Persona fans have been eating well lately, and it seems that Persona 5 Tactica is shaping up to be another excellent addition to the numerous spin-offs that have sprung to life from the latest numbered entry.
Small Heroes In A Smaller World
During my allotted preview time, I was able to play through the first 15 missions of Persona 5 Tactica, a task that took me around 3 hours to do. Colorful visuals peppered my screen, returning and new characters greeted me like old friends, and the world around my squad had changed entirely.
Taking place in the “Metaverse,” I found myself immediately drawn into the new visual style that Persona 5 Tactica brought to the table. While it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, I’ve always been a big fan of the chibi-esk designs employed by different creators, and the Persona 5 crew looks adorable in it. Does this cutesy-fying of the main cast take away from some of the more personal and in-depth moments that I experienced? To be honest, a little bit, but the simplified visuals are accompanied by a slightly less intense story this time around.
However, while the new visuals may evoke a sense of wonder, the world of Persona is something typically filled with dread, and there is plenty of that to be found within the first story beats. After being sent into the Metaverse and being reacquainted with plenty of familiar faces, some new leads come in to steal the show: Erina and Toshiro. Erina is a steadfast leader of a group known only as the Resistance, whereas Toshiro is set to be wed to the big bad of this particular adventure: Marie.
After taking the majority of the Phantom Thieves hostage, it’s up to the remaining few to work together and push through the new battle system and save their friends once again from this vicious tyrant. The story, while engaging so far, is playing it a little safe and walking through familiar tropes while trying to change things up just enough to keep them interesting. Putting the Phantom Thieves through a variety of missions similar to what they’ve done in the past, but with a variety of new end goals keeps them on their toes, even if it feels like we’re walking down a familiar path as before.
I’m glad to say that the gameplay feels great, mostly. Feeling like a mix between Valkyria Chronicles and the Fire Emblem series, fans of either franchise will feel right at home here. Movement feels excellent, giving players the chance to essentially free-roam through the map as long as they stay within the allotted amount of movement space that their character can use.
Once I found my perfect spot, hiding out behind a conveniently placed bit of cover, I was allowed to use one of three attacks. If I wanted to get up close and personal with the Legionnaires, the main enemy I encountered in my playtime, I could use a standard Melee attack to send them careening backward and bouncing off the environment. If I wanted to keep my distance and stay behind my wall of cover, I could brandish a gun and pepper my foes with a few shots. Or, if I wanted the most flair and I had the SP to back it up, I could unleash my Persona to damage my enemies with a variety of different elemental attacks.
Each enemy type that I’ve encountered has its own strengths and weaknesses, so pushing through battles and finding them out is important. Once an enemy had been knocked down, I was granted an extra turn, giving me plenty of extra movement throughout the map and an immediate advantage. From here, I could continue to lay into them with familiar attacks, or I could unlock the potential of the newest version of an All-Out attack: the Triple Threat.
By strategically placing my squad around a downed enemy, I could unleash a massive attack that caused plenty of damage to anything in its path, granting an almost guaranteed victory. That is, until a new squad of enemies appeared to thwart my plans.
The tactical gameplay feels familiar, yet fresh in its own way. It feels like a great entry into the world of tactics gameplay for those unfamiliar with the formula, as I could hand the controller off to my wife, and she could pick it up quickly. However, for those hoping to dive deeper into the depths that wait for them and find out ways to dominate the battlefield in the most effective way possible, there is depth beyond what immediately lies on the surface.
At the start of each mission, I was given a list of tasks I needed to complete to earn a full 3-star ranking, the best that there is. Depending on the particular mission I was engaged in, it would range from beating each mission in less than a set number of turns to ensuring that the whole party made it to a particular point without letting someone take damage. It’s a fun way to add some extra replayability to each mission that you encounter.
However, I’m missing the full-on Persona experience. After each mission, you’re returned to your hideout. At least during my time with the game, there was no free-roaming aspect, something that I grew to cherish with my time in the world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Strangely, one of the most iconic parts of the newer Persona series is not here, especially since it would have fit incredibly well. There’s no option to speak to individual team members while in your hideout, just a set of specific talking points that arise within your menu.
I’m hoping as I progress further through the game, the ability to speak with the team that I’ve spent countless hours with will arise, but I’m not sure if my dreams will be answered here. The writing during these particular moments is full of wit and charm, as they are in any of the other Persona 5 spin-off titles, but it feels slightly lacking. However, only having the chance to partake in 15 missions is just the beginning of this tale, so I could be surprised down the line.
Overall, my time with Persona 5 Tactica has me more excited than I originally anticipated I would be. The gameplay feels familiar, yet fresh, and the general world being built around me is so far, rather interesting. I’ll be intrigued to see where things continue to go from here, and I’m eager to dive in further and find out the intentions of Marie and her Legionnaires. The new additions to the cast feel right at home here, and I hope I get the chance to build up a proper relationship with them later in the game. Tactics fans, this is one that you should keep on your radar.