One of the first lessons you learn about cooking is that it’s not mathematical. You can’t cook something twice as fast by doubling the heat. At least that’s what I learned when I tried to cook frozen hotdogs, which I had to learn again when I tried to make brownies and ended up with chips. Simply show us that rushing through a process can easily ruin your experience of something, and I’d say the same when playing RPGs. It’s for this reason that I decided to start writing the review without actually finishing the Persona 5 Tactica.
It’s just that I’ve felt like I’ve completed the gameplay loop it has planned for the entirety of the game twice now, and isn’t showing signs of that changing. Also, with my schedule lately, I’ve been desperately trying to speedrun the title, with the regular job, the social duties of the year-end occasions, and other personal stuff. To the point that I feel like I’m ruining the experience for myself by getting frustrated by the game’s pace and what, at that time, I saw as pointless dialogue. So to keep my perception of the game from being totally tanked by how I’m playing it, I decided that it’s time to put that review up and finish the story later.
Persona 5 Tactica is yet again another expansion of the Persona universe that Atlus, and by extension Sega never seem to get tired of. So it’s good that all of them leave a good impression. Starting from Persona 3, each of these titles has received an anime, a rhythm game, an alternate RPG, and a fighting game, well Persona 5 isn’t quite there yet, but Joker’s in Smash if that helps. The assumption when making these spin-offs would be that they are completely separate from the original game, and not necessarily canon. But that’s the thing with the Persona spin-offs. They, at the very least, take into account how the characters have changed during the original game. They even go out of their way to make original stories for the new titles that honestly aren’t necessary, or at par with the original source material but are really nice to have. Atlus’ attitude of making a game that stands on its own for Persona spin-offs is exactly what makes them attractive. They could get away with selling a bare-bones game and just apply the Persona paint on it and people would buy it and forget about it.
However, not every person will enjoy a game the same way. Sometimes, the style isn’t to your taste, the genre isn’t something you vibe with, or the qualities you enjoyed with the original IP just don’t translate in the spin-off. I’d have to say P5T suffers some of these problems, which leaves my reception of this game with mixed feelings.
So what do I love? What do I hate? We’ll go over that, so stay tuned.
Production (3.5 / 5)
What I didn’t expect for P5T was the new art style. It looked like something out of a Trigger anime, to be perfectly honest. While I wouldn’t say that the style is original, it certainly garnered my curiosity for the title. It also matches the sort of visuals you’d need for a tactical game, where your default camera is an overview of the map. In other games of similar nature, you’d have the full version of character art during cutscenes, and maybe alternate avatars for the tactical map. This creates a situation where you can either have this awkward difference between full character art and simplified in different gameplay modes, where the alternative might have been to render full models for combat in the map and there would be a scale mismatch. What I’m saying here is that either way, they’d look weird, inconsistent, and jarring between game modes
However, with P5T, they instead went with making everyone in a new style that can be used consistently across all facets of the game. During cutscenes, during combat, and standard conversations. This also creates new possibilities for cool visuals with the style, and I don’t know, maybe new merch? I do like that flag. But yeah, the game feels nice and consistent as you play through the stages it takes you through. This shows how much they want the visual experience to carry well even just for spin-off titles.
The designs carry key elements of our beloved characters so that it’s easy to tell who they are. And how other characters are designed have fairly cool inspirations as well. The first boss you encounter, Marie, kinda gives me vibes from Marie Antionette, but as a raging Bridezilla. She also has a badass car. The Next Big Bad also has an interesting gimmick that reflects the nature of the character. Though not everyone gets the seal of approval from me, the little people you fight for remind me way too much of Balan Wonderworld and I’d rather not remember that game. Enemy designs are unique to look at as well, but hardly give me anything memorable about them. Another thing that I’m a bit sad about is the lack of finisher screens by the members. I think those are the most expressive and honestly cooler arts that come out of the persona series, and not having them around kinda hurt the experience for me.
When it comes to the voice acting and sound department, it’s fine to expect the fine character voices to do well regardless of which dub you pick. This is something I do appreciate from Atlus’ works. Though this falls flat when it comes to the little extras in the game, while they do show some character. The heavy post-production on their voices makes them more annoying to listen to, I really wish they didn’t have to do that. For the music though, we have Lyn returning to give us some catchy tunes that match the pace of the game, all of which I do enjoy.
The presentation of Persona 5 Tactica has been given a certain amount of care it, making a style that fits the genre it fits itself into, matching not only what we see, but also what we hear on it. It’s a bit of a shame that the stylishness dipped a few points, though.
