Persona 5 Strikers | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Persona 5 Strikers | Review | Switch

by Danny Bivens

Going beyond the Musō.
To be perfectly honest, when I heard the announcement that Persona 5 was coming to the Switch…in Musō/Warriors form, I was a little bit disappointed. I’m sure many of you out there were as well. I really had no intentions of picking the game up initially, however, the free demo from the Japanese eShop sold me enough to take the plunge. While this demo does give you a peek into what the final game will be like, there really is a lot to unpack with the retail version of the game. Up front, I will say that I am still in the process of completing the story, so in this review, I’m going to be focusing mostly non-story related aspects - graphics, sound, the battle system and more. If you’re wanting an in depth look at the lore or things like that, there are definitely other videos out there for you. If you want to get the perspective of a guy that’s jumping into Persona for the first time, this is the review for you.

Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers takes place six months after the events in Persona 5. The crew join up to try and put together some plans for the summer vacation. There are a few differences here, namely when it comes to entering the alternate world, or Metaverse. In place of Palaces that were found in Persona 5, Jails now serve as dungeons. Each one has a king that needs to be taken down. There are other things, too, but I'm not going to spoil it. If you want a taste of the game, be sure to check out the demo no the Japanese eShop. Even though this is basically a sequel, Scramble does a pretty good job at introducing the world to players that are new to the series. This is done through the introduction of new characters who, like me, don’t know the minutia and terminology that some might already know. Either way, it can work as a refresher or a complete introduction to the world of Persona 5.
Being part RPG, Scramble features a lot of dialog. A good chunk of it is fully voiced here, particularly when the dialog is furthering the narrative. When you’re out on missions, these will usually be text only. With this being the Japanese version of the game, it’s safe to say that a working knowledge of the Japanese language is pretty much a requirement to be able to enjoy this game. You could probably get through with trial and error, but you’ll be missing out on the interesting story that’s on offer here. Honestly, I’ve been enjoying the story and character interactions even more than the actual gameplay/battle sections of the game. Things are well written and pretty entertaining. Of course, there are some anime tropes that you’re going to run into (huge anime boobs, scantily clad teens, kids saving the world, etc), but it’s been a fun ride so far.

The battle system in Scramble is a mix of Musō/Warriors style action and some turn based-like elements. Most of it is very action intensive, the but with the press of a button, you can stop the action on screen and cycle through some moves that your Personas can perform. There are other “magic” attacks that you can perform, items to use and the ability to change to one of the others of your four member party at any time. Not only this, but there areas in the Jails occasionally contain points that can be moved to quickly by the press of the A button. When in battle, these can offer an alternative way to attack your enemies. If you jump to the top of a light pole and press X, you will spin around several times kicking the hell out of the enemies. Jump to the top of a police car and press X, you can cause the car to explode to cause damage. This really adds to the battles and makes it more interesting than button mashing that most people associate with Musō titles.
Jails are vast and have a lot of different areas to explore. Typically when you get to a Jail, the Phantom Thieves will realize that they need (essentially) some kind of key or sets of keys in order to reach the “King” of the area. Most of the time, each key is guarded by a pretty strong enemy that you’ll need to defeat in order to recover it. Get all the keys, and you can face off against the final boss of the area. It’s a little bit formulaic, but the areas themselves are varied enough, and there are different story beats that help keep this interesting. With each the Jails being pretty large, there are numerous check points at various points throughout the levels. Here, you can save your game, change active party members and even exit the Jail completely. Exiting the Jail can actually be beneficial as your characters HP and SP will all be refilled completely. There is (as far as I know) no demerit to doing this. Actually, it was something I would do on a regular basis, which, in all honestly, was really helpful. This “feature,” if you will, makes it so gamers can enjoy these dungeons on their own terms, which is definitely a plus.

