be ambushed to give the player an advantage in battle. However, where Persona 5 is turn-based, Strikersis real-time with pause. When you enter combat, the Shadow on the field becomes a number of Personas (Pixie, Jack-o-Lantern, Silky etc) who you’ll fight. In a party of four, you’ll take control of Joker by default but can switch (baton pass) to any of the other three with the D-Pad.
Each character uses combinations of Square and Triangle to perform moves and combos. By pressing Square a number of times and then pressing Triangle, each character will attack with their weapons and their Persona to deal elemental damage. Characters also have a number of special moves baked in which allows them to perform ‘One More’ attacks or augment their standard combos. It’s a lot to take in at first but it quickly feels like second nature and it’s not long before taking out a massive group of enemies while switching between your characters and perfoming ridiculous combos is the norm.
Personas also play a big role in combat. By pressing R1 you can bring up your Persona’s abilities which pauses the action. This is also a great way to just take stock of what’s happening, check your party’s health and figure out your next moves. Whilst in the Persona menu you can scroll through abilities and aim them using an AOE marker. If any enemies within the area are weak to the ability, it’ll be marked so you know you’ll be doing extra damage. Taking advantage of weaknesses is most important during boss fights as they have layers of armour which need to be broken before you can do an All-Out Attack.
Pressing Start brings up the item menu and also pauses the action. Here you can freely browse your items and use as many as you like to heal your characters and replenish SP. It feels like a bit of a cheat, but it’s probably the simplest solution.
Through fighting, the Phantom Thieves and their Personas level up, learn new skills and deal more damage. Interestingly, unlike Persona 5, once you exit a Jail your health and SP are fully replenished and you’re able to jump straight back in. This means you can grind Jails indefinitely before taking on the boss, unlike in Persona 5 where you have a rigid time limit.
Outside of Jails and combat you’ll be chatting with the other Phantom Thieves, exploring the real world, buying items, cooking, completing side missions and building up your relationships. It’s all very much in keeping with Persona 5 proper and definitely feels like a JRPG. Even though the combat is (mostly) real time and features elements of Musou games, Persona 5 Strikers doesn’t feel that much at odds with contemporary JRPGs with real-time combat like Final Fantasy VII or Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s just much more hectic.
While there’s a lot to love about Persona 5 Strikers it does tend to drag in the final third. I thought I’d finished at least three times, only to find out I still had hours to go. It’s not a crime for a game to have an extended runtime but it never feels great to come to a natural conclusion only to have to continue. I’d put the blame squarely on the pacing, though fans likely won’t have an issue with the length. That being said, I swear to god that the Phantom Thieves said: “let’s get ready for the final battle” at least 10 times in the lead up to the actual final battle. Next time, maybe wait and see if you’ve got more enemies to bash before you claim you’re done, Phantom Thieves.
Despite my gripe with the length and pacing, Persona 5 Strikers is terrific. It’s bold, brash, loud and exciting. The combat mechanics are some of the best, most unique and exciting I’ve come across and the story is rich, detailed and well worth investing in. That being said, it does explore some dark and potentially triggering themes and circumstances so maybe do some research before playing.
Persona 5 Strikers is my favourite Musou crossover and the first one to truly feel like the guest franchise first and Warriors second.
Persona 5 Strikers was reviewed on PS5 using a PS4 code provided by the publisher.