Is it a Last Surprise or is it “too fast for eyes?”
UPDATE: An official trailer was leaked a few hours ago revealing the long-awaited release date for the western audience. Dubbed Persona 5 Strikers, it seems it will not only release on the Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation 4, but also on Steam as well. P5S will release on February 23rd 2021.
While the trailer was pulled, it has been re-uploaded on various YouTube channels.
The Persona series has come a long way in terms of its success. What was once a spinoff of a series that is currently three decades strong is now a franchise all on its own. The latest game in the series, Persona 5, proved to be a financial and critical success despite the infamous “Winter 2012” meme. Five years later and the Persona 5 van still has a lot left in the tank.
With an anime series, a manga spinoff, countless audio dramas, a handheld RPG spinoff, and a dancing game spinoff, Joker has been around the world and back. At the time of writing, the updated re-release, Persona 5 Royale, hit Japanese store shelves in December with a Western release at the end of March 2020.
There is one more game in the Persona 5 universe that has yet to be mentioned. Scramble.
When this game was first announced, it was met with a favorable, yet confused, response. Here was a Persona 5 title announced for the Switch; A game that was a Playstation exclusive. While many initially thought it was the highly requested Switch port, the Omega Force logo revealed otherwise. It was instead a Musou game. Or, a Warriors game for the Western audience. Several months later, a PS4 version was also announced, further nullifying the dreams of a Switch-port of Persona 5 for now.
Omega Force are the brains behind the long running Dynasty Warriors series. Can you believe that this series started back in ‘96? As a fighting game nonetheless? The climate was different in the mid-90s that’s for sure.
After countless, and I mean this quite literally, countless entries in the Warriors series, several spinoffs were released. This included Samurai Warriors, which featured Japanese historical figures substituting the Three Kingdoms characters, and Warriors Orochi, which combined both because why not?
It was due to the wild collision course between Oda Nobunaga and Lu Bu clashing swords that other possibilities began to bore fruit. Someone in the Bandai Namco office thought “What if we had Gundams engage in intergalactic battles vs hundreds of Zaku units?” Omega Force obliged.
Several years later, someone else, probably the same person as before, in the Bandai Namco office thought “What if we had Luffy fend off hundreds of pirates?” Omega Force went to work.
Long time partners, Koei Tecmo, pitched the idea of a Hokutou no Ken Musou game and OF was on the scene.
After a while, it did not matter what the source material was. Berserk? Fire Emblem? The Legend of Zelda? It didn’t matter. So long as Omega Force had a check to look forward to, nothing was impossible for them.
So to see the Omega Force brand assigned to the Persona series raised eyebrows, but those in the know nodded their head in approval. Fans such as myself were wondering how a game like Persona would incorporate their mechanics in a Musou game. With the Persona 5 Scramble public demo released on February 5th, our curiosities are finally sated. Or are they?
Turns out it’s not an English demo, but it’s a Japanese demo. Fortunately, it’s not awfully difficult to obtain nor play through the demo, but for the sake of convenience, I’m covering the Switch port. The main reason was that I already had a Japanese Nintendo account. The second reason was my curiosity. I wanted to know how the game played on a console with lesser specs.
I played the demo on the Switch Lite, so I exclusively played on handheld mode. That said, the game played really well. If there were any slowdowns, it wasn’t noticeable for me. Controls were responsive and everything I wanted Joker to do, I was able to do with no hindrance.
When you first boot the demo, you’re introduced to a sizzler of sorts as you fight several shadows in Shibuya until the game cuts away to several cutscenes.
Now, this is where we reach our main caveat. These are first world problems, but I cannot tell you much about the story. Not because of spoilers although there are certainly here, but because the voices and subtitles are in Japanese. I could deduce what’s going on based on the original story however so, I’ll try my best.
Judging the time of the game, July, the game takes place quite some time after the ending of Persona 5. Several key giveaways are the props within Cafe Leblanc, such as Yusuke’s painting. All of your comrades are present and accounted for, with new attire and the like.
Immediately something is amiss as another app is downloaded on the phone. It is here where you can name your character. Remember when I said this was a Japanese game? Japanese characters and alphanumeric characters only! With very limited space as well!
