Persona 5 Tactica Review – IGN
9 mins read

Persona 5 Tactica Review – IGN


Persona 5 Royal is the kind of complete experience that left me wanting for nothing, and so I have some mixed feelings about its spinoff games. And Persona 5 Tactica, which moves the groovy action to a satisfying grid-based combat system, doesn’t fully succeed in making me feel the way the original, epic JRPG did. But still, it’s nice to get to see some of my favorite characters again. And Atlus’ combat designers have shown that their skill at making fast-paced, punchy battles that reward clever planning translates nicely to the turn-based tactics genre.

In terms of the timeline, Tactica takes place between the second and third semesters of Persona 5 Royal. And I definitely would not recommend picking it up if you haven’t played at least that far into the story. For one, the in-game encyclopedia contains some fairly huge spoilers for Royal. And for another, it doesn’t really spend much time introducing you to the characters or the concept of the otherworldly Metaverse. I can only imagine someone coming into this adventure with no previous Persona knowledge would wind up highly confused.

The art style took a little bit of warming up to, as well. The entire cast has been partially chibi-fied, if that’s the correct term – though Morgana, hilariously, doesn’t really look much different. That threw me off at first, but eventually I more or less stopped noticing. The art direction is definitely very Persona 5, from the menu screens to the mysterious, sprawling Kingdoms that take the place of palaces this time around. Leblanc looks a bit too bright and cheery; I barely recognized it. But all the new friends and foes show off the sort of zany imagination I’ve come to expect from this universe.

And of course, you can’t call yourself a Persona 5 game without a hard rocking, energetic, jazzy soundtrack. Composer Toshiki Konishi pulled me back into those immaculate vibes immediately with toe-tapping new tracks for hanging out at the hideout, investigating strange new worlds, and general ass-kicking. Vocalist Lyn Inaizumi is back as well, with some memorable performances, including a new boss fight track. These jams aren’t quite on the level of “Beneath the Mask” or “Rivers in the Desert” from the main game. But what is, right?

Success takes observation, planning, and experimentation.

Overall, I was impressed with Altus’ ability to translate the feel of the Persona combat system to a tactics game as well. Every turn is still about trying to set up combos, but now you’ll be darting around the battlefield, taking cover, pushing or luring out enemies, and finishing with a flashy team-up maneuver. It’s engaging in a lot of the same ways traditional Persona JRPG battles are, in that you can’t get far simply by charging in and focusing your strongest attacks on the first thing you see. Success takes observation, planning, and experimentation.

Run It Back

The ability to rewind to your previous turn is very welcome, too. At first, I was afraid it would make things too easy. But each of these missions is pretty short to begin with, rarely taking more than 10 minutes, so even starting all the way over isn’t terrible. And being able to change up your plan from the moment you knew it went wrong just cuts back on repeating the same exact moves multiple times, since enemy behavior doesn’t seem to have any randomness.

Rather than specific enemies having strengths and weaknesses to certain elements, every attack type in Tactica inflicts a status effect that usually has to do with movement. Wind spells push the target a long distance away from the caster. Psy abilities lure the enemy toward you. Gravity can pull a group of enemies toward a specific point. I found lots of interesting ways to use these in combination to set up big combos, since Tactica’s version of an all-out attack requires you to basically draw a triangle around multiple enemies with your three party members. But the downside of this approach is that some elements are simply better than others. Fire feels very underpowered, for instance, since it doesn’t have a movement effect and you’ll never run into an enemy that’s weak to it. Sorry, Ann, you’re on the bench for this one. I also wish there were more finishers available.

If you want to give Panther a gravity spell… looks like you’re back on the varsity squad!

Party customization is definitely much simpler than a mainline Persona game, but it’s still fairly extensive. The only equipment you can upgrade are guns, with melee damage increasing automatically as your party levels up. But there are well over 100 fusible Personas to unlock and, for the first time, anyone can equip them as a “sub-Persona,” not just Joker. So if you want to give Panther a gravity spell… looks like you’re back on the varsity squad! Everyone will still be best at a certain thing, though, since they can only upgrade their main element through personalized skill trees.

Joining the familiar cast of Phantom Thieves is Erina, a fiery freedom fighter from this new corner of the Metaverse. The writing for some of the other characters feels a bit stiff, and without social links to give me mechanical rewards for dialogue choices, I really felt how long I spent in overly-wordy conversation scenes. It’s way more chatter than would have been needed to tell this story effectively, and a lot of it comes off as meaningless filler. But Erina is a high point, with newcomer Leeanna Albanese bringing depth and determination to the revolutionary leader.

Erina is a high point, with newcomer Leeanna Albanese bringing depth and determination to the revolutionary leader.

The story takes a while to get going, but it eventually builds up to some interesting philosophical questions as it explores a different kind of cognitive world over the course of about 40 hours. If you’re familiar with the basics of the Persona series, I don’t think it will take you too long to figure out roughly what’s going on. But the journey is still worth it, with each of the kingdoms you’ll conquer offering a memorably malevolent ruler, a distinct visual style, and varied tactical encounters. I especially liked some of the Fire Emblem-style side quests, which feature one or two characters and must be completed with a set of unique restrictions, like getting across a large map while only taking damage twice.

The boss fights, on the other hand, I found a bit disappointing. While they’re normally a highlight of Persona games, putting your skills to the ultimate test in unique ways, the ones in Tactica didn’t really make me sweat. It’s usually pretty obvious what you need to do to win. Sometimes you’re even told the solution outright. And rarely did I feel like I had to put my squad in serious danger to execute that dance. The Shin Megami Tensei franchise is known for its difficulty – that’s part of what I like so much about it. But Tactica just isn’t on that same level, even if you’re going for all of the optional bonus objectives on every map. It’s also missing a meaningful resource management angle, since there’s no ticking clock on the campaign, you have fewer tough choices about what to do with your hard-earned cash, and you get back all of your SP after each battle.



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