Since having played Persona 4 Golden on the PlayStation Vita, I have become a huge fan of the Persona series. From beloved main entries such as Persona 4 and Persona 5 to addictive spin-off adventures like Persona 5 Strikers or Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, I have fallen in love with each and every Persona game I have played so far; even the dancing games. Persona 5 Tactica is the latest Persona spin-off entry, as the series delivers its own interpretation of tactical role-playing gameplay.
Persona 5 Tactica takes place concurrently with the events of Persona 5, which means any events from other spin-off entries are not referenced. Persona 5 Tactica also assumes players have some prior knowledge of Persona 5, which means it is best enjoyed by those who have completed Persona 5/Persona 5 Royal. While Persona 5 Tactica does offer brief written explanations of characters and previous events from the main adventure, these really don’t do the incredible story and characters of Persona 5 justice. Non-Persona 5 players will still find enjoyment here, but the experience is improved immensely by having knowledge/experience of Persona 5.
Persona 5 Tactica’s main story takes around 25-30 hours to complete, with the Phantom Thieves traveling across new areas of the Metaverse, known as Kingdoms. The story of Persona 5 Tactica ramps up instantly, as the Phantom Thieves are teleported to the Metaverse and are quickly introduced to a ruler of one of the aforementioned Kingdoms, named Marie. I loved the opening as our heroes are quickly overpowered by the villainous ruler, only to be saved at the last moment by a new character called Erina, the leader of the Rebel Corp, who is focused on dethroning Marie from her tyrannical rule.
Erina is one of two main character additions to the Persona 5 Tactica cast, alongside the latest adult confidant of the group, Toshiro Kasukabe. Erina is a total badass with a heart of gold, which, combined with her charming personality and her strong vocal performance, helped make her character instantly loveable. On the other hand, it took me a handful of hours before I started to appreciate Toshiro Kasukabe’s character, but his journey throughout the adventure easily made him become one of my favourites of the entire Persona 5 universe.
The main narrative of Persona 5 Tactica is fantastic, and while I did prefer the story found within Persona 5 Strikers, I still really loved the tale told within this adventure. Persona 5 Tactica doesn’t shy away from providing some genuinely dark, shocking, and disturbing moments, something the Persona series has become synonymous for.
However, I did find issues with the uneven balance between cut scenes and gameplay. In Persona 5, players have a plethora of side activities and characters to interact with, and it ultimately delivered a perfect balance of variety, but Tactica struggles to find that sweet spot. Even though I love the Persona 5 cast and the newly introduced characters, sometimes it can take a few hours before your next battle, especially if you decide to watch every cut scene and read every piece of dialogue. Of course, players can simply skip dialogue if they wish, but this could mean missing out on some vital plot elements of what is a very intricate story. To give you an example, when playing New Game+, I was able to reach the final level within 5 hours when I skipped every piece of dialogue in the game, meaning there are close to 15-20 hours of dialogue. This may be amazing for dedicated Persona 5 fans, but it is something players wanting a gameplay-heavy adventure should keep in mind, as the uneven balance is quite noticeable.
Persona 5 Tactica is a tactical turn-based game at heart, offering a gameplay experience that fans of the challenging XCOM franchise or the more approachable Mario + Rabbids series will instantly understand. Players will take turns with the enemy as they move and attack using their own three-person squad. Persona 5 Tactica features five difficulties, allowing tactical fans to experience a greater challenge, while also offering newcomers a chance to enjoy a more subdued tactical gameplay offering. Difficulties can be changed at any time, and the standard difficulty setting offers a fair challenge to players, which will become more challenging for players aiming to unlock every bonus objective within each of the 50+ levels on offer, and stages can also be replayed to hunt down awards you may have missed. Persona 5 Tactica also offers players the ability to transfer their save file between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 versions of the game.
During your turn, the player will have full control of each team member before deciding their action, meaning players will be able to move their character around their movement area as much as they like before confirming an action, which I appreciated, as it allowed me to mentally map out various combinations and attacks beforehand finalising my strategy.
