Persona 5 Tactica was announced by developer Atlus on June 11, 2023, with two more exciting upcoming Xbox titles during the Xbox Games Showcase 2023 event. It unveiled a remake of Persona alongside its first purely fantasy-themed JRPG called Metaphor: ReFantazio and this curious spin-off from Persona 5.
Unlike Persona 5's first spin-off, Persona 5 Strikers, a hack 'n' slash title, Persona 5 Tactica is a 'Strategy-RPG' (SRPGs for short). It aims to combine the stylish, over-the-top visuals and gameplay mechanics of Persona 5 with that of cover-based tactical gameplay found in strategy game franchises like Wasteland or XCOM.
As someone who enjoyed the original entry during my Persona 5 Royal review and a fan of unconventional SRPGs like Disgaea and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Persona 5 Tactica had me curious. I wondered how Persona 5 Tactica would translate Persona 5's gameplay into a tactical setting if this spin-off could succeed or fail to marry the two concepts together.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Atlus. The company did not see the contents of the article before publishing.
Persona 5 Tactica: Story
Persona 5 Tactica
Playtime: 42 hours
Release date: Nov. 17, 2023
Price: $59.99 at Amazon
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC (Microsoft Store & Steam)
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
For those unfamiliar with the original Persona 5, it follows the adventures of the 'Phantom Thieves.'
They're a group of teenage vigilantes who use an otherworldly power called Persona (essentially a spiritual manifestation of a person's psyche) to hunt down criminals, rob them of their desire to commit evil, and make them confess their sins to society.
Persona 5 Tactica takes place a few weeks before the ending of Persona 5. While reflecting on past adventures, the Phantom Thieves are suddenly pulled into the Metaverse, an alternate reality formed by mankind's collective consciousness.
However, the Metaverse looks completely different from when the Phantom Thieves last visited, and they discover villainous monsters terrorizing small creatures with hats for heads. The Phantom Thieves try to lend a hand to the oppressed hat-creatures, but our heroes find that their Persona powers are not functioning correctly and are almost defeated. They are then saved by a mysterious revolutionary named Erina, who helps them escape.
Erina explains that the Phantom Thieves are trapped in a magical world called the Kingdom, and tyrannical dictators rule it. To escape this nightmarish world and return home, the Phantom Thieves agree to help Erina save the Kingdom by overthrowing its oppressors.
The story is pretty average for the most part, as it comes across like a simplified version of Persona 5’s plot of heroes toppling evil authority figures. It lacks the depth of the original game’s nuances of trying to live a double life as a high school student/vigilante and the compelling side stories of establishing connections with Confidants.
The plot becomes more interesting in the third act when world-shattering revelations come to light.
However, it does make up for this by having fun character interactions between the main cast as they fight to free the Kingdom from tyranny or take time to unwind and learn more about its inhabitants.
Thankfully, Persona 5 Tactica’s plot does start to become more interesting by the third act when world-shattering revelations come to light. The third act also gave Tactica’s exclusively made characters like Erina moments to shine with engrossing character development, comedic dialogue, and action-packed fight scenes, which made them just as cool as the fan-favorite Phantom Thieves.
Persona 5 Tactica: Presentation and performance
One of the most lauded features of the original Persona 5 was its polished and exceptionally stylish anime presentation. Persona 5 Tactica retains much of its source material's high-quality presentation. However, it's now presented in a chibi-anime art style (characters are drawn smaller and more cute than they were initially).
The character designs, from the main cast to the enemies, are colorful and adorable while retaining some of their rebellious edges from Persona 5's art style. This also extends to the worlds you will be battling in as the environments are wild, exaggerated versions of real-life locales, which help make the character designs stand out during the cinematics and gameplay.
In addition, Persona 5 Tactica features some top-notch voice acting (both English and Japanese) and background music. The original voiceover cast for the Phantom Thieves reprise their roles with gusto, and the voices of the new characters they interact with are well performed and pleasing to hear.
The soundtrack of Persona 5 Tactica contains a mash-up of catchy acid jazz beats and exciting rock anthems. They help set the mood, whether it's during the game's quieter moments or dramatic boss fights. Performance is just as well done as presentation. It runs at a consistent 1080p resolution and 60 FPS framerate, which helps to enhance the game's vibrant visuals considerably, making them more pleasing to the eye.
