Persona 5 Strikers is honestly my favorite non-mainline Persona title to date. It is a near-perfect transition from turn-based combat to action. The dancing titles were addictingly fun, the Q games were well-crafted dungeon crawlers, and the fighting forays were impressively executed, but Strikers honed in a direction I was desperately hoping the franchise would tackle for years and years; Musou. Well, I hesitate to call it a Musou because, despite there occasionally being hordes upon hordes of enemies to defeat, at its core, this title feels more akin to Persona Action than Persona Musou.
I am currently around 20 hours in and am in the fourth Jail. For the most part, I have been loving my time with Strikers. The soundtrack is stellar, the characterization is entertaining and enticing, and the general gameplay loop is satisfying. However, there are some admittedly odd critiques I have of the combat structure this title pursues.
This is the first time I have ever had critiques of this nature, so my overall conclusions and observations may be substandard. Still, to be blunt, I feel like Strikers relies too heavily on its series roots for its action combat to truly shine and flourish. I am by no means attempting to downplay the impressive execution of this genre transition. There are just some elements that I feel are too tied down by its traditional Persona traits.
I had a hard time trying to parse my supporting points here textually, but it really comes down to the speed of battles. Once again, this is probably an incredibly odd critique to make, seeing as I have never seen anyone express this from my limited viewing of online perception so far. Still, I find the flow of battles to be almost ripped straight from mainline Persona itself. Most encounters in Strikers consist of sneaking up on a group of shadows, using weaknesses, an all-out-attack, and subsequently defeating them. This is identical to the general combat loop from Persona 5/Royal.
Seeing those same elements of stealth and proper affinity usage carry over to Strikers is pretty cool. However, the issue I found with this execution is that the weakness system, alongside the meager amount of mobs with their frailty, almost negates the action elements the game houses. For instance, all playable characters have their own distinct feel with their combos, but I have rarely ever felt like I was in a proper situation to truly let loose and experiment with how they fight due to the speed and ease that most battles conclude with.
This is an element of gameplay I found to work better in Persona 5/Royal just due to the genre itself. While the sequence of events for ridding enemies is identical, the game makes it more of an ordeal, so to speak. Yes, defeating enemies in those titles can go by very swiftly, but waiting for the characters’ turns gives an illusion of more effort being spent on emerging victoriously.
Between the battle result screens and waiting for animations to play out, there is just more time spent waiting than doing. And Strikers attempts to mimic that gameplay philosophy, but it does not translate too well into an Action environment due to the belated points. It rids most of the waiting that comes from turn-based fights without adding enough to make encounters feel too satisfying.
The individual ways the characters play come off as almost minute and discarded at points due to how fights play out. There are instances such as against especially tough shadows and bosses where you can play around with the combat more, which is, funnily enough, an aspect of fighting that was arguably the strongest in Persona 5/Royal. The enemies that lacked weaknesses in those games required usages of buffs, debuffs, and maybe even status ailments to prevail against effectively. Persona 5 Strikers could use more enemies of that variety, so elemental affinities could not be a combative safety net and be the be-all-end-all for most encounters.
When it comes down to it, I wish there were either more enemies to test my mettle against, or that mob fights required more than surface-level thought for winning. There are Mastery Arts that characters learn the more you use them and combos with their own unique flairs and practicalities, but whenever I unlock more of those assets, they tend to feel like afterthoughts. These are never elements I consciously ponder on because as long as you use elemental weaknesses, you’re golden for most of the game, at least from what I have currently played.
Even when playing on Hard, there is not enough action to quench my yearnings for more during each encounter. Having a bunch of encounters is not as fun to me as having fewer but longer ones. Due to this being an action title, I want to have more opportunities to fight with my characters. I want to experiment with combos and movements, but there is not enough time to do so in most of these brief fights.
Keep in mind I am only approaching what I assume is the second half of the game here, so my critiques may be addressed, but since I am feeling like this when over 20 hours in, my critiques hold at least some merit.
At the end of the day, I feel somewhat disappointed with the lack of individualized character action that stands out in Persona 5 Strikers. I know I likely repeated myself many times in this piece, but I wish the game encouraged more fighting and character combat rather than leaning on elements the series has established.
This all could be due to a misaligned perception on my end, however. I was hoping for more of an Action Persona game, not a Persona Action game. Persona 5 Strikers is still legitimately addicting fun, but the more I play it, the more I feel like I am simply playing a Persona game with an Action skin 90% of the time.
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