After the release of last year’s Persona 5 Royal remaster, I thought the Phantom Thieves would ride off into the sunset. I was surprised by the announcement of Persona 5 Tactica during the following summer, and there’s a lot of curiosity about what the Phantom Thieves can pull off in a strategy RPG with Persona Q-esque designs. Fortunately, Persona 5 Tactica brings an interesting premise in the first few hours with satisfying tactical gameplay that keeps me coming back for more.
Persona 5 Tactica has room to experiment with some new narrative and gameplay ideas while offering a familiar experience with the characters and Personas that fans know and love. These ideas are certainly aided by a new setting and the story’s timeframe, which takes place before the very end of Persona 5 / Persona 5 Royal. Joker and the rest of the crew are hanging out at Leblanc before some commotion brings them into another world, Marie’s Kingdom. This world shares some traits with the Metaverse that the Phantom Thieves once explored, while others are wildly different and refreshingly unique.
Persona 5 Tactica Really Brings A Tactical Twist
From the get-go, Persona 5 Tactica emphasizes the strategic use of guns, cover, and positioning on the map. Joker, Erina, and the rest of the Phantom Thieves may move freely in a certain range, which is determined by a movement stat. Guns and Persona skills allow the party to perform ranged attacks, but the use of cover requires players to knock enemies back in order to do notable damage.
Moreover, the “Charge” ability is now activated when a character doesn’t attack in a turn, allowing them to perform stronger attacks and use exclusive abilities. If timed correctly, the usage of Charge helps a character excel in a certain role. The all-new Voltage gauge also lets each party member unleash a seriously powerful skill, but it takes a while to build up toward.
Party members and enemies that are out in the open are susceptible to being on the receiving end of a critical hit, giving a satisfying or dreadful “One More” that can turn the tides. One More enables a character to act again during a turn, allowing them to deal even more damage to enemies. Knocking down an enemy and getting that One More gives players the opportunity for a Triple Threat All-Out Attack, which can be arranged if all three party members form a triangle around the enemy.
A New Arsenal
Several features would become available as Joker and the team delve deeper into Marie’s unique Kingdom, which is Persona 5 Tactica’s substitute for Palaces. One of these features include Persona fusion, which works slightly differently in this spin-off. Rest assured, fusing Personas is just as useful and satisfying. Many of the features can be accessed from the hideout, which also allows players to replay missions and access other options.
Persona abilities are greatly weakened at the start of the game, but players gain their bearings by progressing through the first few missions/quests and rescuing members of the Phantom Thieves. The new Sub-Personas system is a unique trade-off since Joker can’t hold many Personas, but each Phantom Thief may hold a secondary Persona. This essentially works like skill accessories in Persona 5 Royal.
Alongside Sub-Personas, each character has access to a Skill Tree. GP may be spent to unlock various skills such as the ability to heal HP and SP in cover. GP is acquired from various sources in Persona 5 Tactica, including leveling up and completing quests. Each character has their own GP to spend, so the amount of GP doesn’t overlap. Earning sufficient GP takes some time, so I was only able to unlock a few skills per character during the first dozen missions.
Persona 5 Tactica Aims to be a High-Quality Spinoff
Like Persona 5 / Persona 5 Royal and Persona 5 Strikers, Persona 5 Tactica exudes the style and aura that I come to expect from the series. The tropes, music, and aesthetic that are synonymous with Persona 5 stay true, and I believe the new chibi character designs work quite well. Further, each character shines in surprisingly new ways in side content and the story.
From story to gameplay in these early hours, it’s clear that Persona 5 Tactica aims to be a high-quality RPG that lives up to the standard of mainline Persona games. The tactical/strategy elements provide a refreshing twist while remaining familiar enough to the gameplay systems of Persona and by extension, all of Megami Tensei. Persona 5 Tactica is seriously promising, and I can’t wait to experience the rest of this intriguing title and delve deeper into its gameplay mechanics.
Persona 5 Tactica launches on November 17 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Windows and Steam. ATLUS provided a review code of Persona 5 Tactica to Final Weapon for this preview.
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