While spinoff game “Persona 5 Strikers” differs in fairly significant ways from its franchise roots, the Japanese role-playing experience elevates a genre often criticized for too much repetition.
“Strikers” is practically a sequel to the critically-acclaimed “Persona 5,” continuing the adventures of young adults masquerading as the Phantom Thieves, teen titans who collect and use magical beings known as Persona to combat the evil within the hearts of cruel people.
While “Persona 5” stuck to its turn-based combat roots, “Strikers” adopts the popular but not-quite-mainstream-yet Musou genre, the shorthand name for a type of Japanese hack-and-slash game that involves fighting thousands of enemies across a battlefield. Musou games are all inspired by Omega Force, the developer behind “Strikers” and similar titles such as “Dynasty Warriors.” The studio has spent decades pumping out hundreds of titles in this genre, which is wildly popular in Japan.
Over the years, the “Dynasty Warriors” franchise and its countless spinoff titles have evolved this genre to include more real-time strategy elements, which basically meant making sure you’re at the right area of a map before you kill as many bad guys as your computer can handle on screen.
Particularly in the West, the genre has a reputation for being repetitive. But like punk rock or dance music, the repetition is the point. Fans of the Musou genre want to hear the same three power chords played over and over again. Musou games whittle action games down to their very essence: quick decision-making and immediate results. Like a DJ looping the same amazing sample, why not just spin the best part ad infinitum?
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It’s in these strange, left-field branding partnerships that Omega Force seems inspired to innovate. Games critic Tim Rogers once said Musou games have more in common with Hello Kitty and pachinko than regular action games, acknowledging that the genre is as much about collecting and using fun characters as they are about seeing thousands of colored lights explode in a repetitive and predictable fashion. “Strikers,” which released Tuesday on PC, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch platforms, captures that vibe. Here are all your favorite characters from a beloved game, and now you get to control them directly and bash them against the bad guys.
But in trying to retain the spirit of “Persona 5,” “Strikers” feels closer to an action role-playing game like the “Kingdom Hearts” or “Final Fantasy” series, both of which try to mesh real-time action with long, complicated tales of teenage angst and trauma. Like those titles, “Strikers” is packed with lengthy story sections. After a brief combat tutorial, the game doesn’t throw you back into another fight for at least another hour or so.