It’s time for another round of everyone’s favourite game: “What random genre did Atlus make into a Persona spin off/sequel this week?”. The Persona 5 cast has now officially overtaken the Persona 4 cast in spin offs and sequels, starting off with the first-person dungeon crawler Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, then a rhythm game with Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, an enhanced version of the original game Persona 5: Royal, then following it up with a Musou style sequel to base Persona 5 in Persona 5: Strikers which is now no longer canon due to Royal releasing 3 months prior (RIP Sophia and Zenkichi; they will be missed) and now we have Persona 5 Tactica, an XCOM style tactical shooter and sequel to Persona 5: Royal.
Sometime between the end of the events of Persona 5: Royal but before the actual end credits sequence, The Phantom Thieves find themselves mysteriously transported into a strange alternate version of The Metaverse where Palaces are now referred to as Kingdoms and... not much else is really different, to be honest. Teaming up with Erina of the Rebel Corps, it is now up to The Phantom Thieves to take down the Kingdom’s tyrannical ruler and find a way back home.
The first thing you’ll notice about Persona 5 Tactica is its chibi art style. At first, I thought this would be to help it run on the Nintendo Switch better but then I remembered that Persona 5: Royal runs flawlessly on the console, so its entirely a stylistic choice and after playing, I can see why. The new art style allows the characters to become more expressive and dynamic than they were in prior games, which makes the visual novel style cutscenes flow better. I saw some characters have completely unique artwork for their talking sprites that only shows up once to help portray scenes better and I love that kind of effort in games.
But how does Persona 5 Tactica actually play? Well, the dev team actually incorporated the Persona playstyle into a tactical shooter pretty well. Each character can attack enemies in melee range to push them out of cover; shoot enemies when they’re out of cover to knock down an enemy and gain “One More’s” to continue their turn, which results in the entire team surrounding a knocked down enemy, allowing them to initiate an All-Out Attack on them, resulting in anyone caught in the crossfire; and, of course, it wouldn’t be a Persona game without being able to summon your Personas in battle, letting you attack enemies by ignoring their cover and possibly inflicting them with a status condition or various other effects.
- Artstyle is cute and expressive
- Mixes Persona 5’s mechanics into a tactical shooter relatively well
The transition to a tactical shooter was not entirely smooth. Both the Persona side and the tactical shooter side of Persona 5 Tactica had to be severely cut down to get things to work and as an XCOM veteran and a Persona fanboy, I can really feel the holes in the gameplay becoming intrusive. Let’s start with the Persona side first: leveling up does not matter outside of what Personas you can call upon in the Velvet Room; elemental strengths and weaknesses are completely removed; Light and Dark skills (aka Curse and Bless) have been changed to Despair and Dizzy respectively because having skills with a chance to insta-kill enemies in a tactical shooter would be overpowered and completely break the game’s focus on knocking out enemies and setting up All-Out Attacks; and all main cast Personas only get their single target spell, their AoE spell and either a buff, debuff or healing spell depending on the character while sub Personas only get two which heavily restricts your options in combat.
As for the tactical shooter side of things, the only mainstay elements of the genre that are present are cover and tile based movement. The most sorely missed aspect of the genre that wasn’t included here is the Flanking Bonus; for those of you not knowledgeable about the genre, whenever you manage to get around an enemy’s cover and flank them, you are typically given a bonus to your hit chance, your damage or your critical chance. If you flank an enemy, not only do you gain no strategic advantage, but the enemy is still considered behind cover and will resist the damage it’ll take. It feels like the dev team simply forgot to add the mechanic in because it would easily tie into Persona 5 Tactica’s playstyle of exploiting your enemies' carelessness in battle and ambushing them from all sides. Just have the flanking bonus be an automatic knockdown to lead into an All-Out Attack, easy!
Party size is also quite an issue here. With the inclusion of Erina as a new team member, you have a full team of nine people but can only bring in three team members for a mission. The game does incentivise swapping party members between missions but without any elemental strengths or weaknesses, there is no real reason to pick teams best suited for each mission; just have one team of your best party members and a second team with the runner ups while the last three stay as permanent benchwarmers. Increasing the party size from three to four would easily fix this problem.
Now, Persona as a whole tends to have some pretty strong writing; the main titles tend to knock it out of the park but notoriously, the spin offs/sequels are prone to fumbling a bit and Persona 5 Tactica is no exception. Very early on, you discover that everything is somehow tied to the other new character in the cast, the amnesiac Prime Minister in the running Toshiro. This makes the plot significantly less interesting whenever something new gets added to the mix; it becomes less “How does this recontextualise the story?” and more ”How does this tie back to this Toshiro?” and it makes the story feel suffocated, not giving it time nor space to breathe. Another thing that irks me is the writing’s constant need to repeat itself to make sure everyone understands what is going on. This is a common trope in Japanese media and is typically best suited for mystery stories. Persona 5 Tactica recaps its plot so much that it makes me feel like I’m watching Naruto.
I can’t believe I’m about to write this down but the music in Persona 5 Tactica is forgettable. I have put so many hours into this game, yet I cannot remember a single melody, hook or even lyric for any of the new songs. The vocal battle themes in particular feel like they’re so out of place in a game like this. If you can make a turn based RPG battle system feel alive and energetic with your music but can’t with a tactical shooter that shares a lot of fundamental elements, then something must’ve gone wrong in the production stage of the game.
Speaking of music, Persona 5 Tactica’s audio balance is just dreadful; the music is too loud and the voiceover is way too quiet. While playing, I had to go into the audio menu to lower the music volume by around 70% and max out the voiceover, and even then, some voice lines are still drowned out by the music.
- Extremely dumbed down mechanics for both a Persona game and a tactical shooter
- No flanking bonus
- Limited party size
- Writing is lacking the series’ usual charm
- Music is forgettable
- Audio balance is abysmal
Final Score: 4/10
Writing that score hurt me inside. I should not have this many negative things to say about a Persona game. I know I shouldn’t expect the heights of quality on these spin off/sequels, I’ve played most of the games in this franchise so I know what to expect, but I didn’t expect this. In short, Persona 5 Tactica is a subpar Persona game and barely a tactical shooter. I only recommend it to the most hardcore Persona fans but let’s face it, they’ll likely just watch someone stream it instead.
Psst, I’m streaming the game myself over at twitch.tv/jaxek15, come in and tell me my opinion is wrong ;)
Thank you for checking out our Persona 5 Tactica Switch review, thank you to Atlus (via Five Star Games PR) for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: