When I first heard about Persona 5 Tactica, my initial reaction wasn’t what I’d call positive. With so many Persona 5 spinoffs already, I’m getting worried that ATLUS might have an issue counting to 6. Ok, yes, it’s true that none of the spinoffs are bad (I love Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight) but still…come on!
Needless to say, I wasn’t really anticipating the game at all.
Even at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, I tried other SEGA games (the Like a Dragon games are great!), but didn’t even look in the general direction of the Persona 5 Tactica demo stations.
Still, I couldn’t really pass reviewing Persona 5 Tactica, could I?
What is Persona 5 Tactica?
Persona 5 Tactica is a 3D turn-based strategy RPG spinoff featuring the world and cast of Persona 5. It takes part right before the ending of the main game (when Ren leaves the Phantom Thieves to return home) and due to that, is a prequel to Persona 5 Strikers.
Developed by ATLUS, the game is published by SEGA and is available on every modern platform for November 17 2023 onwards.
Our copy was generously provided by our awesome friends at SEGA.
Persona 5 Tactica is a strange game.
Nobody was exactly clamoring for it and as far as I know, nobody expected it.
Yet here it is.
I don’t know exactly why ATLUS is dead set on milking Persona 5 dry (I’ve always been more partial to the dour, more realistic style of Persona 2) but hopefully, this is the last of the spinoffs we’ll see for a while.
There are already 4 Persona 5 games (6 if you count Persona 5 Royal and Persona Q2) so it definitely feels like we’re all reaching the threshold of Persona 5 content before we get sick of it.
I’m personally there already.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love Persona 5. I love the original art, the music and the characters. Morgana’s my favourite! Still, one does have a limit.
6 games in 7 years with the Persona 5 cast is draining to say the least.
Persona 5 Tactica doesn’t really change my mind either.
Yes, the game has the basis of a Persona game.
The plot is close enough to that of Persona 5 that it feels like a logical expansion. The characters we all know and love all make it back for the game. You can still summon and fuse Personas in the Velvet Room, and then equip them to your characters. The battles (despite this being a turn-based SRPG) are still fast and fluid. You can gang up on enemies and pummel them senseless via a stylishly animated cutaway.
Somehow though…it doesn’t feel like a Persona game.
For one, I hate the new chibi art style.
It somewhat resembles the design from the Persona Q series (of which I also hate the art direction), with oversized character heads and diminutive bodies. I’ve never been a fan of chibi art, and Persona 5 Tactica won’t change my mind.
I honestly think it’s a huge step back from the great art style of the main series and ruins the character looks. Joker and cast look horribly deformed in the new style and I really can’t stress how much it bothers me.
It really feels amateurish (especially during the interludes where the characters talk).
For the gorgeous Persona 5 art style to be replaced by this is a damn travesty.
I do admit Marie looks great (though I think she’d look even better if done with the regular style) but she isn’t enough to save the game’s looks.
Another thing I dislike about the game is how it takes away freedom from you. It’s the after school activities (and building relationship links to strengthen your Persona) that made Persona 5 so good.
None of that is in Persona 5 Tactica.
If you’re not in battle, you’re congregating at Leblanc and planning for the next battle.
It’s battle battle battle…even the side missions are more battles.
There’s no downtime, nothing to do BUT fight. It gets boring, real fast. You can’t explore the world at all. Again…this would probably be fine if it’s a regular game. This however is a Persona game, which it doesn’t feel like.
There are certain expectations one has when playing a game with the brand and Persona 5 Tactica loses sight of that most times.
Thankfully, the battles do feel inspired by the fights from the original game.
The kinetic energy, flashy animations and cool combos carry over rather well. The new SRPG trappings (which include cover mechanics) are cool but ATLUS also embedded familiar concepts from the main game (like All Out Attacks and downing enemies to get free turns) so that Persona 5 fans will be right at home.
Still, with only 3 playable characters in a fight at any one time (you can tag reserve members in if a character falls in battle), fights feel small. Battles don’t really feel strategic because you’re only juggling a trio of units (more in the rare instances when you have guest characters).
The game’s heavily skewed towards offense, with most of the mechanics rewarding an offensive playstyle. A great example would be the stage bonuses, one of which is you finishing a battle under a certain number of turns. Play defensively and take your time and you’d never net them.
Stage bonuses are essential to get, because they’re one of the best ways to net extra items and Personas.
Unfortunately, since Persona are given to you as drops, it lessens the impact of getting a new Persona to join you. There’s no negotiation of any sort, you’re just given them on a silver platter. Most of the time I don’t even realize what Persona I just got until I check in the Velvet Room.
It’s a massive downgrade because encountering a new Persona in battle, negotiating with them to win them over and using them in fights is part of the fun!
That aspect being trivialized doesn’t really sit well with me at all because it’s one of the mechanics that makes a Persona game…well, a Persona game!
Thankfully, you can repeat all the battles to grind though, so it’s not too much of an issue if you missed out on the bonuses the first time.
Battles aren’t really fun honestly because the game simply loves to spawn in enemy reinforcements after a few turns or after you beat certain enemies. You’d execute some brilliant maneuvering and trigger a Triple Threat attack to finish off a group of baddies at once only for a new group to spawn in immediately after and get some cheap hits in.
Sure, you can argue it keeps you on your feet. I can also argue it cheapens whatever strategy you have because no matter how good you are, you can always be blindsided the first time you play through a stage.
It’s not fun memorizing a stage’s enemy placement and spawns just so you can play the game effectively.
The game’s music’s also lacking in my opinion.
It follows Persona 5’s style with soothing tunes, but I don’t really like them.
There’s nothing that stands out like ‘Life Will Change’ or ‘Beauty of Destiny’ or even ‘Reach Out To The Truth’ from past Persona games.
The score just blends together after awhile and there’s nothing I feel that pops out from the pack and says ‘Hey! Listen to me! I AM Persona 5 Tactica!’. Certainly not on the level of ‘Reach Out To The Truth’ and it being synonymous with Persona 4.
Again, the music isn’t bad. It’s just not at the standard you’d expect from the Persona series.
The Bottom Line.
Persona 5 Tactica is fun in some aspects, but I feel it’s a wasted use of the series.
It doesn’t really embody what Persona 5 (or even the Persona series in general) is like, and most of the series’ mechanics are missing or simplified.
While the SPRG elements are fun enough, the battles feel simplistic and lacking in scope because of the small number of participants. Compounding that with the game’s love of spawning in reinforcements (which makes for boringly predictable stages) and you get a recipe for disaster.
Adding insult injury, the chibi art style is horrendous and the music is lacking punch. It feels like the game is a downgrade to the Persona 5 brand in every aspect you can think of.
Persona 5 Tactica is a decent SRPG. It is however, not a good Persona 5 game. It’s certainly not on the level of Persona 5 Royal or even Persona 5 Strikers. Persona 5 fans definitely deserve better.
Decent SRPG but a waste of the Persona 5 branding.
- Battles are fast and fun.
- The writing is still decent.
- Cool animations.
- Good English voice acting.
- Small scale battles.
- Chibi art style.
- Music isn’t as good as in Persona 5 Royal or Strikers.
- No negotiating with Personas.