Persona 5 Strikers' Musou-style action has been good fun so far, but sometimes it's the little things that matter more.
The Persona train isn't stopping anytime soon with the upcoming Persona 5 Strikers launching next month. After getting hands-on with the game, I'm mostly impressed with its shift to Warriors-style action combat and happy to be with its familiar cast of characters again for a new journey. In my Persona 5 Strikers preview, I detailed the new storyline, quirks of the revamped battle system, and the ways in which it's a lighter approach to the original game.
However, I still need room to highlight the little things that I love about the game so far--from the incredible music and flashy menus to great subtle characterizations and cutscenes. These elements have helped elevate the experience beyond a mere hack-and-slash adaptation thus far, and also remind us why we love the original game to begin with. If you want a detailed breakdown of the game’s early-goings, be sure to watch our in-depth discussion below.
New Music Worthy Of Praise
I feel like I've written about Persona soundtracks and the work of Atlus' sound team many times already, but Persona 5 Strikers gives me plenty of reasons to do it again. With folks like Atsushi Kitajoh and Gota Masuoka working with the acid jazz and hard rock foundation set by Shoji Meguro, we have more songs to jam out to.
I found it a bit hard to get past the main menu because the theme song "Strikers" is so damn catchy and groovy, perfectly looping forever. While we don't get the iconic "Life Will Change" when things reach a climax in the Metaverse, we do have "Daredevil" which exudes its own sense of unwavering confidence and invulnerability. There's also a new standard battle theme called "What You Wish For"; however, the chaos of combat sometimes drowns out this uptempo jazz rock track that rightfully deserves multiple listens. That's just scratching the surface, too.
Remixes Of Our Favorites Tunes
A number of songs from the Persona 5 are used in Strikers and remain untouched, and it's great to hear those tunes again. But it's a different kind of excitement to hear old favorites remixed.
I've said my piece about Strikers' remix of "Last Surprise" in great detail, but I'll say it one more time here: this melodic punk/metal twist to Persona 5's heralded battle theme may even surpass the original version. "Rivers In The Desert" also has a heavier remix that picks up the tempo and layers in some extra distorted guitars. While the original arrangements were just right for the vibe Persona 5 was going for, these new renditions are better fits for the fast-paced action combat in Strikers. They'll make you wish you could get up and fight shadows yourself.
Letting Your Favorite Be The Star
I mention this in my preview, but what helps spotlight the other members of the Phantom Thieves in Strikers is that you can choose who to take direct control of when exploring the Metaverse, instead of always having Joker take the lead. Folks have their favorite character and now they can be the star of the show. It's a relatively small thing, but adds a bit of fresh excitement, especially since Makoto can now lead the way darting across cover points, jumping between rooftops, and tearing masks off shadows to initiate an ambush. Really though, it makes this feel more like it's everyone's journey, too.
Each Character's Individuality Shines
In combat, each character functions differently. While they all follow a similar combo pattern, the properties and effects of each of their combos are unique. For example, Haru's axe swings are heavy and can lead to a spinning AOE attack, while Ryuji can charge up a bat swing for increased damage. Makoto can hop on Johanna and crash through mobs of shadows, and Morgana can do something similar by turning into the cat bus. One of the best things about this cast is their individuality, and it really shines through in the actual gameplay experience.
Morgana's Little Steppy Steps
I know there are Morgana haters out there, but I love cats vewy much and I have a soft spot for Morgana. Of course, when controlling anyone else in the Metaverse, they'll take normal human-sized strides while running, but how the hell does Morgana keep pace when you control him? Well, when you do, he does these quick little steps while his big ol' head is wobbling around, it's cute uwu.
A Wild Yakuza Reference Appears
In the opening chapter, you'll be able to walk around familiar areas in Tokyo. You can't really engage with the world the same way you could in the original game, but you can chat with your friends who are posted up around town. If you approach Makoto by the movie theater in Central Street, she'll hit you with a wild Yakuza reference.
Way to market a Sega game in a Sega game, I guess they heard we like Sega games. Real talk; you should check out that game or at least peep my Yakuza: Like a Dragon review to see what all the fuss is about--it even made it in our list of the 10 best games of 2020.
Sweet Pre-rendered Cutscenes
One thing I wish Persona 5 (and Royal) had was more animated cutscenes. These were a treat that showed the characters in pivotal story moments with an anime-inspired likeness. While Strikers has a few of its own, there are also pre-rendered cutscenes that are sort of an in-between. They seemed a bit weird at first in a G-mod sort of way, but they've been really well done so far, giving a bit more flash and style to the story's critical moments.
Sophia, Humanity's Companion
Sophia is one of the new faces in Persona 5 Strikers and joins the squad right at the start. She takes on a human form in the Metaverse and acts as a phone-based artificial intelligence in the real world, earning her self-proclaimed title of "humanity's companion." She fits in well with the rest of the crew with her own charm and combat sensibilities, while also being your guide in the Metaverse. She's a sentient AI without memories, but please, Atlus, don't make us fight her in some wild plot twist.
The Unnecessarily Swagged Out Menus
In-game menus never looked so good until Persona 5, and Strikers carries that tradition by nearly one-upping the original. Checking your items shifts to a purple spotlight with Haru and Morgana opening a chest, the equip menu shows Joker and Ryuji trying to act hard, the party menu has Joker and Ann sitting on a roof under pink-hued lights--basically, everyone gets to be a showoff and I love it. Sophia, as your shopkeeper, gets her own bubbly menu and animations when you're buying items and equipment.
Maybe they're not the best functionally since some transitions aren't exactly swift, but the cool factor more than makes up for it.
The Phantom Thieves Know What They're About
The Phantom Thieves don't trust cops, straight up. Persona 5 made that quite clear, but in case you didn't pick up on it, Strikers gives you a stark reminder. It's born out of a distrust for authority figures who have been responsible for the trauma they faced in the past, and they don't seem to be backing down in this new game.
A new character, Zenkichi Hasegawa, is a detective tasked with keeping an eye on the Phantom Thieves' movements as they're suspected of causing abnormal behaviors in the real world again. There's much more to him than the opening hours let on, but their initial distrust towards him makes no bones about where they stand. Haru says so, and says it with her chest. Yusuke backs her up too. If you have a problem with it, take it up with them.