Persona 5 was the first game of a few that opened the doors to the JRPG genre for me. The genre is now practically the only thing I play in my downtime, and I don’t think it will ever be lower than number one on my list of favorite genres.
I played Persona 5 in 2019, which feels like a lifetime ago at this point, and it ended up being one of my favorite games of all time. The enhanced version of Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal, came out in early 2020, and to cut a 90-hour journey of a lifetime down to a sentence: it’s now definitively my all-time favorite game.
All of these adventures with the Persona 5 cast were great, and I was always open to another one, which I got the chance to see with Persona 5 Strikers. I didn’t exactly fall in love with Strikers. While it’s a great game with some fantastic gameplay and characters, it didn’t come at the perfect time for me. After Strikers, I was pretty sure I was ready to move onto the next Persona game.
Then Persona 5 Tactica was announced earlier this year. It looked great, but I couldn’t really get invested in the lead-up to it because Persona 3 Reload is just around the corner — and that looks so good! But, after playing Persona 5 Tactica through to completion, I’m here to tell you one thing…
Persona 5 Tactica is amazing.
Persona 5 Tactica is nothing short of a masterpiece Strategy RPG, with innovative gameplay, and a fantastic story tying it all together. The style of Persona 5 shines through, and with its new ideas and subsequent great execution, it’s become one of my favorite SRPGs and an easy contender for GOTY — in a year with no end to GOTY contenders.
The gameplay of an SRPG is one of the main things you need to get right, and a lot of modern SPRGs from Fire Emblem to XCOM generally have incredibly satisfying gameplay. Persona 5 Tactica is no different in this regard, having a focus on unit movement, smaller encounters instead of massive maps, and using cover to avoid attacks. But those key mechanics and new ideas make it stand out from the crowd.
Where Persona 5 Tactica differentiates itself is through a couple of small changes and implementation of Persona 5’s base mechanics. The main differentiation is the general loop of combat. Much like other Persona games, the combat loop is about knocking down enemies and getting “One More” attack after that. You do this by attacking enemies while they’re out of cover, among other things, and once they’re down, they feed into the new form of All-Out Attack for this game, which is the Triple Threat ability.
Triple Threat is a fantastic addition to the combat, it makes unit positioning and making sure your units are using their actions in the most efficient way the key focus of dealing some major damage. How you do a Triple Threat is pretty simple in theory, you need to form a triangle around a downed enemy with the three units you take into battle. What it becomes when you get deeper into the game and learn the game’s systems is a minigame on how many enemies you can fit into this field. Which leads to you wanting to position units in various different positions, and not using their actions immediately, to get the most satisfying Triple Threat attack. It’s an addictive loop, and one I still hadn’t mastered when I beat the game with 20 hours of playtime.
The One More system deserves another shoutout, too, as it makes the combat feel incredibly fast and fluid, while making you think about the actions you’re taking with your units — deciding whether or not to get that One More with Joker, Makoto, or maybe even Yusuke, to get the best out of the position you’re in. There are quite a few different quests, which are the side content you can do between missions, that use this mechanic to an incredible degree that feels like you’re experiencing the AAA Uncharted set-piece of the SRPG world.
Run, Run, Run!
The other element of combat that makes it flow so well is the movement you get within combat scenarios. On the surface, it isn’t much different from something like Fire Emblem, where you have your unit take a turn and move across the map within a predefined area of movement thanks to a stat. The difference in Persona 5 Tactica is that you can move a unit, and stay there, without committing to an action. This is where the earlier point about Triple Threats flourishes into a perfect harmony of a gameplay loop.
Thanks to this, you can down one enemy with Joker, then move Joker as far in one direction as possible, while hopefully continuing to down enemies, and then use the other two members of your party to try and get the biggest Triple Threat that you can, without worrying about wasting a turn for either of the other two party members and leaving them in a bad position or out of cover.
This also makes smaller things like puzzles on the map and even getting around units on the map a lot easier. You can just move a unit that has an action out of the way for another unit to pass, or have a unit step on a switch without having used their entire turn up. It’s genuinely something I think I want in every SRPG after this. It’s probably not the first to do it, but it’s the first I’ve seen, and now I want it in everything.
