Something's wrong. I know this music. I know these jutting red and black menu icons. I know these faces. There's Ryuji, the lovable goofball who helped me incriminate a sexual predator. There's Morgana, a talking cat that I helped through a major identity crisis. Ann, Makoto, Haru, Yusuke—the whole gang is here. We spent over 100 hours together on my Playstation 4 last summer, which is the only place you can get to know the Phantom Thieves, a group of mind-invading vigilantes with a mission to make awful people in power see the error of their ways. Persona 5 is a great RPG, considered an all-timer by plenty, and we've been pining for a PC release since the dawn of its existence.
And now here's a spin-off that's actually something more like a full-on surprise sequel, available on PC before Persona 5 is even announced for PC—if that ever happens. Persona 5 Strikers is a pretty good time, at least in the early hours, but one that comes with the strongest caveats I've ever had to give for a PC game.
Strikers has all the style and confidence of Persona 5, bold colors and character animations that cut up the screen with elaborate poses and text art that give each scene the liveliness of a manga panel, even down to the menus. A smooth, jazzy soundtrack instills the action with confidence and establishes a psychedelic '70s spy movie energy, even though we're dealing with teens taking on criminals in Tokyo. There's a 30-hour story with most of the cast and voice actors returning. It walks and talks almost exactly like Persona 5, which I didn't expect.
You wander Tokyo (and even more of Japan this time), build relationships, and chip away at dungeons in a Persona 5 skinsuit. It's truly jarring and alarming how quickly I fell into such a familiar pattern of telling myself I'd just knock out one more day on the calendar only to black out with a week behind me. Strikers is a legitimate sequel to Persona 5, emulating the passage of time and visual novel-styled social game, even if it's not the complete JRPG effort. There's nothing wrong with a fun summer beach episode though.
But—and here's the big one—Strikers is one of those licensed Dynasty Warriors collaborations. Koei Tecmo's here with that love it or despise it more than anything combat. Tappa-tappa-tappa. Light attack, light attack, heavy attack, dodge and repeat, forever. Even Berserk couldn't get me to like the stuff. You're not working through massive battlefields, murdering millions for control points this time though. In Strikers, combat is often initiated like it is in Persona 5, or most other JRPGs. You'll see an enemy wandering around a dungeon, bump into it, and suddenly the room's a fire hazard, packed with dozens of enemies.
Fights are just pockets of Dynasty Warriors action, that repetitive tappa-tappa melee combat propped up by a Persona summoning system that uses limited skill points or dips into HP elemental area-of-effect damage, opening up enemies for special attacks. There's some amount of strategy involved, but the action really amounts to managing a crowd, choosing the most efficient Persona attack to perform critical damage on as many enemies as possible, and repeating.
It's about as tense as herding ants, though the Persona 5 style treatment gives it more life than it deserves. If a tougher enemy is downed, you can perform an all-out attack to sic you and your buds on them like a swarm of cartoon bees. The gun freezes time when you aim, a nice way to survey and control some of the tougher enemies. Do well enough and you can unleash a special attack that kicks off a lovely animation, a bespoke one for every playable character.
And yeah, there's some charm in seeing all this play out live as opposed to in turn-based combat. It is possibly the most fun I've had with the Dynasty Warrior style, but I'm not bouncing around in my seat with enthusiasm after a few hours like I was with Persona 5's near-perfect turn-based reduction. I worry what another 25 will do to me. I'm sure I'll have plenty to say when Strikers releases on February 23.
So how's the port?
It's a fine port, but one clearly anchored to its console origins. The biggest bummer is the 60 fps cap, especially for an animation-heavy action game. Textures that look fine from the slight fuzz inherent to lower console resolutions pop on PC, and in a bad way. Awnings, vending machines, and anything that isn't just lines and color haven't been touched up for higher resolutions. Not devastating, but we like the royal treatment on PC.
Most importantly, it runs well. I stay huddled up against that 60 fps cap with ease, my PC barely breaking a sweat. In a few hours of play I haven't seen any crashes or hitching. Customizable keyboard controls are there, a nice suite of language options—the works. It's a pretty decent port! Seeing Tokyo and the Phantom Thieves rendered at 4K with perfectly clean lines is novel and frustrating, a reminder that Persona 5 on PC still isn't a thing even though it feels like I'm looking right at the damn thing.
If you can slog through some extremely repetitive combat that sucks the meaning out of spectacle and if you've played (and loved) Persona 5, then Strikers is a pretty fun excuse to get the gang back together. This is a genuine sequel, though maybe we call it a summer special. I just wish everyone on PC could play Persona 5 and understand why I've allowed myself to even entertain the idea of playing a Dynasty Warriors influenced game. I really don't like them, but I adore Persona 5's style and characters. So far, they are still worth the work.
And hey, let's look at the bigger picture. Ignore the caveats for a minute though and focus on what Persona 5 Striker's odd and sudden appearance means for the future of the series. I see Strikers on PC as Atlus in the middle of a violent about-face, veering into our lane after shrugging at the demand for modern JRPGs on PC. Persona 4 Golden's port was a huge success, and now the PC is clearly a big priority for Atlus, enough to release a damn sequel before the main game. If Persona 5 for PC doesn't come out this year, I'll play all the Dynasty Warrior games, in order.