When Persona 5 introduced in 2017, I fell under my brand-new RPG fascination. I liked almost whatever about the journey of the Phantom Thieves, however the characters and the story are what stuck to me long after I finished up the more-than-100-hour journey. So when Persona 5 Royal was revealed, I could not wait to leap back in and duplicate the experience with brand-new characters, places, and an extra story arc at the end. However, while I liked Persona 5 Royal (a lot, in truth), it left me longing for a brand new story with the precious cast of characters; I wished to see how their relationships and lives developed following the wild occasions of Persona 5. It might not be an RPG like the video game it functions as a follow up to, however Persona 5 Strikers assures to provide me the brand-new experience I’ve been yearning given that I primary step foot in Café Leblanc almost 4 years back.

Co-established by Atlus and the studio behind the Dynasty Warriors franchise, Omega Force, Persona 5 Strikers is barely a direct follower to the Persona 5 I fell for. However, if you enter anticipating it to be like what we saw Omega Force make with Hyrule Warriors, where it’s simply continuously action and a consistent stream of hack-and-slash fights, you remain in for a surprise. Over the course of the very first numerous hours I played, I felt less like I was playing some sort of odd, dissonant spin-off action video game and more like I was playing a follow up to Persona 5 with action-based battle. 

The resemblances and distinctions in between Persona 5 and Persona 5 Strikers are most appropriately shown through the cast of characters and the method you connect with them. The bulk of my early hours were invested in discussion with the Phantom Thieves. I liked discovering more about what they have actually depended on in the months given that completion of Persona 5. The passage of time was especially interesting for characters like Makoto, who is now in college and in a various location in her life. If you enjoy the design element of the title, almost all the characters are sporting makeovers too.

However, while the characters and their voice actors return from the original Persona 5 (sorry, Kasumi fans), the social elements have been hugely scaled down from the mainline series. Instead of social links, you can develop bonds with characters on your team. Much like the dearly departed social links, bonds open up brand-new stat boosts and abilities for characters. Unlike Persona 5’s system, however, you don’t earn points toward upgrades through going to a ramen shop, amusement park, or shrine with your friends, but rather by defeating enemies. I’m a little disappointed by the lack of social options since that’s such a huge part of what made me fall in love with these characters and the series as a whole in the first place, but this project was never meant to be a social simulation like the initial release.

While the original characters already have actually strong links to one another, they welcome a new member to the Phantom Thieves’ ranks very early on in the story. Sophia is an artificial intelligence character that Joker and Skull find during their first trip back into the Metaverse. She joins the group, contributing narrative guidance on top of her skills in battle. Using her yo-yos, she can attack a wide range, while her blaster lets her hit enemies from afar.

In Persona 5, the team infiltrates a Palace by discovering a corrupt ruler, gathering information on them, and using an app on their phone to make the shift into the Metaverse. That process remains the same in Strikers; the team discovers that something strange is happening involving Alice Hiiragi, a fashion stylist and idol who has developed an oddly ardent following. As it turns out, the seemingly sweet Alice has figured out some way to capture the desires of ordinary people, turning them into obsessed fans who will do anything for her, including one man who drops to his knees and confesses his love to her in front of his own fiancé. Once the Phantom Thieves figure this out and see Alice’s true nature, they know they can’t let it stand, so they begin an investigation by talking to and eavesdropping on fans scattered throughout Shibuya.

Once the team has enough information, it’s back to the Metaverse to infiltrate Alice’s dungeon, which turns the area surrounding Shibuya Crossing into a jail. The dungeon I played, while shorter than a Persona 5 Palace, plays out shockingly similar to how they played out in the original mainline RPG; you traverse the area, ambushing Shadows as you go. The biggest difference in the entire game lies in the combat; rather than the turn-based fare of Persona 5, battles play out closer to the high-paced action of the Warriors series. While you can hack and slash to your heart’s content, taking strategy into account is crucial. Not only can you swap between your active party using the d-pad, but you can pause the action to swap Personas and use their capabilities. Capitalizing on enemy weaknesses can knock them down, opening the door for a powerful All-Out Attack. I was also caught off guard by how the battles are spaced out. Based on my time with the Hyrule Warriors games, I expected the battles to be more constant. Instead, the encounters more serve to break up the exploration.

Even when you’re not in the dungeon itself, Shibuya and the surrounding areas feel like a return home if you’ve already played either version of Persona 5. Shibuya and Yongen-Jaya are laid out exactly as they are in Persona 5, and seeing the gang return to Leblanc or their hideout in the accessway brought a smile to my face. I know the team will eventually move on from Shibuya and Tokyo as a whole during the course of the story, however these callbacks to the Phantom Thieves’ flagship adventure are fun.

If my early hours are any indication, Persona 5 Strikers serves as a compelling follow up to one of my favorite role-playing games of all time. Not only am I enticed by the idea of carrying on with the lives of the various members of the team, however I’m interested by the instructions the story is going. Persona 5 Strikers launches on PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC on February 23. To see the preliminary statement trailer of its Western localization, head here.