Persona 5 Tactica
Persona 5 has quickly become its own subseries as Sega and Atlus churn out updates and spin-off entries to their beloved 2017 turn-based RPG. Following 2018’s rhythm-based Dancing in Starlight, 2020’s Persona 5 Royal, and 2021’s Persona 5 Strikers, this year brings the Phantom Thieves of Hearts to another new genre: turn-based strategy.
Persona 5 Tactica invites players on another adventure with Joker, Morgana, Ryuji, Ann, and the rest of the cast from the original game (no sign of Kasumi from Royal or Sophia and Zenkichi from Strikers). This time, the game starts with two shadowy figures discussing the latest news story that’s swept Japan: the disappearance of the front-runner to become the country’s next prime minister. Shortly after, we join our heroes at their home base in Leblanc. Hearing them talking about going their separate ways following Makoto’s upcoming graduation and having the same conversations we’ve all had with friends where we, often in vain, promise to keep in touch and visit each other is somewhat heartbreaking and emotional.
However, as the television news recaps the political crisis unfolding, the coffee shop shakes, the power goes out, and a bright light emanates from the front door. After stepping outside, the team realizes they’re in their Phantom Thieves outfits and certainly not in Tokyo anymore. Instead, they’re in some kind of Medieval European-style world, with old-time soldiers to confront them.
The core gameplay mechanics pull from the tactical mainstays of the last several decades and the Persona 5 series. Cover is essential, as it blocks attacks from the front and resists ranged damage from the sides and back. Your party members move freely, but their placement relies on the standard grid-based system. If you attack a defenseless enemy, they are downed, which stuns them and grants the damage-dealing character a precious extra turn.
Each character has ranged and melee attacks, but it wouldn’t be Persona without, well, the Personas. Joker’s Arsène deals area-of-effect damage that can devastate huddled enemies, while Morgana’s Zoro blasts wind skill knocks enemies out of cover. If you plan carefully, you can even knock enemies into each other for extra damage.
Once you down an opponent, you can position your three party members surrounding the downed enemy to perform a Triple Threat attack. This new take on the All-Out Attack mechanic deals a devastating blow to the downed character and any enemy caught within the triangle formed by the three party members. This mechanic had me thinking about my positioning even more so than other tactics games.
As I progress through the story, I meet Marie, a giant pink lady who seems to have mind-controlled the soldiers within this world. After capturing Ryuji, she does the same to him, which results in a battle against him with a group of soldiers. Since his Captain Kidd Persona can deal heavy lightning damage and my objective is to defeat all enemies aside from Ryuji, I need to take out the soldiers as efficiently as possible while keeping my distance from the mind-controlled friend. I hope more distinct scenarios like this await me in the final game.
Though the Persona 5 spin-offs keep pushing further from the RPG formula fans are most familiar with, I still can’t help but smile at the prospects of another fun adventure with this amazing cast of characters I first fell in love with in 2017. Persona 5 Tactica probably won’t be for all fans of Persona 5, but those who enjoy tactics-based gameplay and the dynamic cast of the original RPG may find a match made in heaven.