Can You Play Persona 5 Strikers Without Persona 5 (And Royal)?
Persona 5 Strikers has finally launched worldwide for PlayStation 4, PC, and Switch, and you probably know by now that it’s a sorta-sequel spinoff that continues the timeline of Persona 5. But with the original RPG not being available on non-PlayStation platforms, the question of whether or not newcomers can still enjoy Strikers is a pertinent one. And the simple answer is: Yes, but your mileage will vary.
In my Persona 5 Strikers review, I praised the game’s action-RPG combat mechanics, excellent soundtrack, and new characters, among other things. And the fact that I got to see my old friends, the Phantom Thieves, again as they go on a summer vacation to enjoy life and save the world one more time was a real treat. The opening hours do spend time plainly re-establishing the personality traits of its returning cast, but of course, it’s not the same as seeing them grow into who they are in their 100-hour journey prior. So if you want to have a really deep bond with the cast, I’d recommend playing Royal first.
Nevertheless, the charisma of the Phantom Thieves shines through in how they express themselves and fight in the Metaverse, the alternate dimension where all the battles take place. If they don’t make a strong impression on you when meeting them in their normal lives, they’re sure to win you over with the way they stylishly tear through demonic adversaries. Their personas, special attacks, and unique animations in Strikers really embody the Phantom Thieves’ fighting spirit, and that alone says a lot about who they are.
When I take a step back and think about Strikers’ callbacks to the original story of Persona 5, they help provide context for who the characters are, why they carry a specific demeanor, and draw parallels between the two games. Other than taking place a few months after the end of Persona 5, very few story-critical things in Strikers are a direct continuation of previous storylines. There is no “the story so far” kind of recap, but that also wouldn’t be entirely necessary.
Knowing Persona 5’s story is not imperative to understanding the events of Strikers, as most of the major story beats early on harken back to what a particular character experienced in that game. However, having a frame of reference and context certainly enriches the characterization. For example, Ann deeply sympathizes with the first villain because they faced similar struggles–you then come to understand that a few important factors in life led them down very different paths. It’s a narrative device that’s used with Yusuke and Haru in a similar fashion. While this historical context doesn’t obscure the story’s events to the point they lose all impact, you won’t get the full connection and may be left wondering why the Phantom Thieves act or feel a certain way.
As you get further into Strikers, it starts to take on a direction of its own. That can mostly be attributed to the characters Sophia and Zenkichi, who make their debut in this game. As their stories come into clearer focus in the second half, the Phantom Thieves become more of a lens to perceive these characters and a vehicle to help them grow, and many of the overarching messages would still come through. There is a late-game dungeon that spells out a decent chunk of what happens in some of Persona 5’s concluding hours, but so much happens in the original game that it’s more about the journey than the destination.
Another question is if you need to play Persona 5 Royal (the definitive version that features exclusive story content). I mean, you should; it’s one of the few games that has earned a coveted 10/10 from GameSpot. However, Strikers doesn’t pull anything directly from Royal. There are a few lines of dialogue that could be perceived as allusions to what transpired in Royal’s story content, but even that’s debatable. As long as you finished the original version of Persona 5, you’ll be set going into Strikers story-wise.
Given the relatively light reliance on knowing exactly what happened in the original RPG, Persona 5 Strikers just might be what draws you into the series, and it could be your next favorite thing.
At the end of the day, Persona 5 (and Royal, in particular) is one of the best games of the previous generation. But given the necessary time investment, it’s still a lot to ask to play it just so you can check out Strikers. Instead, you can think of Strikers as a more streamlined experience of what a Persona game can offer while being meaty enough to hold its own in its 40-ish hour runtime. The exceptional combat system, premise of going on a road trip across Japan, and incredible soundtrack are reason enough to jump in. As to whether or not you need to play the original RPG before giving Strikers a shot, I’d say it’s a strong recommendation that you do, but not a necessity.
Admittedly, I’ve played some games within a series out of order and came away hooked enough to seek out previous entries. I can see a scenario where you play Strikers and come away with a strong curiosity for where these characters came from and how the Phantom Thieves came to be. Given the relatively light reliance on knowing exactly what happened in the original RPG, Persona 5 Strikers just might be what draws you into the series, and it could be your next favorite thing. I’d go as far to say that there is no wrong way to go about it.
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