The Persona games achieved mainstream popularity with Persona 3‘s release on PlayStation 2 in 2006. This is where the franchise distinguished itself from Shin Megami Tensei and developed its signature gameplay style. Persona 4 took it even further and found tremendous success, which was then eclipsed by Persona 5‘s massive popularity.
Persona 5‘s success was so impactful that it spawned a diverse range of spin-off games in various genres, including a rhythm game (Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight), a dungeon crawler (Persona Q2), and a Musou action game (Persona 5 Strikers). It even received an anime adaptation. Its influence was so immense that Joker, the protagonist, became the first DLC character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Persona 5 seems like it could explore almost any genre, and the results would likely be intriguing. With Persona 5 Tactica, the Phantom Thieves find themselves caught in a political revolution, unfolding through a strategy RPG that takes cues from X-COM and Mario + Rabbids games. Does this foray into tactical RPG territory pan out? Find out in this Persona 5 Tactica review!
Persona 5 Tactica
Developer: P-Studio, Atlus
Publisher: Sega, Atlus
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: November 17, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
Persona 5 Tactica‘s story unfolds in a new metaverse divided into three kingdoms. Trapped and unable to escape, Joker and the Phantom Thieves find themselves thrust into a struggle for freedom. In the first kingdom, they meet the tireless freedom fighter Erina and rescue Toshiro Kasukabe, a Diet member who vanished from the real world.
Toshiro’s imprisonment in the metaverse holds a hidden connection to the kingdoms’ corrupt rulers, each echoing aspects of his real-world life. However, Erina and Toshiro can’t win alone. Only with the Phantom Thieves’ help can they liberate the kingdoms and unlock the secrets that might lead them all home.
Everything hinges on Toshiro and Erina in Persona 5 Tactica‘s story. Joker and the gang get no characterization after their reunion, leaving their personalities static throughout. Compared to Persona 5‘s thematic depth, the plot feels surprisingly bare and struggles to justify its RPG length. Brace yourself for frequent bouts of tedious, over-explained dialogue that could’ve been streamlined to a fraction of its runtime.
Bloated and overwritten though it may be, Tactica‘s story offers a gripping exploration of personal growth for both Toshiro and Erina. These two complex characters form the narrative’s emotional core, fueling the story’s heartfelt moments and anchoring players’ investment.
Remarkably, Toshiro is the oldest protagonist in a Persona game, and his position as the series’ oldest lead offers a fresh perspective. The writers balance his comedic moments with genuine vulnerability, reminding the players that beneath the laughs lies a character grappling with deep-seated emotional struggles and unbelievable expectations throughout his entire life.
Toshiro won’t be doing much of the battling since he is a flabby politician and relies on Erina to do his dirty work. Erina proves to be a very capable addition to the gang despite not having a persona and she manages to keep up with Joker and the gang.
Tactica is a strategy-turn-based RPG but with a bigger emphasis on tactics and not a lot of role-playing or epic adventuring. The entire game revolves around map-based battles and waging wars with your fixed team of three against diverse enemy forces, including legionnaires and puzzle-like encounters with cunning bosses.
The battle system is deep with how factors can affect the tide of war. Elevation and enemy position are everything and sometimes risking safe cover to push a foe out of cover can lead to a winning move. Several aspects of the cover-based gameplay have taken liberal inspiration from the Mario + Rabbids games, especially the UI, cover mechanics, and how status effects work.
Unlike Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, Tactica offers little world-building and lacks the environmental exploration found in other Persona titles. There’s no roaming around in dungeons, exploring towns with unique characters, or uncovering hidden secrets.
While there are strategic battlefields designed for tactical engagement, the world mainly exists as 2D backdrops or maps, lacking the immersive atmosphere and sense of connection between locations that the Palaces in Persona 5 achieved. After a while, the constant string of battles becomes exhausting.
The other Persona 5 games had other aspects to the game giving it variety. The social links added a time management aspect to the game since players could only do so much in a single day. Having to weigh options and plan gave the experience a lot of depth and was a great way to facilitate role-playing. Tactica is very streamlined and has none of this.
Equipment for the party is limited to just their firearms. The only other form of customization is the sub personas which function like they always have, but now everyone bar Erina can equip them. Overall there is less customization over the party and there is almost no use for money apart from buying guns or personas.
Tactica is very stripped down compared to other Persona 5 games, and even compared to the Mario + Rabbids games which were aimed at kids. This game needed to have more going on than just battles.
Toshiro is a politician and the developers never thought to come up with a National Diet voting minigame like in the first Disgaea. There was potential for a city-raising sim where players could boost stats or gear from the workers in the kingdoms. Instead, everything is relegated to the velvet room for money that has almost no purpose.
Cutting Goro and Kasumi and relegating them to a separate DLC episode was a mistake since the main game of Tactica can become tiring. Repaint Your Heart has unique scenarios and gameplay tweaks that make it different from Tactica if the chapters between both games were to alternate, there would have been much-needed variety.
The popping new art style thrives in its zoomed-out perspective, and the soundtrack continues the series’ tradition of infectious songs. However, be prepared for nothing but intricate turn-based skirmishes. While the scenarios, mechanics, and maps excel as far as strategy RPGs go, it’s hard to ignore the lack of variety, creating a constant state of strategic pressure with little room to breathe.
Persona 5 Tactica was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a copy purchased by Nichegamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Persona 5 Tactica is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.