Persona 5 Strikers is a spin-off/sequel of the popular Persona games that are distinct for their artistically colorful Japanese anime panache. This title features a small group of quirky high school friends (and a talking cat) who have awakened to the fact that they control specially powered entities called personas, which are actually supernatural manifestations of their inner psyche. This Tokyo-based gaggle of guys and gals occasionally gather and work together as a secret, mask-wearing vigilante group called the Phantom Thieves of Hearts.
In this RPG-adventure entry, the friends decide to meet and head off on a little summer-vacation getaway. But that retreat is cut short when a new AI app called EMMA—which they’ve all joyfully downloaded to their phones—pulls them into a Metaverse where an alternate-reality plot threatens to snatch people’s desires and fears and to corrupt the real world.
So, over the course of what would have normally been a summer-vacation road trip, the Thieves must battle twisted baddies and boss “Kings” in an effort to track down those opponents’ evil source and save the day.
Since the bad guys here are stealing and manipulating people’s emotions, the story invites a broad examination of the need to work through your emotions rather than being controlled by them.
There are also strong metaphoric warnings about the consuming power and mind-deadening effect of tech in our lives. At times, characters encourage others to believe in themselves and not be filled with self-doubt. Strikers also showcases the value of friendship and the need to self-sacrificially use your strengths to help people in need.
Outside of a bunch of city-based environmental platform running and jumping, as well as some dialogue-heavy scenes where gamers choose appropriate story responses, the majority of the action here is attack and battle focused. And that brings up some problem areas parents need to be aware of.
In many cases, your character stealthily sneaks up on a lone enemy and rips off its mask, which causes a large splash of paint-like “blood” to spew. And then that character erupts into a deluge of foes that you and your team must hack and slash your way through. Amid a sea of weaker opponents, there are also strong characters that must be focused on with combo attacks and the supernatural elemental onslaughts of the team’s various persona entities.
Those spirit-like personas are never fully explained, but they do have a certain netherworld feel to them, with their attacks being called “spells.” In addition, the enemies you face can sometimes feel very demonic, and some have the look of demon-possessed humans before they transform into oversized monsters with multiple weapon-wielding limbs, tentacles, claws or massive teeth. Attacks involve guns, swords, lightning blasts, laser-like beams and bursts of fire.
Later in the game, the super-smart AI assistant EMMA is revealed to be a self-proclaimed god. Some call this winged and angelic false diety the Ark of the Covenant. And the game suggests that EMMA is sought after and well-needed by mankind as a spiritual guide. In fact, someone openly declares, “[The] desires of mankind have transformed me into a god.”
Some of the personas and monstery foes can have very human characteristics to their physique as well. We see chiseled male torsos and a monster with a very phallic shape to its upper body. There’s quite a bit of bare female skin in the mix, too. Some females wear garter belts, underwear and stocking-based outfits. And some have partially exposed breasts. The written-out descriptions of the various personas and foes can include some sexual elements, as well, such as a “Succubus” that’s described as a “demon who tempts sleeping men” and has sexual intercourse with them.
There’s also quite a bit of foul language peppered throughout the game’s story dialogue. We hear f- and s-words and uses of “d–mit,” “h—,” “bada–,” “a–hole” and “oh my god.”
At first glance, there’s quite a bit to this game that will appeal to many. It’s color, it’s artistic style, and even it’s dynamic pacing will definitely grab young eyes. But parents should know that there’s quite a bit of spiritual, sexual and foul-mouthed content lurking beneath Persona 5 Strikers Japanese anime charm. And it should all be considered before paying—one way or another—for this game.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.