Welcome to our Gameluster Top 10 of 2021! After our deliberations on the Game Busters Podcast, we’ve settled on an unranked list of the top 10 best games of the year. Each of these will be a short write-up on why our team is so passionate about these games, so stay tuned!
Persona 5 Strikers is, in every sense of the word, a flex. A braggadocious blend of acid jazz and righteous rock. A comical cacophony of wild aesthetics and lovable characters. A delicious demonstration of the versatility of the Persona formula, seamlessly applying familiar turn-based mechanics to a live-action combat style. Its biggest flex, though? Shamelessly hitting almost the exact same story beats as its predecessor, yet still being an outrageously fun time.
Don’t get me wrong, the story of Strikers is a fun follow-up to the original Persona 5 (not quite to Royal, but hey, semantics). The Phantom Thieves are on a road trip across Japan, strong-armed by one Detective Zenkichi Hasegawa into taking down newly formed metaverse Jails as they go. (These are not to be confused with capital-M Metaverse Jails, which are where you go if you anger the Zucc). Yet, despite this fun and different conceit, Strikers follows a largely similar narrative path to its parent game.
Each Jail again has an emotional hook in a specific member of the Phantom Thieves, bringing out their best selves as they face their demons. The entire plot is again the handiwork of one evil mastermind, who again believes themselves to be the hero of the story, yet is again but a pawn themselves by endgame. You see where I’m going here. This is not to criticise the story, as it is a grand old time. It’s just a very similar grand old time to the last one.
Moving on, though, this narrative redux is precisely why the game is such a flex. The entire time, I was utterly engaged with where the story was going. This is testament to the strength of the characters, and how well Strikers uses them. Further, I couldn’t really take issue with any perceived rehashing, since the game was so damn fun to play. Strikers fuses the frantic pace of Musou combat with the tactical elements of the series’ Persona system. The result is a hybrid of the two that is a joy to learn. Add to that the smaller, more manageable mob sizes of mainline Persona games, and you have a fresh, exciting take on combat for the series. Chaining elemental spells together with melees and the occasional ultimate attack lent a frenetic nature to the combat, getting me into a zone I’d never experienced before. Truly, it was Showtime.
And then, as ever with Persona, there’s the soundtrack. Shoji Meguro’s hits and Lyn’s signature style return, though this time with Atsushi Kitajoh as composer. Wholly original tracks meet high-energy rearrangements of existing bangers, all freshly infused with the adrenaline-laced tones of acid jazz. The soundscape of Persona 5 Strikers is one of constant highs, with even the calmer tracks still making me headbop along. Music matters in games, and the Persona team always understands the assignment.
If Persona 5 is an anime epic, then Strikers is its summer OVA. More of what we love, who we love, and all the other reasons why we love them. The life-sim side of things may be pared down, but the game more than makes up for it with a raucously good time the entire way through. Having so gleefully taken my heart, Persona 5 Strikers is undoubtedly one of the best games of 2021.