Atlus’ Persona series has steadily increased in popularity in recent years. Complex characters, gripping narratives, and an interesting role-playing system have excited fans around the world for many years. The Persona series not only lives off its big main release, but also, like Final Fantasy, for example, from countless side projects, spin-offs and branches. Only from the successful Persona 5 there were already two spin-offs with their own unique game systems: Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight and Persona 5: Strikers. Now SEGA and Atlus send the Phantom Thieves on their next big adventure with Persona 5 Tactica. The strategic branch proves in the test to successfully implement the well-known game mechanics, but also has problems with one or two lengths.
A rebellion with style
Persona 5 Tactica begins in the final third of the Persona 5 narrative. The Phantom Thieves have gathered at their favorite cafe, Leblanc, for a hot drink in the cold season. As the news continues to report the disappearance of a promising politician, our heroes are suddenly transported to a parallel universe where they face a new threat. Instead of the metauniverse palaces and their rulers, they face the tyrant Marie in the new world, which is described as a land of kingdoms. She enslaves the inhabitants of the kingdom with the help of her army and her ability to control minds. With the exception of Joker and Morgana, the Phantom Thieves themselves also become trapped at the beginning of the story and become captivated by Marie’s magic. At the last second, resistance fighter Erina rushes to help Joker and Morgana, allowing the two phantom thieves to escape. Without further ado, Joker, Morgana and Erina make a deal: the rebels will help free the Phantom Thieves and, in exchange, they will support Erina in her plan to free the country from Marie’s tyranny.
Your Persona gives you a strategic advantage in combat.
From this point on, the plot of Persona 5 Tactica revolves around the rebel resistance fight, the personal relationships between the group members, and the general mystery surrounding the existence of the parallel world. As is typical in Persona, well-written dialogue plays an especially important role. Much of the narrative is advanced through operational briefings at headquarters. However, a small warning for newcomers is that it is assumed that you have prior knowledge of the Persona 5 universe. Although you can read information about important events and characters in the notes, this is only recommended for those who are primarily interested in the game strategy. Persona 5 Tactica only unfolds its full potential when you are familiar with the game’s characters.
Overall, this is a good opportunity to describe Tactica’s gameplay in more detail. Basically, it is a strategy role-playing game comparable, for example, to the titles in the Fire Emblem series. In combat, you take control of three characters, which you control from an isometric perspective across the respective level’s map. You can then select orders for each unit in turn. These include melee and ranged attacks, as well as special Persona abilities that give each unit its own specialization. A great strength of Persona 5 Tactica is that it cleverly transfers the familiar mechanics of the main game to the strategy game. For example, the person’s individual abilities not only affect the type of damage, but also the effect of the attack. Wind attacks catapult opponents back a few fields, while electric attacks can paralyze your opponents.
In combat you have to use the terrain to your advantage
The well-known 1-Up system also comes to Persona 5 Tactica. If you score a critical hit, you can take another turn with your character. This opens up some tactical options for you. The more effectively you use the system, the more actions you can take in a turn. This is important, among other things, if you only have a limited number of moves available as part of a mission or if you first have to get opponents out of safety. Tactica’s level design is fundamentally compelling, but could have been a bit more varied throughout the game. Many of the basic patterns are introduced at the beginning of the game and then varied as the game progresses. Overall, Persona 5 Tactica takes a lot of time at the beginning to explain the basic mechanics to you. This is great for newcomers to the genre, but can also be a little tedious for experienced players.
Even outside of the actual battles, the gameplay will feel familiar to Persona veterans. At your headquarters you can purchase new weapons for your units, accept side quests for rewards, and recruit new characters. However, ghosts cannot be added to your main character’s team, but can be added to each member of the Phantom Thieves as a secondary power. This allows you to expand your units’ arsenal with additional elemental attacks or passive upgrades. The skill system, with which you unlock new skills for your squad of heroes, also has a similar effect. Compared to the main Persona 5 game, your customization options are comparatively moderate. The well-known system of personal relationships can only be found here indirectly. For example, you can unlock additional skill points through optional conversations.
The hideout serves as a base for your missions.
The original Persona 5 is considered an excellent example of successful UI/UX design and a sleek, modern anime look. Persona 5 Tactica has successfully inherited the elegant menu design of the original, but this time Atlus has tried something new when it comes to the graphical style, which surely won’t appeal to all fans. The characters appear in stylized and deformed chibi form, with longer arm and leg proportions to better represent movement. The game also uses a more colorful and brighter color palette than Persona 5, making the overall look more reminiscent of Persona Q.
Whether you like the style or not is certainly a matter of taste. Overall, you can quickly get used to the style and even come to like the rather playful interpretation of the Persona world to some extent. The simple shapes definitely help make the game understandable and clear, something that might have been lost with more detailed graphics. In addition, it benefits the old Nintendo Switch hardware. Not only does the game look pretty on the hybrid console, but it also runs perfectly for the most part. The only annoying thing is the slightly longer loading times and the resulting image crashes.
As is typical of the series, the soundtrack for Persona 5 Tactica contains some interesting pieces that you will want to enjoy. The new songs sung by series icon Lyn are undoubtedly particularly noteworthy. Her voice remains a big part of Persona 5’s identity to this day, although it generally doesn’t reach the heights of the previous soundtracks. Speaking of voices: the well-known Phantom Thieves voice actors are of course back and as a fan you can be very happy to spend more time with this loving cast. That’s probably the ultimate goal of the game.