I went with this. It’s a demo. Don’t judge me.
So, you’re sent to investigate any abnormalities in Shibuya with your best bud Ryujii when an idol appears to have a concert. Almost immediately you’re placed in the Metaverse. A few seconds later you’re fighting hordes of shadows with your buds in Shibuya.
It is here that several mechanics are introduced, so, I’ll list the controls that are the most important.
X – Light Attack
Y in the middle of a combo – Heavy attack
Y by itself – Projectile
Just like in most Musou games, any combination of light attacks can be finished with a Heavy Attack to provide various results. If you use the Heavy attack by itself, Joker will use his gun.
ZR – Dodge
While walking and holding ZR – Run
R + Button = Spells
These are self explanatory. You can dodge and weave in between enemy attacks. Just like in Persona, he has access to skills. Each skill has a different effect within a different radius. The Eiha spell will hit enemies in a circle while Cleave will hit those in a cone.
X+A – Showtime
This is this game’s version of the Musou attack. In Warriors games, these are the cinematic attacks that deal massive damage to those around the user. Not only does it look badass, but you’re also invulnerable while using it. This can be used as a way to form wiggle room when overrun.
Halfway through the first palace, as you are introduced to the palace owner and are disposed of, you come across a giant cube. As Joker interacts with the cube, a girl emerges from the cube. The girl tags along with you until it is revealed that this girl is nowhere near defenseless. She can hold her own in combat quite well. The cube she emerged from seems to be her Persona of sorts.
A – Grants you access to the interactable environment around Joker
B – Jump, press again to double jump
Environmental attacks let you interact with your surroundings, like the streetlamps in Shibuya. These allow you to stay perched, away from harm as you swoop down on your enemies like a hawk to his prey. Hitting this successfully chains into another wide-ranging attack for even more damage.
Utilizing the environment to your advantage can also provide a tactical advantage. There’s a moment in the demo where there are three powerful shadows. There’s an alternate path you could go to and sneak behind them. You could choose to fight the shadows head-on, but if you take the beaten path you’ll see a flimsy scaffold. If you use the environment attack on the scaffold, not only will the platform break, but you’ll also surprise the enemy.
Weaknesses, critical attacks, and technical bonuses from Persona 5 are also existent here. If you hit an enemy’s weakness, you’ll be able to hit them while they are staggered to torment their surrounding foes. Tech bonuses, like in Persona 5, activate when a combination of elemental skills are used in succession. I wasn’t able to activate the tech bonus, but a tutorial prompt explaining the bonus did appear.
In Persona 5, you can negotiate with shadows to coerce them into joining your party as a persona. This game works a little differently. Sometimes if you defeat a shadow, they have a chance to join you as one of your Personas. This is good to cover your strengths and weaknesses.
As in Persona 5, certain enemies are resistant, weak, or invulnerable to specific attacks. The more personae you have, the better equipped you’ll become.
Eventually you’ll face a powerful shadow. This serves as this demo’s boss. These boss fights work a bit different from the rest of the fights thus far. The more you hit a shadow’s weak spot, the more you’re able to attack as they are staggered. Exploit their weakness enough and you’ll be able to do an All Out Attack, much like in the original game.
It is here that the demo ends. If you skip through the cutscenes you can easily beat the demo in about an hour. First impressions, I’m honestly surprised how integral the story is to the game. I’m surprised that I’m surprised, considering the source material is a story intensive game.
I wasn’t able to understand the dialogue, but it was great to travel through Yongen-Jaya and Shibuya once again. It was also nice to see that the game’s story seems to be canon to the main story. The combination of Persona’s mechanics with the twitch-reaction of Musou is like chocolate and peanut butter.
By the way in case you were wondering. The menu animations make a return and they look just as beautiful now as they did in Persona 5.
With the game’s release right around the corner in Japan, Western fans are still starving for so much as a crumb of information relating to a release date. Heck, even a confirmation that the game is coming out to the States at all! While it may be up in the air when fans will be able to look forward to news, there’s still a demo that we can enjoy.
Persona 5 Scramble releases in Japan on February 20th