Persona 5 is coming back in 2020 in a big way. It is now just a few months from the release of the expanded Persona 5 The Royale, where fans can replay the original game with new content. For Japanese fans, it's only weeks away from Persona 5 Scramble. With a little trickery and one of the Switch's region-free profiles, players from all over can get a taste of what Persona 5 Scramble has in store thanks to a free demo. Since a Western release date isn't in the cards as of yet, this may be the only taste we get in the immediate future.
When does Persona 5 Scramble take place?
The game begins on July 24th, months after the conclusion of Persona 5. Joker returns to Tokyo for a summer vacation with his friends. These plans grind to a halt when news spreads of the Metaverse's reappearance. There aren't any character introductions or lore dumps so if you're unfamiliar with Persona 5 you might be a bit lost. Right off the bat, Joker and Morgana meet all the other members of the Phantom Thieves. For both Joker and the player, this is a heartwarming reunion. Meeting in Joker's old bedroom, they plan a summer vacation and talk about the new voice app called EMMA, an in-universe version of Alexa.
Up until now, Persona 5 Scramble has been pretty much what a Persona fan would expect. You travel around familiar locations like Yongen Jaya and Shibuya, talk with your friends, and get to choose dialogue options. The combat gameplay is where Scramble doesn't just differentiate itself from Persona 5 but from all previous Persona titles.
Scramble plays out as an Action RPG. You get free movement with Joker as waves upon waves of Shadows spawn around you. Developed by Koei Tecmo and Omega-Force, players of Warriors/Musou games will immediately find similarities. Generic footsoldier Shadows spawn in droves as simple fodder. Among them, you'll also see recognizable monsters such as Pixie. You have a light and heavy attack at your disposal, and you can tear through fodder enemies with ease. Joker's heavy attack chains into his fast combos allowing you to do greater damage while keeping the combat flowing. Compared to the turn-based combat fans may be used to, this is a jarring, but refreshing change. Still, Scramble hasn't completely forgotten its origins.
How do you fight in Persona 5 Scramble?
At any point in battle, you can summon your Persona and use its special abilities. These attacks take on the same properties they did in the original game, including what they're strong and weak against. If you have an enemy in your radius that is weak to one of your attacks then not only will you be able to do more damage to them but also stun them. Once stunned an all-out attack gets triggered, causing massive damage within a certain radius.
While Musou titles are normally just the same formula with a new coat of paint, Scramble shows a middle ground with both JRPG and Musou elements. In the first dungeon, the palace-like structure belonging to Alice, you encounter groups of enemies as your progress. As enemies notice you, they'll spawn in assistance, you'll need to wipe out the enemies before you progress. In combat you also have options to interact with the world, hopping onto light poles or darting between vantage points. The movement you get to experience is much closer to what you see in cutscenes, it's almost more enjoyable to see them moving this freely.
As you progress and win encounters you get rewarded with experience, money, and items. Here again, Scramble retains its JRPG roots, even the Persona status screens looks ripped straight from Persona 5. Each character's weapons and accessories can be swapped out when not in active combat and as they level up you can decide how you want them to specialize. It's as if all of the meat of the game was left intact while delivered in a different format.
How do characters grow in Persona 5 Scramble?
While the length of the demo wasn't too long, clocking in at about two hours (goes by faster when you can't read the language), it certainly left a desire to play more. With a return to the Metaverse, mysterious new antagonists, and a fun new combat system while it might not be a traditional Persona experience it should be fun for returning players and perhaps a more approachable format for players who aren't as fond of turn-based combat. For anyone planning on jumping in with no prior knowledge, bew warned. You'll likely find yourself pretty lost on the characters.
If you're interested in checking out the demo yourself though you can do this for free on the Nintendo Switch. You can create a new Nintendo Switch account, set its region to Japan, and log into the eShop to find it.
TechRaptor previewed Persona 5 Scramble on Nintendo Switch with a free demo downloaded from the Japanese eShop.