Persona 5 Tactica is an intriguing entry for the Persona series that brings a new flavor of combat—tactical gun-based action. The Phantom Thieves are back in all their glory, but Persona 5 Tactica doesn’t retread down a similar path. Instead, Persona 5 Tactica explores a new Metaverse with its own unique and original characters. At the same time, Persona 5 Tactica offers fun twists to existing systems from Persona 5 / Persona 5 Royal to accommodate for the changes to overall gameplay.
The Megami Tensei franchise as dabbled with strategy/tactical RPGs in the past (i.e. Devil Survivor). In this case, Persona 5 Tactica brings a modern and user-friendly approach that doesn’t deviate too far from what Persona fans expect. However, it combines the tried-and-true systems of Persona into an RPG that places more emphasis on weaponry, positioning, and movement. In fact, Persona 5 Tactica may have the most compelling options for party members in series besides Persona Q2 due to the benefits and strengths each character brings into combat.
Persona 5 Tactica Ignites a Revolution
Once more, the Phantom Thieves must contend with cognitive forces outside of the real world in the Metaverse. However, Persona 5 Tactica has serious twists about how the Metaverse works this time around. After opening a strange door in Leblanc, Joker and the crew enter Marie’s Kingdom, a country whose people live under the tyrannical rule of the titular villain. The Phantom Thieves believe they have a chance to fight back against Marie when they arrive, but they quickly find out that their powers have greatly diminished for some reason. Everyone with the exception of Joker and Morgana get brainwashed by Marie, but the mysterious rebel Erina comes to the Leblanc duo’s aid.
As shown in Final Weapon’s Persona 5 Tactica preview, the rest of the Phantom Thieves break free of Marie’s brainwashing as Joker, Morgana, and Erina liberate parts of the Kingdom. Kingdoms replace the Palaces that players once completed in Persona 5, and each mission is accessed from the hideout in Leblanc. The ultimate goal of Persona 5 Tactica is to take down tyrants that oppress the masses in these strange worlds and eventually return home, but the game throws some curveballs in the forms of Erina and Toshiro. These two characters break some of the norms of the Persona series, and I genuinely enjoy what they bring to the table. Persona 5 Tactica’s story takes hours to pick up, but the character development and unique scenarios that the Phantom Thieves find themselves in is worth the effort in those early hours.
A Tactical Twist
Many of the Persona franchise’s tried-and-true features return, including Persona fusion and a vast selection of skills. However, overall gameplay works slightly different now that the Phantom Thieves navigate on a grid-based map from start to finish per battle. The tactical turn-based RPG emphasizes the strategic use of guns, cover, and positioning on the map similarly to Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids series. In fact, being out of cover leaves enemies and allies vulnerable to a guaranteed critical hit, resulting in “One More” just like the mainline Persona games.
The crew may move freely in a certain range, which is determined by a movement stat that may be increased or reduced with skills like Sukukaja. Enemies aren’t weak to certain skills in Persona 5 Tactica, but each element provides a special bonus in battle. For instance, Garu skills will sweep and knock an enemy out of cover, and Light skills may cause a Dizzy status effect on enemies. Additionally, the Charge skill is now universal and activates if a character doesn’t attack on their turn.
Many of the party’s actions will build up the Voltage Gauge, which is designated with a star on-screen. Once the Voltage Gauge is full, players can use a very powerful and satisfying skill that can take out multiple enemies at once or apply a useful bonus in battle. On the other hand, those wanting a quick-and-easy solution to a battle may want to focus on knocking down enemies and unleash a Triple Threat All-Out Attack, which can be arranged if all three party members form a triangle around the enemy.
A Different Use for Personas
The new Sub-Personas system now allows the rest of the Phantom Thieves to “equip” a secondary Persona, and I thought this system is a unique trade-off since skill accessories and inheritance is not available in Persona 5 Tactica. Instead, Personas act as useful “materials” with bonus stats and skills, and each party member has a unique Skill Tree that gives them skills for their respective Persona by spending GP points.
The use of GP unlocks extremely vital skills and bonuses such as HP and SP healing in cover, damage increases for elemental skills, and additional Charge benefits. GP is acquired from various sources in Persona 5 Tactica, including leveling up and completing quests. Each character has their own GP to earn and 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.
I appreciate that the Skill Tree may be reset, allowing for the reallocation of GP into a different group of skills. I didn’t use this particular feature often since I found useful skill setups for each character. However, the money and GP grind can feel quite tedious at times during the first and second Kingdoms. Fortunately, the Replay feature and variety of unlockable quests certainly helps later on.
Portable Play With Tactica
Persona 5 Tactica looks and performs quite well on Nintendo Switch, so I highly recommend this version for those wanting a cozy and casual RPG experience. The Nintendo Switch version runs at a smooth 30 FPS with a vivid and clear image free of those anti-aliasing woes. The game appears to be well optimized on Nintendo Switch as well considering that I didn’t run into any hard crashes.
If I had to nitpick anything relating to Persona 5 Tactica’s performance on Switch, it would be the slightly longer load times for some of the missions and quests. Thus far, Persona 5 Tactica appears to have some audio mixing issues with voice overs with default settings, so the game’s stellar soundtrack was unfortunately overpowering some of the most important dialogue. In-battle dialogue appears to be unaffected by these issues, however.
Normal difficulty is really manageable and stress-free, so those who are adept at playing RPGs may want to turn up the difficulty. It’s much easier compared to Persona 5 Royal’s normal difficulty, which can give players a tough time if they’re ill-equipped for some battles.
Persona 5 Tactica is an Extremely Fun Diversion
Persona 5 Tactica is a really fun and experimental RPG that was designed for Persona 5 fans wanting to explore this point in the franchise again. The game’s serious and lighthearted themes that mix to create a good story that kept me playing for many hours on end. Once more, Erina and Toshiro are clear highlights of the story as compelling characters that kept me invested. Overall, the game is not particularly ambitious or trend-setting for the Persona series, but I believe its a fun diversion for those waiting on major entries like Persona 3 Reload.
Persona 5 Tactica will be available 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 Nintendo Switch digital code of Persona 5 Tactica for review purposes at Final Weapon.
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