Persona 5 is one of the games I’ve written the most about this year, which is quite surprising considering that a) it came out five years ago and b) I’m not even sure to have loved it so much. However, as early as 2021, Persona 5 Strikers came out and completely changed my relationship with the base game. A lot of players have had the same experience with Royal, but for me it was Strikers.
Strikers is the perfect sequel to a game that, despite my initial lack of affection, was already a masterpiece. It’s because Persona 5 has the best cast of characters I’ve ever met. Certainly the best as a cohesive group of friends, rather than a collection of fantastic individuals gathered in front of you the way Mass Effect or Dragon Age rounds out the cast. Persona 5 Strikers is all about these characters. While the base game feels too long, asks you to measure levels of grinding versus maintaining relationships versus going to bed when your cat tells you to, and lets you romanticize multiple adults as a high school student including your own teacher, Strikers is much cleaner. Even the turn-based and complex combat in the base game turns into musou carnage for you to enjoy the stories behind Strikers gameplay.
Strikers is not perfect. He’s too quick to forgive and shares the games’ basic attitudes towards women – only empowering them when it goes hand in hand with sexualization – which is why Ann Takamaki would have been a much better lead. But it’s the perfect following, because it takes everything that works on Persona 5 and builds on it, while also removing a lot of the fat that had a place in the JRPG but needed to be removed for the switch to musou to work.
One of those items is Futaba. Thankfully, Persona 5 Strikers doesn’t canonize any of Joker’s potential romances – and again, they have a step-brother relationship and I don’t care what the porn or Ted Cruz told you, it’s not cool to bone your sister-in-law. Either way, without that level of ick floating above their relationship, which can keep you from going too far with your Futaba bond in Persona 5, Strikers is giving her plenty of time to shine. The same can be said for Haru – both characters enter the base game relatively late and, as a result, always catch up with Ryuji and Ann.
In Strikers, everyone starts at the same level. These are the best friends who just saved the world, going on a summer road trip. Of course, because it’s Persona, an evil smartphone app turns people into emotionless drones, demons, gods, and religious symbolism. In Strikers however, a lot more time – at least relatively speaking, given its significantly shorter runtime – is spent on character development. We see the gangs bonding down the road, we see the different sights they visit in different cities (historical landmarks, shopping, food), and while the bonding stories look fantastic in Persona 5, they too had to be. measured and leveled and therefore might feel stuffy. In Strikers, everything is much more natural. You know, other than the living embodiment of your cell phone you’re buddy with.
Futaba benefits the most. Like Haru, having her early on means we see her a lot more, but she’s also on the verge of overcoming her lack of self-confidence and as a result, she’s much more open with the rest of the group. You can also talk to him without the “omg brother-in-law what are you doing?” Goosebumps tint what might otherwise have been a very healthy relationship arc.
Even from a gameplay perspective, we’re seeing a lot more of Futaba here. She’s still a character who doesn’t fight, but rather than just the voice in your ear, you have to protect her multiple times, and she is actively involved in the story, rather than a spectator leading you through her.
Futaba needed Strikers more than maybe any other character in Persona. There was already a fantastic chemistry between engaging, diverse, and eccentrically interesting characters, and Strikers was never going to build on that. Ryuji, Ann, Joker, Makoto? They didn’t need any validation from the Strikers, just a chance to continue. But Futaba, sidelined for half of Persona 5, deadly silent for another quarter, and only showing her personality if you take advantage of her uwu tropes to animate a shy girl to foster a romantic connection with a girl who you know. consider it an older brother? She needed Persona 5 Strikers. And if you haven’t played it, you also need Persona 5 Strikers.
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NetEase called it a bug, but others called it a feature.
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