We parted ways with a fantastic cast of characters we came to love over the course of a 100-hour adventure at the conclusion of Persona 5. Persona 5 Royal provided us an opportunity to return the same voyage with fresh content last year, but fans wanted for a brand-new adventure. Six months later, Persona 5 Strikers reunites the characters from the first game for an all-new journey throughout Japan. Despite the fact that it radically alters a few major aspects of the experience, it still feels like a legitimate, compelling continuation of the game that captured the hearts of RPG fans over four years ago.

After hearing stories of individuals abusing their authority, you control the Phantom Thieves as you research the claims before jumping to the cognitive realm of the Metaverse to penetrate their dungeon (this time called “jails”) and change their hearts. Along the way, you’ll face a slew of Shadows as you make your way to the dungeon’s boss for a final clash. While understanding the plot of the original game adds to the fun, it’s not required to play Strikers. For those who have played Persona 5, the familiarity of this concept will seem like a warm welcome home, but as you start beating up adversaries, it’s clear that this isn’t your typical turn-based RPG.

Persona 5 Strikers transforms from a meticulous dungeon-crawler to an all-out action game when it’s time to fight. In small-scale engagements, the hack-and-slash combat style of Musou games like Dynasty Warriors is utilized; each Phantom Thief has light and heavy strikes that you may combine in various combinations to unleash special attacks with status effects. I like the fast-paced, intuitive action of cutting through swarms of foes and witnessing them fly off the edge of Joker’s dagger or Panther’s whip, but the fighting is enhanced by the characters’ Personas.

You may call a character’s Persona at any time during a fight; the action will halt while you choose a spell to perform and the region it will effect. When you strike an enemy’s weak spot, you leave them vulnerable to a follow-up assault. If you strike them hard enough, you’ll trigger a powerful All-Out Attack, in which your whole team attacks the adversaries at the same time. When paired with the fast-paced fighting and many contextual interactions, the summoning system creates a seamless experience that allows you to take down adversaries in a stylish and effective manner. Switching between characters, reeling off various combinations, exposing vulnerabilities with Personas, detonating explosive devices, toppling chandeliers, and delivering devastating last strikes to shut off the show were some of my favorite encounters. Persona 5 Strikers does a decent job of timing the confrontations out inside the prisons, so a continual stream of this activity would be taxing.

Jails have a lot in common with Persona 5’s palaces. They both live in the Metaverse, have a ruler you must fight in order to influence their behavior in the actual world, and are teeming with Shadows. However, prisons do not have the same level of ingenuity as palaces. I enjoyed the waypoints that always directed me in the right direction, but when practically every jail is a point-A-to-point-B excursion, I started to feel like I was just going through the motions to get to my target. With a brief stealth part and passageways with portals that dump you in other locations, one prison tries to shake up the pattern, but these alterations come off as half-hearted gimmicks that I was pleased to see abandoned after one appearance.

Each prison is governed by a king, a powerful person in the real world who has discovered a method to enslave ordinary people by stealing their wishes. Rather of succumbing to one of the seven deadly sins, monarchs’ hearts have been tainted by personal suffering. When the time came for the characters to alter their minds, I found it difficult to empathize with them, but when this narrative thread works, Persona 5 Strikers provides some very moving moments about how pain can transform a person. The fact that so many of them have similarities to what a member of your squad went through in the first game adds to the impact of these moments.

The aspect of Persona 5 Strikers that I was most looking forward to was catching up with different members of the Phantom Thieves, and it mostly delivers. I enjoyed finding out what they’ve been up to since the previous game and seeing how they’ve progressed during this voyage. I was, however, dismayed by the lack of social-simulation options. Strikers lacks the social-linking mechanisms. You have a bond system instead, which allows you to enhance the party. You may chat to the people as you walk about the city and request a friend to join you in specific activities, but the talks are usually insignificant and unimpressive.

While not every dissimilar piece comes together as beautifully as it did in Persona 5, I was delighted to embark on another journey with the people with whom I had formed such strong ties in 2017. The action may unfold in a new way, but the series’ core stays intact.

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