Persona 5 is almost becoming a spin-off series of its own. While Persona is already a sub-series of the larger Shin Megami Tensei franchise, the latest mainline game has spawned an incredible number of spin-offs as well. We have a remake in Persona 5 Royal, a rhythm game in Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, and a musou-style sequel in Persona 5 Strikers, not to mention the anime and manga adaptations of the base game.
Now, Joker and his friends are ready for another comeback, this time in an X-Com-style strategy game, called Persona 5 Tactica.
Just a little warning before you continue: there will be some spoilers regarding the ending of the original Persona 5, so skip the story section of this review if you’re still making your way through the game.
Persona 5 needs no further introductions. Originally released in 2016 on PlayStation 3 (yes, the game is that old already) and PlayStation 4, Persona 5 received universal critical acclaim, and brought the series to commercial success like no other Shin Megami Tensei game did before.
For the first time, Persona managed to reach the mainstream gaming public, thanks to an intriguing story and a captivating cast of characters, as well as an irresistible aesthetic.
It’s no wonder that Atlus has since tried to build on this popularity with new adventures for Joker and his friends, delving into unexplored territories for this subseries. Persona 5 Tactica is a prime example of this, as no Persona game has ever had a strategy spin-off.
We must admit, however, that when the game was first announced we felt puzzled at best. Is there anything left to tell within the world of Persona 5? This question has stayed unanswered up until we got our hands on the game. And now, it’s time to find out.
The story of Persona 5 Tactica is set during the events of the original Persona 5, specifically during the ending of the game. Joker and his friends have indeed saved the world (or at least Japan!), and they’re enjoying a nice break before the time comes for them to go their separate ways.
At the beginning of the game, they’re all at the Leblanc Café, where a news report is announcing the sudden disappearance of Toshiro Kusamabe, a Diet member and the favored candidate for the position of Prime Minister.
Suddenly, they get transported to another dimension, finding themselves in a strange city that seems built in a similar style to Mitteleuropean architecture. They soon find out that architecture isn’t the only callback to European history; society in this world is heavily reminiscent of the French Revolution, and some soldiers are following the orders of a tyrant called Marie.
Unfortunately, these soldiers seem pretty hostile to them, and they soon get into battle. Marie even manages to brainwash almost the entirety of the team through her kisses, except for Joker and Mona. Just when everything seems lost, though, an unexpected ally comes to rescue Joker and his friends.
We won’t go deeper into the plot, as we want to avoid any kind of spoilers for the game. As you might already have guessed, Persona 5 Tactica still loves to make fun of contemporary Japan’s politics and society, and things only get more interesting as the game goes on.
However, there are a few things that make this title the weakest entry in the Persona 5 sub-series. First, the protagonists seem like washed-down versions of themselves; this isn’t surprising, given that they all had their character arcs in the base game, but it’s still a letdown.
And the same happens for the story itself. It’s not bad per se, but it just isn’t on the same level of quality as the original game, or even Persona 5 Strikers. This is partly because everything that happens feels minor and rather inconsequential, which is honestly what we feared for this game, at least plot-wise.
You simply feel that there was no need to tell this story and to re-use this cast of characters. While for some players it will be nice to see Joker and his friends one more (last?) time, it’s coming to a point where they’re almost outstaying their welcome. We’re still not quite there, and hopefully, Atlus will move on to Persona 6 before it happens, but it’s still an unpleasant feeling.
As we said, Persona 5 Tactica is a strategy game, much in the vein of games like X-Com. If you’ve played any other recent strategy game, you’ll immediately get the gist of this, because Persona 5 Tactica doesn’t care about bringing something new to the table.
In the beginning stages of the game, you’ll be greeted with a short set of tutorials that will teach you everything you need to know about the core gameplay. This is a classic turn-based SRPG, where on each turn you can move your characters and have them perform actions before passing the turn to your opponents.
The game has of course a rich strengths and weaknesses system, which makes each battle feel more like a puzzle game than a “real” RPG. You don’t need to train your party to reach a certain level or gain some abilities, rather you need to understand who and what works better in a given situation.
Compared to other SRPGs, the game offers a nice amount of freedom in terms of movement. On each turn, you’ll be able to move your characters across a good chunk of the map, which is possible also because maps aren’t usually that big. This is reminiscent of the recent Mario+Rabbids: Sparks of Hope for the Nintendo Switch, which is a nice thing because that game is simply amazing.
Another key feature of the game are covers. Each map has many covers to offer, and you’ll need to use them whenever you can. Using a cover means less damage for the character, and it also doesn’t allow enemies to land double attacks.
The game also gives plenty of space to Personae, as each character can equip not one, but two Personae at the same time. This allows you to choose two Personae that can compensate for each other’s weaknesses, turning your character into a battle machine.
This brings us to one of the biggest faults of the game: it’s very easy. Not only you’re given an insane amount of power by combining two Personae, but enemies aren’t all that powerful as well. Most of the time, they won’t be a menace to your team, and unless there’s a high number of enemies in an area, you’ll never fear defeat.
The game is made even easier by the fact that every character gets experience points after a battle, even those who weren’t involved in combat. Our suggestion, at least for experienced players, is to select the higher-difficulty settings at the beginning of the game.
Another huge problem is receptivity. As we said, the game is a very basic SRPG, and you’ll have experienced everything it has to offer just after a few battles. Developers seem to be aware of this, and they introduced secondary objectives for some missions.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to clear a map from all enemies, other times you’ll be asked to run away from a certain area. If you comply with these demands, you will be granted more experience and money at the end of the battle.
These secondary objectives can be a nice bonus challenge, but they don’t spice things up all that much, and you’ll still end up getting that feeling of repetition early on in the game.
It would’ve been hard, if not impossible, to top the original Persona 5’s aesthetic. That game simply has an amazing art direction, and there’s a reason why its visuals have become so iconic within the gaming community.
Persona 5 Strikers tried to bring back the original game’s aesthetic for the most part, but it also tried to give its own, unique flavor to the art direction, and while it wasn’t on the same level as the original, it still was a nice rendition of that style.
Persona 5 Tatica, on the other hand, goes on a completely different route, adopting a chibi style that sets it apart from every other game related to this sub-series. Honestly, the game doesn’t look that bad, but we didn’t like this direction, as it felt really out of place in a Persona 5 game.
That being said, some players will probably like it more than us; it’s entirely due to personal taste, and you will have to see for yourself how much you’ll enjoy this new aesthetic.
Luckily, the soundtrack is simply amazing. Composed by Toshiki Konishi, the game features many tracks with vocals by the wonderful Lyn Inaizumi, coming back from the original Persona 5. If you like the original game’s blend of J-pop, funk, and jazz, you will find plenty to like here.
Persona 5 Tactica will take around 30 hours to complete. Once the game is over, you will have very little reason to go back and do a second run, also because the game will already be repetitive during your first playthrough.
That being said though, the game is releasing with some DLC at launch, which could mean that there will potentially be more content released in the future as well.
Persona 5 Tactica is a solid SRPG that does everything right, but at the same time fails to do anything new or particularly exciting. If you’re not a fan of this franchise, you can probably find better options in this genre to play beforehand; however, if you’re a fan of Joker his friends will probably enjoy the game, as it keeps many elements from the original game. That being said, there’s no doubt that this is the weakest entry in the Persona 5 sub-series so far, and it’s perhaps a sign that Atlus should start moving on to the next Persona game.
- A solid SRPG
- Amazing OST
- Too easy and repetitive
- Weak story and writing compared to other entries in this series