Publisher: Atlus USA
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), PC, PlayStation 5, Switch
Release Date: November 17, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $99.95 AUD – Available Here
When it comes to spinning their incredibly popular Persona series off into different genres, the folks at Atlus have quite a knack for it. With Persona 4 we saw the crew dance, take part in a dungeon crawler, and even enter a fighting game but that barely holds a candle to the Phantom Thieves. Ever since Persona 5’s release the Phantom Thieves have danced, dungeon-crawled, taken part in a Musou game, and have had their own extensive expansion to the base game. This time around its time for Joker and the crew to take part in a strategy RPG looking to offer a different take on combat with a new story with everyone’s favorite characters. So, is Persona 5 Tactica a worthwhile journey to take with the Phantom Thieves?
It is worth noting that since Persona 5 Tactica takes place shortly after the final boss of the original Persona 5, players who haven’t beaten that game or at least gotten that far in Royal will feel a little bit lost when it comes to this game. Not only are there spoilers freely detailed in the game’s Memo system about past events but the title also does not introduce the cast in any way, meaning this one really is truly only for the fans of the series. Shortly after defeating the big bad and saving the world, snow is still falling on what seems like a normal day for the Phantom Thieves as they warm up at Leblanc. As they listen to the news about a missing politician a strange event occurs, seemingly cutting the group off from the real world and transporting them entirely into the Metaverse once more.
Shocked by their sudden return to the metaverse and transformation back into the Phantom Thieves the crew finds that they are in the middle of a rebellion between a group of freedom fighters trying to survive against a malicious ruler named Marie who is dead-set on her wedding venue being the entire kingdom. The group teams up with the Rebel Corps leader Erina as well as the amnesiac politician Toshiro in an effort to take down Marie while also learning what the world has happened to them and why they find themselves now trapped within a new form of Metaverse. Persona 5 Tactica tells a fairly straightforward but enjoyable storyline that once again sees everyone’s favorite characters battling against a new set of villains that, unfortunately due to the fact the game takes place entirely in the Metaverse, feel a bit less impactful than those from the core game due to its Metaverse only setting.
The Phantom Thieves themselves once again stand out as the best characters primarily because, at this point, they are incredibly familiar and already developed at this point in the story. This means that all of the new talking sequences, both during story events and the side conversations had at Leblanc, feature some great little bits of service for fans and new interactions that are quite charming. An early side conversation sequence really takes the cake for offering a number of fun choices that can be replayed to see every outcome. That being said, since this is a spin-off and all of the characters’ personal issues are already resolved, there really isn’t much in the way of growth or development for the core cast beyond what fans are already familiar with.
Thankfully the two new characters that join the Phantom Thieves throughout their journey this time offer plenty of heavy lifting in the characterization and development department. The rebel leader Erina is a fiery fighter that can be a bit too passionate but fits in wonderfully with the cast, especially once the story progresses beyond her Kingdom, and watching the spineless Toshiro grow as a character throughout the journey is also a solid treat. This is especially true thanks to his unique outlook on the Phantom Thieves as a whole. Unfortunately the other characters introduced are a bit on the simpler side and don’t really have much to offer outside of bringing extra context to each Kingdom and giving our familiar cast someone new to interact with.
Persona 5 Tactica forgoes many of the standard Persona elements to socialization and exploration to focus almost entirely on combat when it comes to actual gameplay. Players will find that the combat itself is also fairly straightforward as well, with many of the more randomized elements found in other strategy games such as missing attacks or even elemental weaknesses no longer existing. Instead, players will find themselves mostly controlling their three character party through the battlefield finding either half or full cover to take refuge behind before targeting their enemies. Most stages require players to simply defeat every enemy on the field but occasionally they will also be tasked with reaching a certain location within a turn limit, or destroying a target.
In a rather odd decision, a lot of useful mechanics, such as the ability to trigger an instant follow-up attack when knocking enemies off of an elevated position near an ally below among others happen to unlock quite a ways into the game, making these late unlocks a bit strange when they could easily have been available prior. As for the actual flow of combat, players can use melee attacks to knock enemies out of cover or toss them around, shoot enemies with their firearms with enemies out of cover automatically being downed allowing players to trigger a “One More” attack, and of course use their Persona skills. Anytime an enemy is downed, players can maneuver their characters to trigger the new “All Out Attack” called Triple Threat to deal massive damage to any enemy within the triangle formed by their team. Players can also swap out any character that is defeated with a Baton Pass, bringing in a fresh ally instead but this is something that will likely happen fairly rarely due to the general easiness of most encounters.
As mentioned before, all elemental weaknesses are gone. This means that Ann can take an ice attack without any issue but instead all Persona skills now automatically trigger their status effect such as Burn, Stun, Freeze, etc. Some of these are far more useful than others as they can stop an enemy in their tracks or force them out of cover, leaving them wide open for a critical attack. Along these same lines, triggering a second status effect on a foe will also crit, meaning a Burning enemy hit with Frei will always crit. The unique element here is the fact that, while character customization is incredibly limited to the point that players can only upgrade their party’s guns, nearly all characters can now equip a Sub-Persona along with Joker. This means that if players want Makoto to have Psi attacks, they can. That being said, since Personas now can only have one skill or, upon fusion, inherit a second skill from one of the fused Personas, players will likely feel like the best route is to take passive buffs instead. Especially since character skill points, earned through general party level ups, completing “Quests,” and viewing side-dialogue, can be used to increase their base element strength such as making sure Ann’s fire attacks are as powerful as ever.
As mentioned, nearly all of the content in Persona 5 Tactica are the game’s battles but while most of them are experienced through the story along with boss battles that are heavily scripted, there are optional Quests as well. These Quests often feel like mini-puzzles that require a proper team with useful Personas equipped to complete and are often enjoyable little tests of how well the player knows the mechanics of the game. As for the side-dialogue, this content appears as the story progresses and simply involves the Phantom Thieves and their allies talking with players having choices with no actual consequence.
Audio & Visuals
With Persona 5 Tactica the development team has taken a different approach to Persona 5‘s signature style. The themes and stylizations are still there but this time around the world is a bit more cartoonish and the character designs have all been given a chibi-touch though they still retain some of their normal proportions. Ironically, Morgana still looks the same as usual though he also is now similar in design to the generic allied NPCs throughout the story. The chibi-ish approach to the character designs works rather well and the character portraits have a lot of variety with different costumes throughout the storyline and the enemy designs change up as well, though their types are a bit generic throughout. As for the Personas, players will only ever witness their team’s original Persona when using skills as all Persona are now shown solely as pictures when fused.
All of the original voice cast have reprised their roles in the English dub and those who prefer the Japanese voice cast will still find it readily available at any time. The new characters’ voice actors handle their portrayal well, with Erina’s voice actress really standing out as exceptional. The soundtrack also happens to feature the same catchy tracks and theme songs that fans are familiar with as Lyn Inaizumi has returned to provide vocals to a few new songs as well that work quite well for standard battles as well as a great boss theme though they aren’t quite as impressive as some of the signature songs from Persona 5 Royal.
Persona 5 Tactica is a simple but solidly developed tactical RPG that doesn’t ask too much of its players while also delivering a highly enjoyable storyline with the same cast of characters that fans have come to love. It would have been nice if there were some unique character developments for the core cast or a certain pair of Royal characters relegated to DLC, but Erina and Toshiro make for great additions to the storyline. Those looking for a challenge will definitely need to bump the difficulty above Normal but those who want more of the Phantom Thieves won’t be disappointed in this unique new outing.
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