Each character has a basic close-range melee and ranged weapon attack, they also have elemental magic attacks via their Persona powers, and you can also attach an additional Persona to each character to improve their range of elemental attacks. The basic moment-to-moment tactical gameplay is a lot of fun, but the game truly shines when players familiarise themselves with additional tactical elements. For example, if an enemy is knocked down, this will not only allow the squad member who delivered that attack to have another turn, but it will also allow them to deliver a Triple Threat attack. This is a powerful move (essentially an all-out attack from Persona 5) which will deliver damage to a plethora of enemies within a specified area. Not only that, but learning when to utilise tactics such as follow-up attacks, additional attacks, and environmental hazards to your advantage makes experimenting with combat options incredibly fun.
As players level up their collective team, new abilities can be unlocked, stronger Persona fusions can be conducted, and even elemental weapons can be created using the spoils of victory. When comparing the tactical gameplay elements on offer, while Persona 5 Tactica may not hold a candle to the depth of XCOM, it does offer an improved variety when compared to something like Mario + Rabbids. For example, there are no hit percentages to consider, instead, you will hit the enemy every single time, but depending on their location, they may resist being dealt full damage. On the other hand, Persona 5 Tactica introduces unique environmental considerations and even unique enemies, which will switch the enemy with the squad mate who delivered the attack, allowing some fun tactical maneuvers.
I played Persona 5 Tactica on medium difficulty and found it challenging enough to encounter a handful of losses across the campaign, especially when aiming for additional victory conditions and completing some of the challenging side missions. While I haven’t had a chance to play Persona 5 Tactica on its hardest difficulty, it is safe to assume the additional difficulty modes will offer some players a genuine reason to utilise New Game + on a more challenging difficulty, as players can bring over the majority of unlocks, they may have acquired from their original completed save (aside from unlocked abilities).
Persona fans will also be happy to know that Persona 5 Tactica has a brilliant soundtrack, but would Persona fans even expect anything else at this point? The Persona series is known for incredible music, and Tactica is no exception. There are some genuinely addictive background tracks during standard battles, with boss encounters and important moments heightened with both electrifying and emotional tunes. These tracks fit the aesthetic of the Persona series and the Persona 5 universe perfectly, so much so, even my partner would start dancing away at these tracks when they hit the speakers.
The discussions regarding the art style of Persona 5 Tactica before launch were truly divided, with some finding the new art style of their beloved characters charming, while others not so much. The art style of Persona 5 Tactica is chibi-esque, and while it has some visual similarities to the Persona Q sub-series, it provides what the Persona art team describes as ‘comic book-like deformities’. What does that mean? Essentially, characters have larger hands than normal. Is it noticeable? No, not really. But once you do notice it, I do think it looks unusual. Personally, I had no real issue this element of the Tactica art style, but if you had a problem with it leading up to launch, the full game won’t solve those issues for you.
I think Persona 5 Tactica can look quite gorgeous during cut scenes and dialogue exchanges, but gameplay stages do lack that charming visual appeal. Most levels themselves are quite visually bare-boned, especially when compared to the detailed visuals found in the Palaces from the main version of Persona 5. Enemies are also visually bland, and that same repetitive visual issue can also be applied to the ‘generic’ villagers found throughout the story. This means that despite not having an issue with the visual direction of Tactica, I am left feeling like the visual fidelity of the adventure is a mixed bag, which is especially noticeable during the moment-to-moment gameplay.
PERSONA 5 TACTICA REVIEW
Fans of The Phantom Thieves from Persona 5 will find a lot to love from this new adventure, and while it may not rival the sequel-worthy excellence of Persona 5 Strikers, it is an enjoyable experience for all comers. The tactical gameplay elements are challenging and interesting enough to provide tactical veterans with some difficult encounters, while it also provides an approachable and enjoyable offering for tactical newcomers. While the visuals can be a mixed bag, the music is downright brilliant and helped intensify battles and emotional moments. The narrative is fantastic, and Erina and Toshiro are equally memorable, but if you haven’t played the original Persona 5 adventure, go play that first before playing Persona 5 Tactica, and I guarantee you will appreciate this experience a lot more.
Fantastic narrative campaign and memorable new characters.
Entertaining tactical gameplay.
A visual mixed bag, with bland gameplay environments.
Uneven balance between gameplay and cut scenes.