You'll love it if:
- You love the Persona franchise
- Enjoy grid based strategy games with emphasis on positioning
Not for you if:
- Dislike strategy based combat
- Dislike anime stylized games
If you were to speak to any of my friends, you would quickly learn what a fan I am of the Persona series. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to write this review for Persona 5 Tactica. Persona 5 Royal still stands as one of my favorite games to date. Persona 5 Royal (P5R) was the complete story and game experience anyone could want from a game, albeit with extensive dialogue options and reading. That, too, is something I quite enjoyed about P5R. I say all that to say this, Persona 5 Tactica had a high standard to live up to.
While there were quite a few standout changes that made Persona 5 Tactica the enjoyable experience that it was, it certainly felt like it was lacking in areas that make the Persona series the defining JRPG brand that it is. Nonetheless, Persona 5 Tactica did an excellent job making an overall fun and more casual-geared experience. I could rock out to the iconic soundtrack, experience more gameplay with the series characters, and just have an enjoyable time with this game.
Persona 5 Tactica is a unique casual-geared Persona 5 spin-off. The combat is fast-paced for a grid-based strategy and exciting to play. The overall story is enjoyable while lacking a bit of depth. I loved being able to play as the Phantom Thieves again, and the soundtrack continues to deliver amazing hits and contribute a lot to the atmosphere. Overall the game is fun while leaning a bit on the easy side, and perfectly fills the gap in time while we await a sixth installment to the Persona series.
One of the defining features of the Persona series is its plot and character development, so for this review, I’ll do my best to keep it as spoiler-free as possible. When it comes to setting the tone and the story, Persona 5 Tactica takes place after the events of Persona 5 and before the events of the bonus third semester in Persona 5 Royal.
If you plan on playing the mainline game of P5R, I highly recommend not playing Persona 5 Tactica until after you’ve reached the end of the second semester. Persona 5 Tactica builds upon the story and character development in the mainline game and does not develop the characters at all in this game.
For those familiar with the Persona franchise, you should be able to understand the story and the nuances of the “meta-verse”. The game itself does a poor job explaining Personas, the setting, and the meta-verse and relies on players having already played the mainline games.
In Persona 5 Tactica, you find yourself hanging out at Leblanc, the headquarters of the phantom thieves. Suddenly you find yourself pulled into a different version of the meta-verse than the palaces and mementos that you’re familiar with. Throughout exploring, the Phantom Thieves are introduced to newcomer Eirina, the leader of the rebellion. You learn about this “Kingdom” you are in, and it’s up to you to discover the truth of this world, free the kingdom, and try to escape.
The overall art style of the game takes a lot more of a chibi-anime style, painting the cast more in the style of Morgana from P5R. Outside of character sprites and art design, the game embodies the Persona art style. Flashy graphics, cinematic combat cutscenes, and stylistic menus all add to the iconic aesthetic.
Erina also adds a lot to the existing cast and plays as a great alternate protagonist alongside Joker. Voice actor Leeana Albanese brings a lot of life to the character and makes a great addition to the cast. Erina and other new side characters help build connections and investment in the story despite the lack of social connections that were present with other characters in P5R.
Persona 5 Tactica-L Combat
Persona 5 Tactica takes the series from the usual turn-based combat and moves to a grid-based tactics game akin to the fire-emblem series. Atlus continues to show just how capable they are when designing combat, making even the strategy-based combat fast-paced and exciting.
Instead of aiming for enemies’ weaknesses, in Persona 5 Tactica, you aim to draw enemies from cover and knock them down by hitting them when they don’t have any benefits from cover. Additionally, elements in this game no longer target specific elemental weaknesses of enemies. Now, elemental skills have movement-based effects specific to each element. Wind skills, for example, push enemies away from the caster, where Psy abilities pull them toward the user.
These elements are not all equal, unfortunately. As of writing this, fire has no movement-based effects, and I rarely find myself using Ice as I often need to reposition my enemies. Sadly, this means leaving Ann and Yusuke on the sidelines. However, not all is lost. Persona 5 Tactica does give us unique character progression when it comes to Personas, and characters you would normally leave benched can be given some spotlight.
