If you’ve been following the pre-release buzz around Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers, then you’re probably aware that it’s as close to a direct sequel as you could get to the original RPG. Developed in conjunction with Koei Tecmo and Omega Force (makers of Dynasty Warriors games), Atlus is bringing an action game that continues the story of the Phantom Thieves while still delivering the core Persona experience of exploring cities in Japan during free time and making connections with characters (both old and new) throughout the story.
However, you might be wondering how the game actually plays, this being a Musou-style action game and all. Persona 5 Scramble certainly shows elements of the Warriors games, namely tearing through ridiculously large enemy hordes. But based on what we’ve seen from previews in Japan and our own experience playing the demo that’s only available on the Japanese Eshop and PSN, its combat is shaping up to be more than hack-and-slash by incorporating many of the RPG elements found in Persona 5.
While you have basic attack combos, Persona 5 Scramble includes spell casting based on the persona(s) equipped on the character you’re controlling. By holding R1, you bring up your list of abilities and time stops, allowing you to aim the spell’s area of effect before setting it off. What’s more, Scramble retains the mechanics of exploiting enemies’ elemental weaknesses to do increased damage and stagger them. Guns are another option, letting you lock-on targets to get off a few shots; it’s not the most effective attack, but it’s great against enemies weak to the gun element.
After hitting a weakness, you can initiate the series’ signature all-out attack where all party members jump into the scuffle to lay down heavy damage on staggered enemies and any others within range. You also build up a separate meter to initiate Showtime attacks which include a quick, flashy cinematic cut before dealing a ton of damage. Bosses present a slightly different challenge as they have armor that needs to be broken by exploiting their weakness continuously while dealing with mobs. Much like Persona 5 itself, fights are hyper-stylized but move fast to keep the action moving at a brisk pace.
Mobility is another key piece that Scramble doesn’t seem to overlook; you have the ability to dart across high-up places like streetlights and scaffolding to get the drop on enemies with a sort of whirlwind attack. And there’s something liberating about having a dedicated jump button (as opposed to context sensitive actions) for platforming and navigating the chaos, which emphasizes the slick, acrobatic sensibilities of Persona 5.
There’s still more we haven’t seen from Persona 5 Scramble, though it’s nice to see how the core RPG’s battle mechanics make the gameplay dynamic. The demo itself only showed a snippet, acting mostly as a tutorial but we now had hands-on with Atlus’ approach to a Persona action-RPG. We’ll get a better picture of the game when it launches for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on February 20 in Japan and later this year in the West.