Title: Persona 5 Tactica
Release Date: November 16, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: Tactical RPG
There have been quite a few Persona 5 games so far, haven’t there? We’ve had the crossover Persona Q2, the action sequel Persona 5 Strikers, the dancing game Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, and the updated re-release of the original Persona 5 Royal. So, when I heard about Atlus working on a new tactical game, it had me excited.
Could this be Devil Survivor 3 or another entry in my favorite Atlus game series? Of course not, as you’ve already read the title; it was another Persona 5 game. I might have been a little miffed, let down by my own needlessly high expectations, but hey, it’s still an Atlus game. It’s not like it’s going to be bad.
Compelling New Characters: Erina and Toshiro
Persona 5 Tactica once again puts us in the shoes of the Phantom Thieves, this time thrust into a spinoff adventure against their will. Pulled into a strange world and besieged by the legionnaires of a tyrannical ruler, the Phantom Thieves cross paths with Erina, a girl who offers to help them return home in exchange for their assistance. She leads the Rebel Corps, a group striving to overthrow the oppressive ruler. And the Phantom Thieves couldn’t turn a blind eye to the plight of the weak, could they?
Persona 5 Tactica is a delightful addition to the ever-expanding universe of Persona 5 games.
Further adding to the intrigue is the gang’s rescue of Toshiro Kusakabe, a young politician who had recently gone missing. How did a politician end up in this alternate world, and what secrets does it hold? While still a tactical RPG, Persona 5 Tactica draws more similarities to games like Xcom or Codename Steam than Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. You command a small squad, choosing three members from the Phantom Thieves, including Erina, to take on maps and eliminate Legionnaires.
What you might not expect is how cover-focused the combat is. Any regular enemy struck while not in cover will automatically suffer critical damage and be downed, granting your unit an extra turn. If your units are positioned triangularly around the downed enemy, the inflicting unit can trigger a ‘triple threat,’ dealing immense damage to anyone within the triangle. Since this is the most effective way to deal with almost all enemies, each character has unique skills that provide ways to capitalize on this triple-threat state. It’s an extremely satisfying loop that feels great.
Skill Tree Excellence
In this game, there are no elemental affinities; instead, each element has its own unique effect, either inflicting an ailment that can be capitalized on for a knockdown or throwing the opponent in a certain direction. Thus, every party of three you create will be effective, albeit in slightly different ways, further enhanced by the game’s skill system. The skill tree in the game allows you to redeem points for skills, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. Every upgrade is enticing, offering new spell tiers, skills, and passive boosters. You can also undo any selection you’ve made and rearrange these skills for every map. The game’s map design is excellent, and adjusting your skills to meet new challenges is very rewarding.
The real stars of the show, however, are the new characters Erina and Toshiro. These two receive a remarkable amount of depth and exploration, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment they were on screen.
If you’re concerned about the gameplay being too difficult, you can take advantage of the game’s easier difficulties or test your strategic skills on the harder modes. Hard mode is extremely fun if you’re up for the challenge. The game is well-balanced for it; throughout my 25-hour playthrough, I didn’t need to backtrack to previous maps or grind for extra levels.
Similar to the previous Persona Q spinoff (as well as Persona 1 and 2), you can use the Velvet Room to fuse new Personas and equip them to your team. However, they’re rather superfluous here. Each Persona provides the equipped party member with some stat boosts and two extra skill slots for passives or spells, which only become game-changing in very specific circumstances. Erina can’t even equip one, so if you want to use her exclusively, you won’t need to spend much time in the Velvet Room.
The chibi art style and the addition of two new characters to the main cast may remind players of Persona Q or Persona Q2. However, Persona 5 Tactica focuses more on the cast getting involved in the world’s conflicts than on fluffy adventures. The game uses more realistic proportions to convey its events, which might come across as rather edgy, but thanks to the art direction, the game’s tones are mostly whimsical but can be dramatic and tense when needed. This is aided by situational portraits, event graphics, fantastic voice acting, and well-crafted pre-rendered cutscenes. Like most Persona games, the music remains strong, although the generic battle theme can get a bit stale at times. Once Lyn starts singing, things improve dramatically.
The skill tree in the game allows you to redeem points for skills, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Despite being a spin-off, I was pleased with how well the Phantom Thieves fit into the game. They didn’t undergo significant growth or development, but they integrated into the plot nicely. Aside from Makoto’s constant gimmick of sudden violent threats and Yusuke’s eccentricity, the cast didn’t feel overly exaggerated, and the game references events from the original game minimally. You could probably play this without playing the original and still pick up on various character story nuances. I’d be curious if anyone would.
The game’s narrative is top-notch, and I would highly recommend the game for its story alone if the gameplay wasn’t as good as it is.
The real stars of the show, however, are the new characters Erina and Toshiro. These two receive a remarkable amount of depth and exploration, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment they were on screen. They might even be some of my favorite Persona characters. The game’s narrative is top-notch, and I would highly recommend the game for its story alone if the gameplay wasn’t as good as it is. I didn’t see this coming at all; I was blown away by how good everything was.
Persona 5 Tactica: A Delightful Addition
Persona 5 Tactica is a delightful addition to the ever-expanding universe of Persona 5 games. With its tactical gameplay, this spinoff presents a captivating experience, emphasizing cover-based combat and unique strategical systems. The narrative takes an unexpected turn by introducing compelling new characters who steal the spotlight with their depth and development.
While the day 1 DLC seems a bit out of place, the game, complete on its own, offers a rich and engaging story. Despite the absence of traditional social elements, this game’s fantastic blend of gameplay, storytelling, and character depth might warrant a revisit to this universe. Persona 5 Tactica proves to be a strategic and narrative gem within the Persona 5 series, making it a must-try for fans and newcomers alike.
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