Just like its prequel, Persona 5 Strikers divides the game into two distinct phases. The first phase is the overworld. In the overworld the player, controlling Joker, gets the opportunity to explore the different Japanese cities the plot takes them to. Each location is unique and features different items the player can purchase.
All these locations also provide unique questlines, in the form of requests, that allow the player to get some backstory and gain some bond points, which boosts Bond levels. Through the Bond levels, certain skills and traits can be unlocked. The main purpose of the overworld is for the player to stock up items and update equipment. As the story progresses, the player is exposed to more items they can take advantage of. Essentially, this overworld is where the player will prepare for the bulk of the game spent in the dungeons, known as Jails.
So what are Jails? If you’ve played Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal, then you’d know about the existence of the Metaverse through Mementos and Palaces. Through plot developments, these area aren’t accessible in Persona 5 Strikers. Instead, a new system called Jails is present instead. In the previous games, the only section that was really accessible was Mementos. After certain plot points, Palaces would disappear, and the player is unable to return to these locations. In Persona 5 Strikers, the Jails are present up until the end of the game, so the player can return at any time.
Now, once you get into a Jail, the game is broken up into two distinct parts. The first part is the traveling through the Jails. If you’ve played Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal, then the layout of the Jails should be very familiar. Here, you traverse the Metaverse version of the Japanese cities. Filled with some platforming and puzzles, the player makes their way around the Jails to complete certain tasks.
Roaming around the Jails are Shadows. Similar to the previous games, these enemies walk in certain areas. Only after interacting with these Shadows will you be able to combat them. Just like the previous games, there are three distinct ways to start combat. If you can sneak behind the enemy, you can get a sneak attack, which results in a strong attack and an all-out attack. But, just like how you can sneak up on a Shadow, they can preemptively attack the player as well. In this case, the player will start combat in disadvantage. The final way to start combat is just approaching them with an attack, which has the battle start in neutral positions.
Once in combat, the biggest difference between Persona 5 Strikers and Persona 5 Royal is revealed. Instead of a turn based RPG, Persona 5 Strikers is an action RPG, the same vein as a Dynasty Warriors game. In this case, a group of cannon fodder appears, and the player gets the opportunity to beat up hoards of enemies. Now, how do you get to attack these enemies?
In this game, the attack options are similar to Persona 5 Royal. Like in the base game, you have melee attacks, your gun attacks, and Persona abilities. In Persona 5 Strikers, the basic melee attacks are replaced by unique combos the player can execute. Depending on the Phantom Thief the player is controlling, the combos are different. For example, Yusuke uses his katana for quick attacks that specialize in critical strikes. He also has the ability to counterattack as well. This is the opposite to Noir, who specializes in heavy attacks and using her bazooka.
To execute these attacks, the player mainly uses the “Y” button (on the Nintendo Switch). The number of times the button is pressed changes the attack used. Each character also has a unique action on “X”. As mentioned before, this is the counterattack button for Yusuke or allows Noir to blast away an area with her bazooka. Now, when combining these two buttons, so after a string of “Y” presses, the combo can be ended by pressing “X” to make another combo. This system is present in most Dynasty Warriors games, so this mechanic should be familiar to most players.
Unique to Persona 5 Strikers, in comparison with other Warriors games, the Phantom Thieves are able to use guns. When holding “L”, the player can aim, the fire with the “R” button. Just like the melee abilities, the guns the Phantom Thieves wield are unique as well. Depending the on the character, the gun attacks can be an integral part of their combat abilities.
The final aspect that is unique to this game are the Persona spells. While holding “R”, the player can pull up a menu to cast spells that consume SP. The game enters a frozen state, which allows the player to select spells without worry of being attacked which reading. Certain characters, mainly the mage archetypes, like Panther, enjoy using strong magical attacks. These spells can also heal and buff the party, or they can be used to status or debuff the enemy.
As I mentioned in my review, the combat mechanics do take a bit of time to get used to, but it’s an easy to learn, hard to master system. Each unique Phantom Thief plays differently, so you’ll have plenty of options to find your playstyle to enjoy the game.