Beneath the Mask
The game wouldn’t be Persona without the titular personas, and they’re an interesting addition to Persona 5 Tactica. How the persona system works is that you equip a sub-persona, along with the base persona you start with. This means you finally get to use your starting persona for the entire game, which is something I’ve always wanted. What this system also allows is for other people to use a sub-persona, meaning you can really get into the nitty-gritty about building characters with certain playstyles.
For example, I used Makoto throughout the entire game, and her skill range is pretty short compared to some other characters, but equipping a sub-persona on her allowed her to use skills like Agi/Maragion which have a higher skill range. These sub-personas also come with stats attached, meaning you will be equipping new ones as the game progresses, and trying to get the best ones that suit what you’re doing with a certain character. To use my Makoto example from earlier, Makoto was my melee character, and I always had a sub-persona equipped to her with a high melee damage bonus.
To another world
The story of Persona 5 Tactica is no slouch, either, bringing about some of my favorite moments in games this year, and for the past few. There were moments that got me out of my seat, moments that made me laugh, and some that made me cry.
The new characters are highlights, too, with Erina and Toshiro’s chemistry with the group being fantastic, and as expected, the returning characters are great as always. There are even moments in Persona 5 Tactica that bring characters from the base game who had a bit less going on narratively to the forefront, and while it isn’t much, between this and Strikers doing the same, it really helps those characters shine a little more than they did in the original Persona 5/Royal.
While I won’t go into it much in this review, because you should really play this game and see it for yourself, it’s one of my favorite stories of the year with immaculate moments all throughout.
Have a Short Rest
Between missions in Persona 5 Tactica, you’ll be treated to a few options for what you can do: you can simply continue the main story, equip your party with the best gear and sub-personas, complete quests that grant you some nice rewards, or have talks with your party. The quests are a great way to earn GP for your skill tree, which is something you can also upgrade between missions.
The skill tree system in Persona 5 Tactica is layered and feels like a neat way to build your characters to your desired preference. You can choose to only select skills that increase certain attributes of the gameplay, meaning you can build into some absolutely broken builds. My Ann build, for example, was heavily specced into recovering SP thanks to some skills combined with my sub-persona passive ability, and while using Agidyne and Maragidyne, I had about 80% SP for the entirety of every fight.
I mentioned earlier about Makoto’s skill range being a bit shorter than my other units, but there’s a skill you can unlock that increases your skill range by one, and stuff like that. It’s a neat system that you can invest time into, or let the game assign skills for you if you’re not into that! You can even reset/unlearn your skills at any point, as many times as you like, if you think another option would be better.
The talks you can do between missions are also really nice. They can give insight into certain parts of the story, characters, and the world, or they can be fun anecdotal slice-of-life skits with the crew. Great fun all-round.
Break it Down
I played Persona 5 Tactica on PC, and on my pretty middle-of-the-line PC, it ran at a smooth 144fps at 1440p the entire way. I’m not an incredibly knowledgeable person when it comes to seeing frame rate and performance hiccups, but Persona 5 Tactica ran flawlessly for me to the point of amazement at how smooth it was — in particular, the menus. They’re so smooth!
Graphically, the game is sublime, too, with the style of Persona 5 once again coming through in the menus and transitions. The cutscenes are gorgeous as well, and Atlus’ cutscene direction is off the charts, for me only rivaled with Monolith Soft for their expertise in crafting amazing cutscenes. I should also mention here that the English dub for this game is phenomenal, as to be expected from Persona 5.
As mentioned earlier, the game took me 20 hours to beat fully. This was with doing most of the quests presented to me if they had rewards for my current party or backups, and doing all of the talks. This length could probably differ depending on what difficulty you play the game on, as some fights take around 10 minutes, and others would take around 30.
I also want to make a note here about the music, which is also fantastic. But if I’m being honest, it’d be more of a shock if the music wasn’t stellar. My favorite tracks in Persona 5 Tactica were the tracks you hear in the downtime and talking scenes, with myself having to just stop what I was doing to listen to the fantastic music playing in the background. The Persona 5 sub-series continues to have some of the best music in the industry.
Life Will Change
In conclusion, Persona 5 Tactica is an immaculate game that seamlessly adapts the style and feel of Persona 5 into an SRPG. The focus on smaller maps and encounters, combined with the One More/Triple Threat system and movement you’re allowed in combat, really make this feel like a unique SRPG entry and something I’d love to see Atlus make more often. With a compelling story, fantastic characters, and incredible style, it’s hard to offer anything but endless praise for Persona 5 Tactica.