Just like in any other RPG, there is a lot of different gear that you will need to buy in order to upgrade your team. Weapons, armor and accessories are all used to do this. Elemental elements and buffs can be found on these, too, which is important to note when you’re fighting tougher enemies. You’re able to buy items and equipment from stores around the various locations you visit as well as from a store that you can access from when you visit your hideout. The hideout serves as a place where (obviously) all of the Phantom Thieves gather before missions. Accessing the store is just one of things you can do here. You can also choose your active party members and even do things like cook your own dishes which will can be used as items in the Jails.
There is a system in the game called Band, which is used to increase various statistics and abilities of your team. These range from things like increasing strength, critical attacks, HP and adding auto-recover to some more other things like a quicker increase of your Band Level or gaining the ability to open higher level treasure chests. Band skill points are obtained by simply playing through the story and also through battles. You are free to upgrade whichever aspect that you please. Similar to the ability to upgrade the Phantom Thieves, you can also increase the abilities of your Personas and even create new ones by combining some together. You can choose their abilities, types you want to use and more.

One nice aspect of the gameplay is the ability to change the difficulty at any time in the Jails. If you find that you’re getting your ass kicked on Normal or Hard, you can adjust accordingly. I’ve messed around with the game in both Normal and Easy modes. The normal difficulty provides enough of a challenge. I was able to take out most of the non-boss enemies pretty effortlessly. Bosses and sub-bosses require a bit more strategy here. If you’re not careful, you can be wiped out pretty quickly. Easy can almost be a bit too easy, however, if you’re looking to just enjoy the story of the game, that option is available.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed the gameplay and the various in game systems that are available in Scramble. There are times when the action gameplay can be a little bit frantic, making it difficult to keep track of your enemies. Thankfully, there is a lock on mechanic that allows you to focus on one enemy at a time. I found this helpful when facing off against stronger opponents. If you don’t use this feature, the camera can feel a little bit unwieldy and I found the movement to be a bit too quick and somewhat fiddly. The unwieldiness can at times carry over into the exploration/non-battle aspects of the gameplay. For example, after crossing a narrow ledge in a Jail to reach a specific area, the camera and fiddly controls made it so I couldn’t proceed with the precision that I needed in one shot. It’s a minor complaint, honestly, and something that you can get used to with more time in the game.

Visuals in Scramble are pretty amazing. Like I mentioned previously, I’ve never played Persona 5, but have also thought the game looked great from a visual strand point. The same aesthetics carried over into this title as well. You have the same straight-out-of-anime looking characters that animate and look nice. The worlds, both the real world and the Metaverse/Jails are convincing and full of details. The busy streets of Shibuya, Sendai and other locales in the game are full of these. Proper signs indicating the names of stations, accurate recreations of locations complete with shops, shrines and more add a level of realism that is great to see. Having been to some of these locations in Japan myself, it was cool to see them realized in the game.
I haven’t played the PS4 version of Scramble, but I do have a few small nitpicks with the game in terms of visuals. I’ll say it again - the finer details in the locations are pretty cool. However, the textures on some of the walls, shops, and signage throughout the towns do suffer from being a little bit low resolution. I should note that typically this is only noticeable if you are very close to these and actively searching for that. Additionally, there are some times, especially in larger areas, where the game suffers from some pop-in. For example, when I was in one of the Jails running around, I noticed street lights and other assets popping in the closer I got to them. Load times can also be a bit long, too. Overall, though, these issues weren’t huge deals. The areas are are small enough to the point where visual fidelity remains consistent and the framerate stays solid - definitely more important in my book.

Persona 5 Scramble was a pleasant surprise. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that Scramble is just another Musō game. It’s not. The Persona 5 aesthetic is interwoven into the game so seamlessly that it really does feel like you’re playing a side story of the original. Fitting, considering this is a continuation of the story from Persona 5. Sure, Musō style combat isn’t for everyone and there were times when I was a bit annoyed. Still, I think that enough was done even in that area of the game to set it apart with the Persona attacks and other “magic” abilities. The RPG elements of leveling up the characters, getting new equipment and the Band system were a bit complicated, but were easy to get the hang of after awhile. Visuals, music and overall performance on the Switch are all top notch here, too. Interaction with the characters, including dialogue and story beats were definitely my favorite parts of the experience, though. If you’re thinking about diving into the world of Persona, Scramble on the Switch isn’t a bad place to start and is welcoming for those who aren’t familiar with the universe.

Final Score: 8.5

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