I got swept into the world of tactical gameplay when I first got my hands on Valkyria Chronicles back on my PlayStation 3 when its unique graphical style caught my eye. It’s a genre that has grown on me over the years and reached an all-time fever when I first played through Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Its Persona-styled social system and the ability to roam through the castles I had called home made me think of a fully-fledged Persona tactics game. That’s when I thought my dreams had been answered. However, it’s strange to think that a Fire Emblem game felt more like Persona than Persona 5 Tactica does.
Scream, Aim, and Fire
If you’re a fan of this particular type of gameplay, then Persona 5 Tactica is going to be at least a Game Pass download for you. The general action on the field feels fantastic, drawing comparisons to both of the games I mentioned above. Free-roam within a confined space, ala Valkyrie Chronicles, alongside the general tactical feel of games like Fire Emblem, allows Persona 5 Tactica to form its personality while also falling into the comfort food category of a well-trodden genre.
Persona 5 Tactica takes place in the Metaverse, as the Phantom Thieves have been once again sucked into a new world full of less-than-familiar faces. While the general story-beats are walking a thin line between familiar and new, the unique setting feels great and the art style employed here makes the game feel more like Persona Q 3 than any of the other numerous spin-offs.
I enjoyed the on-foot action that Persona 5 Tactica brings to the table. The general gameplay feels stellar and acts much more like a standard Persona game than I initially anticipated. Finding and creating a team made up of my favorite characters from the base Persona 5 roster, I could quickly take to the battlefield and start wiping the floor with these new enemies. Finding and exploiting their weaknesses was always a joy, even if the variety of enemies isn’t up to snuff with your standard Persona games.
With this particular entry, I found that I could select whomever I would like to be in my party at any time. While Joker may be the main character in the main game, he can sit on the sidelines so I could create the perfect party of three to take to the field and exact my unique form of justice. Persona powers, as to be expected, are available in full force here and play an essential part in the overall team structure. Since my enemies had complete control of the battlefield at any given time, I found it easy to weed out the weaklings while focusing all the fire on the biggest and worst enemies that awaited me.
Alongside the Persona in the party, the ability to use a Baton Pass to bring a teammate onto the field in case of an emergency or when I found that one of my characters was too weak to continue the fight was an exciting way to keep the action flowing. If I lost one of my characters during a boss battle, for instance, I could use the Baton Pass feature to bring in a different character to help even out the battlefield once again.
Alongside weaknesses that I could exploit against my enemies, the ability to do Knock-Down attacks, Triple Threat attacks that played out like All-Out Attacks from the mainline entry, and more provided a fresh take on the tactics that may have otherwise grown stale. It’s an easily accessible game for players of all skill levels, with various difficulty options available to make sure that anyone can jump in and have fun.
These unique little touches added that great Persona flair I’ve known and loved for years. The general gameplay is a blast; finding and exploiting weaknesses felt great, and the little touches made sure I remembered that I was in the world of the Phantom Thieves. It’s a shame that the rest of the game doesn’t live up to the rest of that Persona charm.
Social Studies Don’t Exist In This World
In a post-Fire Emblem: Three Houses world, it’s hard to think of a Persona tactics game without comparing them. In Three Houses, I navigated through sprawling castles, interacting with my students, forming romantic bonds with them, and eventually falling in love with them. I could make friends, enemies, and anything in between, much like the series from which it took plenty of inspiration. Unfortunately, none of those features are here.
Much like Persona 5, most cutscenes take place with static images speaking, while the appearance of a fully acted cutscene is a nice little treat to break up the presentation. As expected, the soundtrack is also a greatest hits compilation of all of the best tracks from the main game, while it could have used a little more variety. One particularly offensive bit was during the Persona fusions, where Lavenza would repeat the same lines of dialogue any time you entered or exited a menu.
You’re in for a purely tactical experience here, and that feels like a huge swing and a miss. Persona has always been about forming friendships, bonds, Social Links, and everything in between. Sure, if I were comparing Tactica to Persona 1 and 2, where these features didn’t exist, it would make more sense. The newer age of Persona, however, does feature these types of gameplay elements, and they really could have helped flesh out the new world that the Phantom Thieves have found themselves in.
Everything within this world is relatively straightforward, lacking replayability to the entire package. Jumping into the world of Persona is always exciting due to the social systems that Atlus has worked toward building and turning into a main draw for the franchise. It feels like a step backward when the competition makes a more Persona-esque game than its parent company. It feels like a missed opportunity to sprinkle in little nods to the more social elements throughout the story, all while giving the player little chance to build upon them.
Maybe they’re expecting that you’ve already played through the main story of Persona 5, and you’re continuing to build upon your headcannon of who the main character has chosen to love? I can’t say for sure, but the lack of free roam worldwide, and Social Links feels like a step backward compared to other titles that offer these features in the same genre.
Plenty of Meat And Potatoes, But Not Many Side Dishes
If you’re jumping into this world expecting a fully-fledged Persona experience, you may walk away disappointed. However, I jumped in excited for the Tactical gameplay and left satisfied, for the most part. Boss fights steal the show here alongside the challenging yet rewarding puzzle sequences that take part, particularly in the form of side missions. While you may not get the chance to build the relationships like you did in previous Persona games, you can still interact with other members of the team in new ways.
During the game’s opening hours, you’re introduced to new characters, bosses, and worlds. They’re just as exciting as the mainline games, and finding the unique gimmick that makes the bosses tick is always a blast. It makes me wish there were more of them available during the main story rather than delegated to a separately purchasable DLC campaign that introduces more characters that I grew to love during my Persona 5 playthroughs.
If you’ve fallen in love with this particular brand of tactics gameplay, you’ll be eager to jump back into the story once you have completed it. However, with a lack of choices that matter, the lack of Social Links that you can master, and the general one-and-done feeling of battles, you may find yourself in the same boat as me and retire Persona 5 Tactica to the sidelines once you complete the main story once. The replayability mainly comes from the different difficulties, alongside the need to get three stars in your missions by completing specific challenges. There aren’t many choices you can make that will change the story, much like Persona 5 Strikers.
If you’re anything like me, and you’ve been looking for a wonderful tactical game with a bit of Persona flair, then Persona 5 Tactica is the game for you. The on-field action feels fantastic and fits right in with the genre’s giants. However, the things that make a Persona game… well, a Persona game are not here, making it fall slightly short of its inspirations.
It feels like a missed opportunity and could have been so much more, even if the core gameplay is fantastic to play and control. If you’re a fan of Persona, then it’s something you should at least consider giving a try, even if it may be time for the Phantom Thieves to retire into a quieter life altogether, finally.
Persona 5 Tactica
If you're anything like me, and you've been looking for a wonderful tactical game with a bit of Persona flair, then Persona 5 Tactica is the game for you. The on-field action feels fantastic and fits right in with the giants of the genre. However, the things that make a Persona game... well, a Persona game are not here, making it fall slightly short of its inspirations.
- Bright and colorful world
- Accessible tactics gameplay
- Creative bosses breathe life into the game
- Generic enemies lose their luster quickly
- Not much general replay value beyond new difficulty levels
- No free roam/social links diminsh the Phantom Thieves to their most basic forms
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on Xbox Series X