Persona 5 Strikers is nearly upon us here in the west and with reviews singing the praises of its gameplay and story, there's bound to be a number of people curious about whether this makes a good starting point for the franchise. Persona has grown from a super-niche RPG series into something of a phenomenon, and a lot of that is due to the immense popularity of Persona 5. Atlus obviously wants to capitalize on that title, but it also doesn't want to alienate fans that may otherwise still not know what Persona is. So that begs the question:
Is Persona 5 Strikers a good place to start if you haven't played Persona 5?
Surprisingly, the answer isn't so cut and dry. From my roughly 40 hours spent playing the review build and as someone that only knew of Persona 5 through Joker's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I can see things happening in two ways. Are you familiar with Persona from a mechanical perspective or is this your first exposure to the series?
If you fall into the latter category, the answer is simple: Absolutely not. Persona 5 Strikers is a direct sequel to Persona 5, but that isn't the part where you'll become lost. Mixing far more RPG elements into the gameplay than previous Dynasty Warriors spin-offs, Strikers plays remarkably similar to a traditional Persona game. If you've never experienced that, you're going to be extremely overwhelmed as the game skips pretty much any kind of tutorial for the first battle and throws you right into the action (you do get basic instructions, but not much else). There are an awful lot of Persona-related elements the game does little to explain.
For me, I had played through Persona 4: Golden last year and was fairly familiar with the basic concepts of the Persona series. There are definitely elements missing in Strikers as it's something of a different beast, but the general flow, layout, and even dungeon designs are reminiscent of the main Persona installments. Despite featuring action-based combat, even that bears a lot of resemblance to the main games. I'm quite shocked at how much this feels like an ARPG instead of a Musou game.
If you happen to fall into the same category as me (i.e. someone that has played a Persona game, but not 5), then I feel that starting with Strikers isn't so bad. The game completely glosses over introducing the characters, but the plot is entirely self-contained. Joker and his crew refer to their past exploits, but it's mostly in a manner of, "Wow! Last year was crazy!" The majority of the plot concerns an entirely different threat that has no ties to the enemies or themes present in the main game—save for a small callback at the end.
You're obviously going to miss out on important character moments, and Strikers doesn't seem overly concerned with developing its cast past generic anime tropes, but that is because it doesn't need to. If you loved Persona 5 and just want to spend some time with The Phantom Thieves, Strikers is giving you that. It might shift genres a little, but the game is truly meant for those that want to see more of Joker and crew.
That doesn't mean you can't get something out of it if you're completely blind on the franchise. I suppose those that don't give a toss about story or plot would be fine mashing buttons, but the combat is surprisingly in-depth for developer Omega Force. The company shocked the world with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity last year, as that title expanded the basic concept of Dynasty Warriors beyond simple combo strings. Persona 5 Strikers is very similar in that regard. It absolutely has fodder enemies, but there's more of an emphasis put on elemental attacks, strategizing, and teamwork.
As I said above, it feels remarkably similar to a regular Persona game, so much so that my knowledge of how the combat system worked in Persona 4: Golden helped me fly through the short tutorials with ease. I know about enemy weaknesses, all-out attacks, etc. Those concepts aren't fresh for me, so I knew how to string my attacks together better. If you've never heard of those things, however, you may feel like there is too much going on.
To sum this all up, jumping into Persona 5 Strikers depends on two different things: Are you familiar with Persona on a mechanical level? If yes, then Strikers is a fine enough place to start. Are you completely new to the franchise? If so, you might be better served playing Persona 5 or one of the other installments first. That will better prepare you for not only game mechanics present here, but even a lot of the story themes. Strikers goes right into the shadow-world elements, and those are kind of hard to explain in a brief period.
If you feel brave, though, I can't say that Strikers is the worst starting point for an introduction into Persona. As someone that has grown tired of the abundance of tutorials for extremely basic concepts in games, having Strikers simply kick me into the action was very welcomed. That the game also cuts some of the bloat from the main entries is nice, too. After blasting through Persona 4: Golden in a few weeks, I definitely feel that this series might be better served by some shorter games for once.
Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if this is where you want to begin your journey with Atlus' introspective series. With the brand branching off into various forms of media (including anime), the world of Persona has never been easier to jump into.