A Persona game just isn’t a Persona game if it doesn’t get its own upgraded re-release and off-genre spinoff package. Persona 3 had FES and Dancing Moon Night, while Persona 4 had Golden and the stellar Arena and Arena Ultimax fighting games.
We already have a Persona 5 spinoff in Dancing Star Night, and Persona 5 Royal is scheduled to be released in the West this March 2020, so it was a pleasant surprise when Atlus announced that they’d be giving the Persona fan base even more of the Phantom Thieves, in Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers.
Persona 5 Scramble was announced as a musou, or Dynasty Warriors-type game in which you hack and slash through hundreds and thousands of enemies in a huge battlefield with your chosen character. Musou spinoffs can be hit-or-miss, often feeling like lazy reskins of the Dynasty Warriors games; a lot of the charm of an original game can get lost when it gets its own musou game.
While I admit that I’m a doubter of musou spinoffs, the trailers for Persona 5 Scramble make it look like it’ll be a musou done right. It’s scheduled to be released in Japan on February 20, 2020, and its Western release date is yet to be announced, but here’s everything we know so far about Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers.
You can cast off all your musou spinoff doubts with even just a glance of P5S’s gameplay. While musou games can feel repetitive especially when you’re slaying the same hundred-strong mob of enemies over and over again with the same weapon, the undeniable style of Persona 5 can be enough to keep you playing.
You can smoothly switch Personas and characters on the go to optimize your combat strategy, and the variety of Personas and character combos will keep the game from feeling like a repetitive grind. It also definitely helps that you’ll be taking down waves of enemies to all-new music by Shoji Meguro. He heard you liked the Persona 5 soundtrack, so he put more of the Persona 5 soundtrack in your Persona 5 soundtrack.
Another welcome addition to the worn-out musou formula is Persona 5’s platforming. The original game already improved on the dungeon-crawling experience found previously in Persona 3 and 4, by adding vertical and side-scrolling stages, making the dungeons you explore feel more vast and varied.
P5S does it one better, and with a real-time combat system instead of the original turn-based combat system, it should prove to be a fun experience traversing stages and getting into battle right away, from one wave to the other.
Although it was only shown in the 2nd trailer for a brief second, it seems that in P5S, saving the world can still wait until you’ve gone on a couple of dates. While it is still unclear how the Social Link system will affect the strength of your party members, it’s not like players only went on dates for a power increase. What do we want? Fanservice. Where can we get it? Persona 5 Scramble, apparently.
In Persona 5 Royal, a new character named Kasumi Yoshizawa is introduced as the Phantom Thieves’ newest member, but in Scramble, your new party member is Sophia, an artificial intelligence who somehow becomes a humanoid yoyo weapon-wielding heroine. How or why this happens, we can’t find out without spoiling ourselves, but you can chalk it up to Persona logic. Outside the battle sequences, Sophia is an AI on your phone who provides support to you and your party members.
You can’t have a musou game without large, sprawling battlefields, and that’s why in P5S, the story will take place not only in Shibuya (where the original Persona 5 is set), but also in Sapporo, Sendai, Osaka, and Okinawa. A lot of the combat takes place in the Metaverse versions of each city, giving the Phantom Thieves a lot of room for musou-style combat. As if taken right from the Yakuza playbook, these new settings are bound to give players more places to explore, and more unique character events.
The 2nd trailer for Persona 5 Scramble teased that the game is actually a sequel to Persona 5, more so than Royal. While Royal will play mostly like the original game only with a few upgrades and additions to the story , P5S will have an entirely new story that takes place six months after the end of Persona 5. It was this sequel reveal alone that turned P5S from the Persona franchise’s most overlooked spinoff to this year’s most hyped.
While we’ll still have to wait a while for a Western release, it seems that the musou genre won’t be taking away any of the original charm of Persona 5, and Scramble might even prove itself to be a great gaming experience all on its own. Admit it, you didn’t see it coming.
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