All Out Attack
One of the most exciting features of combat in P5R was the “Hold Up” mechanic and the all-out attacks. In Persona 5 Tactica, this mechanic was replaced with the Triple Threat feature. While in P5R, you had to knock down all the enemies to do an all-out attack, now the goal is to down a single enemy. In Persona 5 Tactica, you have to draw enemies out of cover.
Once drawn out of cover, any attack will knock the enemy down, giving you a “One More”. These would let you act again. With downed enemies, now you have access to the Triple Threat. All you have to do is position your team in a triangle around the downed enemy, and all enemies in that triangle get hit with an insane amount of damage. I love this mechanic. This keeps the action moving and adds more depth to positioning and enemy re-positioning.
Unlike P5R, every character in Persona 5 Tactica can equip alternate personas. These Personas will be equipped as sub-personas. While Morgana will always have Zoro and his wind abilities, you can now fuse and attach a secondary persona to give Morgana gravity skills, fire skills, and even healing and buff skills.
I personally love this addition to the game, really enabling you to build your party and customize them to your heart’s content. There are many side quests and puzzles that require precise movement and skill usage. The combinations of skills available to you help with problem-solving, and I love the agency this gives you in building characters and selecting party members for missions.
Persona 5 Tactica has more limited character progression than found in P5R, with each character having their own unique skill tree and no social links to really improve the base personas. Where each character specializes in their own element, however, the persona crafting system is still here and now benefits each and every member of the Phantom Thieves. There are still over a hundred of personas to craft and anyone can equip a sub-persona.
In terms of equipment, melee damage is solely upgraded through your party level. The only equipment you can purchase is newer and stronger guns that unlock as the story progresses. Without the limited number of days to manage your time and money, there’s no real need to efficiently spend your resources. The lack of social links to build connections with party members also really made me realize just how wordy dialogue is and how much reading there was in P5R.
One of my favorite features in Persona 5 Tactica is the addition of character-specific side-quests. These side quests have you clear missions with specific objectives requiring specific party members. These missions include having to reach the end of a map in one turn or defeating all enemies in 2 or 3 turns.
These side missions often test players’ problem-solving abilities utilizing core game mechanics to get as much value out of a turn as possible. Your reward for these missions as well as points to spend on specific characters’ skill trees, really incentivises you to complete these missions for some major powerups.
Each of the kingdoms you find in Tactica is ruled by a ruler and culminates into interesting and unique boss fights. One of the big issues I have with grid-based tactical games, in general, are their boss fights, as often enough, they’re just beefy stats and padded health totals. Persona 5 Tactica does a decent job with their boss fights, wholly with unique gimmicks and strategies.
While the boss fights themselves aren’t the most challenging, in my opinion, they do a good job of capturing the stylistic nature I’ve come to love in the Persona series. The gimmicks themselves aren’t the most difficult, and the solutions, for the most part, are straightforward. However, what the boss fights do exceedingly well is set the tone for the story and have an amazing atmosphere. While not the most difficult, these fights are indeed among the most immersive. And this is due in no short effort to the absolute banging soundtrack.
Persona 5 continues to deliver on its iconic zany aesthetic, banging soundtrack, and stylistic art choices. The menus are quick and artistic, the hub design is funky and fun, and the smooth jazz music always sets the tone. Lyn Inaizumi brings the heat with more amazing vocal work on multiple new tracks and continues to raise the bar of video game music.
The new character artwork is unique, and while it took some time to adjust, I quickly began to enjoy the new artistic direction. Each kingdom brings with it its own stylistic choices, aesthetics, and environments. The comic panel approach when conducting dialogue options and text bubbles is nice, and the enemy design is unique to the series. Overall the game’s atmosphere is carried by the soundtrack and combat animations.
Persona 5 Tactica is an action-packed spin-off game of Persona 5 Royal and fully captures the aesthetic and design of the franchise. The game, while not very difficult, feels smooth to play and combat feels fast-paced despite the strategy nature. The game is geared towards a more casual audience, but that doesn’t make the game bad by any means.
Persona 5 Tactica filled the gap while waiting for a hopeful Persona 6. It’s a great compact story experience, and I really enjoyed playing as the Phantom Thieves again. Overall the game is fun, enjoyable, and easy to pick up. A definite amazing addition to any gaming library and worth a try.