Mechanics (3.5 / 5)
As a tactical game, it’s going to limit how much you can bring out, where this limit is going to be three units per battle. Your party and the enemy team will take turns doing their thing. I like how every member can move freely so long as they haven’t committed an action, as positioning is such a critical component for combat in this title.
First of all, you never want to be out of cover, as getting shot without any sort of defense will lead to a guaranteed critical hit. Being next to walls or anything to obstruct the enemy’s line of sight toward you is going to give you either full or partial damage reduction. Also if they manage to land a critical hit on you, they get an extra turn. Considering it only takes a few good swings to down one of your teammates, you want to avoid this if you can. On the flip side, you can do the same thing. Even if they’re hiding behind cover, you can make use of the unique abilities available to you to make them vulnerable and get that critical hit. For starters, everyone can do melee attacks that knock enemies out of position. There are also persona spells that can either inflict a status or even push or pull enemies out of their hiding. You can even just skip your action for a turn, and that character would have a boosted ability, like forcing a critical hit.
All of these lead to making a critical hit more viable, and that gives your party member a “1 More.” This resets their turn, making them not only take one more action but also give them a new range of movement. With enough planning, you can even create a combo of actions with even just one of your party members and set up a “Triple Threat Attack,” which is almost the “All Out Attack” we’ve come to know and love from the Persona series minus the finisher screen, yes I will continue to gripe about that.
And this is the bread and butter of P5T, you try to figure out the map, and the enemies in it, and if you’re really into the game, try to figure out how you can set up that one-turn kill that wipes out most if not all of your enemies instantly. The mechanics invite you to seek a weak point in the enemy formation, abuse that, and wreak the havoc you can.
Since they changed the good old four-man team, they’ve also changed how each character can function. For example, all of them can now equip a bonus persona for extra stats and abilities, though at the cost of Joker being unable to swap personas freely. However, they’re still unique in certain parameters, like how Fox has a much longer movement range than Panther. Their basic attack, which is based on the gun they’re using, also behaves pretty differently for each one. The most notable difference would be the skill trees they have. It’s great that you can flexibly assign the skill points between battles, allowing you to experiment and learn what works for you.
What was a bit harder to comprehend was how the map was supposed to work, they throw in concepts like high ground, how it’s not only a good vantage point, but also gives you a potential combo interaction with your other teammates. And to be honest, factoring that in with your range of movement and how it can only be activated a limited number of times per turn was also throwing me off. I mean these gimmicks ideally gave you a wider arsenal of tools, but I think the game wasn’t telling me enough information to maximize the capabilities of my party. If I spread the triangle for the Triple Threat Attack wide enough the camera just refuses to zoom out enough for me to see how many I’ve caught in my trap.
I think it would have been very useful had the interface been a little more dense with information, or at best, show what’s relevant during the action. They were able to do this back in the base game quite wonderfully, so I’m a bit disappointed that this wasn’t the case here. But, noting that this is pretty much their first swing at something like this, I can’t fault them too much about it. For the most part, the game works fine, it just that I can’t feel a super big brain when I’m not aware of what could be very important for me to know. I honestly think an overview mode would do well, or a better indicator of who could be attacking a character when taking a position would have been handy.
Content (3 / 5)
While I can only tell you about part of the story, I can tell you that the entire thing runs for about 20 hours. A rather short and sweet offering when compared to what I’m used to from the usual RPGs. It starts with the Phantom Thieves being sucked into a world without them knowing what’s going on, thrust into a situation where they decide to help out a revolution and fight for those who are being tormented by what can only be seen as an evil queen.
Being able to see what sort of inspiration went into the designs of each character, particularly the bad guys, was something I enjoyed. It made me want to see what new details they would reveal about the world and the characters that reside in it. The story of course also revolves around the new characters that Persona 5 Tactica introduced, which I think is a smart idea considering that all of the original cast have gone through their respective development arcs. The Phantom Thieves this time around are more like a sentai team that happened to fall into another dimension. Honestly, their presence made the game drag a bit more because it felt like most of their lines were filler. But, what are you gonna do, have the very gang that made the game possible not have any lines? Personally, when I sense that the script is just letting people say unnecessary things, I get itchy with the skip button.
But listening to people talk about a story isn’t the only thing that P5T offers. It plays you through a set of missions to complete the story and has bonus conversations to give you a bit more of the fun interactions that we usually get from our colorful set of friends.
As for the part where the tactical combat happens, there’s a healthy amount of variation for obstacles, enemies, and objectives to play through the game’s campaign. Even though the rules are pretty much the same, Atlus has managed to design a bunch of scenarios to play through that make you think a bit more flexibly than just planning out wipeouts.
