Persona 5 Tactica (Switch) Review
Sometimes it can be hard to remember how many Persona spin-off games there have been accompanying each main title (and yes, of course, Persona being a spin-off in itself). Joker and the Phantom Thieves have been dancing, dungeon crawling and more. This time, it’s returning to turn-based, with a strategy RPG spin in Persona 5 Tactica.
Tactica is set a year following the events of the main title. The story starts with the disappearance of a Diet Politician Toshiro, The Phantom Thieves wind up getting trapped in a castle within a space similar to the Metaverse. Not only are they trapped, but the immediately evil demon Lady Marie manages to capture and hypnotise most of the crew, with Joker and Morganna rescued by a mystery rebel. What’s left of the Phantom Thieves join forces with the mysterious revolutionary Erina; the leader of the Rebel Corps, to rescue the Phantom Thieves and to help liberate this mysterious kingdom. Tactica’s story keeps to similar themes of the Persona games, with Kingdoms and bosses being manifestations of people’s subconscious, and continues to touch on Persona 5’s focus on freedom. The story is simple, but it is enjoyable and more importantly, it’s a little more time with the loveable cast of Persona 5. I have played through many hours of Persona spin-off stories and I hope to play through many more (please also give us the dancing games on the Switch!).
As with most of the Persona games (especially the spin-offs), there is a fair amount of dialogue between the action. But without it, would it be a Persona game? Atlus still manage to keep the personality of the Phantom Thieves intact, even when the plot tends to focus on Erina and Toshiro. The new characters have enough personality, and having a Politician who disapproves of the Phantom Thieves gives the group someone to bounce off their rebellious and funny lines. Of course not just the Thieves returning, how could you have a Persona game without the Velvet Room?! For Tactica, they have changed your ability to equip multiple Persona, with the Phantom Thieves all having their signature Persona. You can still earn, collect and even fuse other Persona creatures, though now these are equipped as sub-Persona. They allow you to add a different elemental attack as well as potentially carrying passive buffs.
While we’ve had Persona 5 take on the rhythm game form, Musou form, and a return to the Etrian Odyssey genre. Now it’s time for Joker and the crew to tackle the tactical role-playing genre. If you’ve played XCOM or the Rabbids + Mario games (or Valkyria Chronicles), then you’ll have some idea how it plays. Your party has a turn to control each of your three team members on the field, limited by their movement range. The goal can be to take out all the enemies, a target, or it could just be to escape the area with one or more of your team. You’ll need to think strategically about keeping your team behind cover while trying to get the enemy out of hiding, as the enemies are often hiding out behind something. Because it’s Persona, you can use a melee attack, your ranged weapon or your Persona.
Some mechanics have returned from the main series. One More Shot and All Out Attacks (or Triple Threat attacks) are vital to doing major damage to the enemy and keeping your turn going. If you get a critical hit on an enemy, then you not only have another turn, but your range of movement increases. Be cautious though, enemies can also land a critical on your squad and do some real damage if they get a chain going. Triple Threat Attacks in Tactica involve all three members being in a triangle formation, with at least one downed enemy in the middle. Everything within the range of the triangle is going to take plenty of damage, along with the All Out Attack animation. The Tactical RPG part of the Tactica might not be the deepest compared to some veterans of the genre, but it stays true to the Persona take on this kind of game. I can’t see it working in any other way than the approach they took. The game pushes you to complete the missions in a certain amount of turns, and it keeps the flow of the game moving at a decent pace.
The story progresses through tackling the next mission, often with a warning you’ll be progressing the story. These missions can be multi-part stages as the story unfolds. In between missions, you can sometimes take on Quests. Quests are kind of like Momento requests, as in they can be time-limited side quests. I found the Quests to be one of the more memorable parts of the game, while simultaneously being the most frustrating. Quests are essentially puzzle stages, asking you to do a very specific objective within a minimal time. Early ones can be about wiping out all enemies within two turns or getting across a stage in one turn. The first was the most frustrating as it appears to be non-skippable and significantly ramps up what’s expected of you instantly. As much as I swore and replayed the same Quest, they really made me think about how to use the game’s mechanics to solve a puzzle that initially appeared impossible.
Within the Kingdoms, there are at least three different enemy types. You have your normal soldier, heavies and support/boost, and each is clear in their functions. It often comes down to rushing to stop the support drummers as they can heal their allies or extend their range of movement. Or there’s taking out the Heavies, as they can hit hard and will counter your attacks unless you can knock them out in one go. It’s conflicting for me with the more limited enemy types here. You don’t want so many different units filling out the stage, all requiring different approaches. Tactica keeps it straightforward and changes up the mission objectives in ways that require you to be efficient and keep on the move, and too many variations would slow that down. It’s still a shame to lose the variety you see more of in the main titles.
Persona Tactica’s art style resembles the Persona Q games, with the Thieves having a slightly chibi-fied look. It continues to work for Tactica, with that usual Persona style still present too. It looks like you’d expect a Persona game to look, and it’s still stylish in the ways you’d expect.
Another thing about Persona is the great music throughout, it’s catchy and gets you bopping along. Tactica has still got it, even the stylised versions of more familiar tunes are nice to have playing as you work through the conversations between missions.
Tactica runs well on the Switch, the stages aren’t too extravagant so they don’t exactly push the system to the limit. The performance is fine, even though the turn-based nature would keep it from mattering that much. Sometimes the loads can feel long, leaving you waiting for the loading screen animation to play out.
Persona 5 Tactica is a game for Persona fans front and centre, and tactical RPG fans too, I guess. As always, it’s nice to spend time with the Phantom Thieves again, as it was across Persona 4 and its multiple spin-offs. By now, it’s pretty common for these spin-offs to be very text-heavy, which can be divisive depending on what you expect from your Persona games. Personally, I find these continuations of the main game to be like comfort food, with the added bonus of getting to see ATLUS’ approach to the genre they’re tackling. There are a lot of fun interactions between the Phantom Thieves here, as well as many missions to fight through. If you want a little more time with Joker and the crew, then Tactica should be a welcome addition to your games collection.
+ The Phantom Thieves are still a joy to spend hours and hours with
+ The Tactical RPG part is solid and is a bit more approachable than similar games
- Not enough enemy designs
- Loading screens can take a while