Persona 5 Tactica: Gameplay
The gameplay of Persona 5 Tactica follows a mission-based structure in which you command a party of Phantom Thieves and have them fight enemies in turn-based battles. You will need to take cover using the environment to avoid enemy fire while positioning your units to flank enemies’ blind spots to deal maximum damage using firearms and melee weapons.
What separates Persona 5 Tactica from other strategy games like Wasteland 3 or XCOM: Enemy Unknown is that it incorporates gameplay mechanics from Persona 5 into the combat system.
For starters, the Phantom Thieves can use their Personas’ abilities to deal elemental damage from long range, even if a targeted enemy is completely hidden behind cover. Other reworked mechanics from Persona 5 include the 'Baton Pass,' which lets you switch out defeated party members with reserve units, or the 'One More Time' mechanic.
One More Time allows one of your units to gain an extra turn if they damage and knock down an exposed enemy. Another method of achieving One More Time is triggering a 'Follow-Up' attack. Follow-Up attacks are triggered by having a Phantom Thief knock an enemy off a high ledge, which causes one of their fellow party members to shoot the enemy as it falls to the ground.
The most powerful mechanic carried over from Persona 5 is the 'All-Out Attack.' Knocking enemies down and activating One More Time will cause blue lines to appear between your units. If you position your units so that enemies who were knocked down are contained within the blue lines, the lines will flare up and enable you to perform an All-Out Attack.
This is a devastating, cinematic super move. If you manage to position your units correctly and get as many enemies within the blue lines as possible, you could potentially wipe out the entire enemy team in just a few turns.
I enjoyed Persona 5 Tactica’s combat system as it seamlessly blends the tactical complexity of strategy games with Persona 5’s combat mechanics. Utilizing your party’s weapons and Persona skills to force enemies out of cover and then line them up for an All-Out Attack is incredibly satisfying.
The turn-based battle system seamlessly blends the tactical complexity of strategy games with Persona 5’s stylish combat mechanics.
Another aspect of combat that held my attention was how the game kept throwing new and unorthodox obstacles at me to overcome. These ranged from new enemy types with advanced tactics and gimmicks to fighting on battlefields with constantly changing terrain. Some missions were particularly engaging as they required some puzzle-solving skills.
In these missions, I used unique objects on the map to change the environment to safely cover my units while preventing my enemies from overwhelming me. This was especially true of the boss fights, as they employed all kinds of strange and flashy attacks that required me to use the game's combat mechanics to their full potential.
Fuse your Personas and forge them into weapons
Tactics and Persona powers will only get you so far in Persona 5 Tactica, as you must upgrade the Phantom Thieves' arsenal and their Personas. As you defeat enemies, you will gain experience points to level up your team's stats and earn skill points, which can be used to unlock new abilities. Clearing missions will also reward you with money, which you can spend on buying new guns at the weapons shop in your hideout, where you rest in between missions.
In addition, you will need to find and collect new Personas to grant your team extra abilities and stat boosts. You can find new Personas by completing optional objectives during missions or by visiting the series' iconic Velvet Room, where you can fuse Personas to create new ones.
However, Persona 5 Tactica's take on Personas and the Velvet Room are different in many ways compared to most mainline Persona games. In Persona 5 Tactica, Personas can be equipped onto every character instead of just the main character (who in this game's case is Joker) as a 'Sub-Persona.' They can enhance the power of a character's main Persona by granting them different active and passive abilities that they wouldn't be able to acquire naturally.
Also, Persona 5 Tactica's Velvet Room has a unique feature where you can take Personas and use them as crafting materials to forge guns. These Persona-forged firearms are much more deadly than regular guns you buy in the weapon's store. They also possess bonus traits that can inflict enemies with debilitating status effects.
I loved how the Personas and the Velvet Room work in Persona 5 Tactica. Equipping Personas onto every character, not just the main protagonist, opens up new possibilities to create all kinds of playstyle builds for your party. This feels like a call-back to early Persona games like Persona 1, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, where every playable character could equip multiple Personas.
You can create a team with Sub-Personas that boost their damage output with guns or build a team of Phantom Thieves with Sub-Personas that enhance their skill meters so they can use Persona skills more often to force enemies out of cover.
Also, I enjoyed creating weapons by using Personas as crafting materials. It motivated me to complete side objectives to obtain as many Personas as possible to forge these Velvet Room-exclusive weapons. Persona-forged weapons can be expensive and time-consuming, but they were worth the effort as they had extravagant designs and eradicated some of the more troublesome enemies in seconds.