To mix it up, and double as a tutorial for the nuances of the combat tricks you can use in this game, there are quests that you can clear. These are outside of the main story’s missions and are much more attractive to do because of the skill points you get for completing them. It’s kind of cool that there’s no level of grinding required at all. Except if you want to invest in getting the best weapons available for you to get in the game.
To be honest, the fact that all of the possible encounters to play through are preset battles is a little disheartening. It makes me focus on doing each encounter in a pre-planned way, I don’t feel the desire to experiment with different strategies once I’ve found something that works for me in that fight. And since the only thing I would grind for is money, I hardly ever think about doing these more effectively or studying how a formation can work.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? Since Persona 3, I’ve come to know this series as something that would show me a lot of new exciting things, and go at a pace that lets me enjoy the various aspects of the game and its world at my leisure. It’s not combat all the time, or thinking about the next step for the heist or revolution. In the original RPG, there would be different life events or times that you just live as a regular person. You see this happen at some level for Persona 5 Strikers, as well. Where they make these encounters while they’re on a big road trip, so you get to go around Japan as a tourist for a decent chunk of the game. There’s a point where you get to take your mind off being the superhero thief and experience the world very differently. It’s this contrast of experiences that lets you soak and enjoy the world you’re in a lot more. But in P5T, it’s as straightforward as Star Wars Episode 4. You’re playing as Joker and the gang, and that never really turns off. I mean, sure, there’s going to be a scene or two where they feel more like a normal bunch of friends. But these events are dwarfed by the entirety of the game. With the story being rather simple, Persona 5 Tactica feels thin on the content by comparison. There’s no double life, there’s only one world, and it’s a bit suffocating.
Features (3.5 / 5)
Considering that this is an entirely new game, I don’t think it needs any additional features to expand what it is.
Aside from the ability to cross-save among proprietary networks among service providers, meaning Sony Machines can transfer saves among themselves, the same is true for Microsoft, and in this case, even Nintendo. Which should be much easier to do if you’re making use of cloud saves. Though, I don’t know, it’s not exactly one of those games that you’d play on multiple platforms, right?
If you’re willing to throw in a little extra money, you can also access the DLC content, which can grant you access to weapons and personas that will help you bust through the earlier parts of the game much easier. That plus an extra arc to play through, featuring characters that didn’t make it into Persona 5 Tactica’s main game.
There’s not much after that, you can review cutscenes if you like, which is handy for someone like me who’s collecting footage, though it might be useful for someone who wants to hear the alternate voices for the scenes. You can also revisit previously played missions if you’re trying to grind out some money to buy new gear or summon out more expensive personas. Though to be honest, crutch items like stronger Personas don’t really change the tide of battle all that much, it generally makes you more capable of tanking damage, so you can play the game worse and still get away with it.
Atlus is the sort of game developer who isn’t afraid of making you have to wait through an hour or two of setting up characters and game mechanics before letting you have any meaningful choices in the game. When it does this, the world-building is iron-tight. This makes it easy to stand on its own for even unrelated spin-offs
Persona 5 Tactica is one of these spin-offs. Atlus can pretty much get away with doing a completely different game, adding the Persona IP to it, and making it work. Essentially, what you’re being given is XCom with an anime spin on it. Perhaps a bit simpler given you don’t have to deal with hit chances, but I think it does well in attempting to mix in the Persona 5 flavor of style and combat to it.
However, I think the experience runs a little thin, it’s more of an adventure than a journey, almost as if the entire thing resolves in one day. Only leaving room for a handful of characters to play up their parts as characters, leaving behind our heroes to pick up after the mess that’s left behind. To be honest, it’s probably the smarter decision, as I don’t think making the already-developed characters go through any more drama is necessary. So I’m kind of at a crossroads where I’m not quite satisfied with the title, but at the same time, I don’t know if there’s any substantial way to improve it without risking making the game worse instead of better.
So, would I recommend this game? If you want to try a completely different genre from what you are used to in jRPGs, sure. There’s a bit of fun content here as well, given you’re willing to go through the challenges of this game. It’s not like it’s a slog, as almost all of the encounters give you unique challenges to understand and overcome as well. Just, I was kind of expecting something else, something more. So, I wouldn’t put this under ‘required reading’ for a Persona fan, but if you’re curious about how they translate the experience. It’s probably worth a try if it comes on sale.
If there’s anything that got me through most of this game, it would be Lyn’s songs as they’re hard to not enjoy. I recommend getting the OST. If you want to be a bit more attached to the music, then you should play the game.
Persona 5 Tactica is a bit more attractive when it adapts the sales strategy. Scoring a 3.5 / 5.
Available on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Switch