The Persona series is best known for its rich storytelling and deep exploration of the human condition. This isn’t clear on the surface, but when you take a second to dig deep into the series, you’ll find hidden meanings and constant reminders of what it means to be human, for better or for worse.
Reminders of what it feels like to grow up, lose someone you love, overcome challenges, and become a better form of yourself. I’ve always appreciated the Persona games for exploring such sensitive topics, but I’ve especially appreciated the fact that it encourages the players to see themselves in the characters who they’re venturing on the journey with.
I’ve never really been a massive fan of spin-offs, as it presents the feeling of a studio trying to make a quick buck off their fan base. This is why I was worried about Persona 5 Tactica, a spin-off of a game that some would argue was one of the best JRPGs of the past decade. It is not only a spin-off but one that will enter an entirely different genre — a tactical strategy RPG. Was it going to be underwhelming and passionless?
It turns out I had no reason to worry since Persona 5 Tactica has one of the best stories out of the entire series: one that will explore the human condition to a deeper level, tackle political agendas mirroring the world we live in, and grow your bond with these characters even further. Add on the fact that the strategy-based combat is addicting and downright fun, and you have a real winner. Persona 5 Tactica exceeds everything it sets out to do.
Join the Revolution! – Persona 5 Tactica Story
Persona 5 Tactica takes place shortly after the events of Persona 5 Royal, although I don’t find it too necessary to play the base game to understand it fully. Tactica focuses on the same group, adding a few new faces, getting dragged again into the metaverse with more questions than answers. Something is off with this new version of the metaverse, and it is up to Joker and friends to figure out what that is and how to escape back to the real world.
Throughout your journey in the metaverse, you’ll navigate different kingdoms and go up against political corruption that has taken over said kingdoms. Without the game saying out loud what countries they had in mind, it’s clear they are hinting towards specific locations such as North Korea and the lack of freedom its people endure on a daily basis. I found this especially eye-opening, reminding me how lucky I have it and thinking of the real-world problems we have now in 2023. This is just one of many themes the story of Persona 5 Tactica tackles, really making you look at the life you have around you.
The story of Persona 5 Tactica is a coming-of-age one; there is no doubt about that. You will watch certain characters come to grips with the mistakes they have made in the past, learn how their actions can affect others, and, most importantly, overcome the mistakes and come out on the other end stronger. It was brilliant to watch on screen the new characters, especially Toshiro, mature mentally and discover how important it is to do the right thing and stand up for your beliefs.
On this road to discovery, they also learn the importance of sticking together and how a group of humans with one goal and a shared mindset can make a significant difference in the world. They show this powerful message to the player in more ways than one, but primarily through their objective of taking down the tyrannical leaders of the four kingdoms in the game — each of whom resembles a part of Toshiro’s life in the real world outside the metaverse. There’s a powerful message on full display of the little guy coming out on top and sticking it to the man.
Strategize and Repeat – Persona 5 Tactica Combat
Persona 5 Tactica has a solid combat system demanding the player to develop well-crafted strategies to overcome battles. I found myself taking upward of 10 minutes during turns to figure out how to maximize the most damage output in a single go, and each time, it was very rewarding. Figuring out ways to gain an extra turn and combos due to well-placed characters on the grid-like battlefield while managing SP (resource for casting spells) is mainly how players will spend their time through the 20-hour playthrough. For the series’ first time handling a tactical combat system, the game excels in more ways than one.
While the difficulty is easy, it can easily be changed due to the game allowing the player to increase it as often or as little as they need. Those new to tactical games should have no problem completing the game on the normal difficulty, maybe even breeze through it. I highly recommend that veterans of the genre play the game on a higher difficulty level, or else there may be no fun present throughout the playthrough.
While the combat in Persona 5 Tactica is rewarding and a good time, there’s no denying that it can start to feel repetitive. This is especially true in the later half of the game, where it seems that Atlus just added more combat encounters in order to make the game longer — a way to justify the 60-dollar price tag. These added extra hours don’t do the game justice and can make the ending feel like a chore. I felt my eyes roll in the last two hours as the game just threw more and more battles at me, each having no significant difference from the one I previously completed.
Outside of battle, players will have the opportunity to unlock new weapons and Personas to make their characters stronger. The weapon unlock system is simplistic, where you spend money to purchase ones with either higher damage output or a larger range. However, it does become more in-depth in the later half of the game, where the player unlocks the ability to fuse weapons and add special abilities to the ammo.
On the other hand, the Persona system is more complex from the get-go, where the player can fuse Personas to create unique ones with special abilities, allowing for many combinations. While I created many variations of Personas by using this system, I can’t wait to see what the community comes up with, as there are definitely more combinations out there.
Lastly, players have a skill tree that can be used to upgrade the maximum potential of the party members. It’s not the most in-depth skill tree, only really useful for raising SP and Persona attacks, but it’s a nice touch that makes it feel more like a JRPG and adds to the feeling of becoming stronger as you progress further into the game.
With these three ‘RPG’ mechanics, there’s a lot of planning and strategizing to be had outside of performing in battle, and I have a feeling that players will appreciate it overall. Still, it would have been nice to get a stronger sense of the importance of these upgrade systems, as their potential can be overlooked due to how easy some battles can be. However, I can only imagine the usefulness of each significantly increases when the player is on a higher difficulty level. To be transparent, I played on normal difficulty.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that the Persona 5 spin-off earns its merit and is warranted even to exist. Persona 5 Tactica is an excellent addition to the popular franchise, bringing a heartfelt story and an addicting tactical-based combat loop. The ending part overstays its welcome and becomes fairly repetitive, but that can be overlooked for all the positives the game brings to the table.
You’ll have a blast coming up with new strategies in combat and unlocking new weapons and Personas, but that fades into the background as the emotional and heartfelt story takes the front seat. You’ll start to genuinely feel for the newcomers such as Toshiro and Erina as they fight to overcome the corrupted leaders around them and learn the importance of standing up for what’s right. There are a lot of mature themes and life lessons in the Phantom Thieves’ latest adventure, each with a powerful message that makes Persona 5 Tactica shine in the best way.
- This article was updated on November 21st, 2023