Breathing new qualities-of-life for newcomers to Strategy-RPGs
One particular aspect of Persona 5 Tactica I want to mention is that this game has all kinds of interesting and welcome quality-of-life features. One of the most infamous hurdles of tactical games and SRPGs is that they require an enormous amount of time commitment from the player to level up each unit so no one falls behind in terms of strength, which can cause the game’s pacing to grind to a halt.
Persona 5 Tactica avoids this problem by having the Phantom Thieves share levels. This ensures that if you get saddled with a mission where you’re required to use party members you haven’t used until now, their levels will be on par with your preferred Phantom Thieves’ levels and won’t be a burden.
Not to mention, this quality-of-life feature significantly cuts down the time needed to level up your characters so you can progress through the campaign smoothly without being side-tracked by mandatory level-grinding.
Another improvement I appreciate, which I wish the mainline Persona games would adapt in the future, is that you can swap out the main character with a different party member. For the unaware, in Persona games, the main character must be in the party and can't be switched out with somebody else. If the main character dies in battle, it's game over, and you have to start over from your last checkpoint or save file.
I love that Persona 5 Tactica lets you switch the main character with a different character. Don't get me wrong; this doesn't mean I have anything against Persona 5 Tactica's main character, as I like Joker. However, swapping him out with other characters keeps fights fresh as I can bring in other Phantom Thieves who can shine in certain combat situations that Joker cannot.
In addition, being able to swap out the protagonist in the party gets rid of Persona's long-standing 'game over if the main character dies in battle' rule. I always felt this rule in Persona games was archaic and non-sensical because I could revive dead party members just fine, but my party instantly gives up and can't be bothered to revive the main character if they fall.
This rule goes against the 'Power of Friendship' message Persona is built on and causes frustrating and unnecessarily cheap 'game overs.' So, it's a relief that Persona 5 Tactica has ditched this rule, and I hope future mainline Persona games do the same.
However, thanks to all these quality-of-life improvements and the abundance of combat gameplay mechanics, Persona 5 Tactica felt too easy to complete. I played it on Hard Mode, and the only time I had trouble was dealing with a couple of missions at the beginning of the game when I didn't have many resources at my disposal.
While the low difficulty level may put off fans of hardcore and brutally difficult strategy games, I personally didn't mind as I was having too much fun with the combat system, music, and hunting Personas to care. Also, with Persona 5 Tactica's numerous tutorials and quality-of-life features, I can see this game potentially being an excellent, beginner-friendly gateway into the Strategy-RPG genre for die-hard Persona 5 fans who have never experienced them before.
Persona 5 Tactica: Should you buy it?
You should buy it if...
You shouldn't buy it if...
Overall, I enjoyed my time playing Persona 5 Tactica despite some minor misgivings. The art style and presentation are extremely polished and eye-catching, alongside a multitude of creative gameplay ideas that I hope make it into a mainline Persona game. The combat system is a well-crafted fusion of XCOM-like strategy and Persona 5 turn-based combat.
I recommend it to die-hard fans of Persona 5, if only to see their favorite characters steal the show once more. If those Persona 5 fans are also connoisseurs of SRPGs, then they’ll also get enjoyment from the game’s combat system. I’d also recommend it to Persona 5 fans who haven’t played strategy games before, as this game does a great job of easing newcomers into the genre through helpful tutorials and quality-of-life improvements.
However, I wouldn’t recommend it to hardcore strategy game fans. I feel that his game’s low level of difficulty may not satisfy players seeking out nail-bitingly difficult strategy games where every decision could be their last.
Persona 5 Tactica may not be one of the best Xbox games we’ve seen from Atlus, but it’s still a solid game that hardcore fans will get their money’s worth out of. This spin-off will also serve as a good appetizer before Atlus unleashes its upcoming Xbox JRPG heavy hitters like Persona 3 Reload and Metaphor: ReFantazio in 2024.
Persona 5 Tactica is set to release on November 17, 2023, for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC via the Microsoft Store & Steam.
Persona 5 Tactica
Persona 5 Tactica is a cute and fun SRPG which wonderfully mixes the tactical gameplay of strategy games with the bombastic anime aesthetics and turn-based combat mechanics of Persona 5.