Persona 5 Tactica Review – Stylishly Stealing Hearts

Persona 5 Tactica on Xbox

Persona 5 Tactica is launching in November on every platform imaginable. This means no player will miss out on this stylish tactical adventure. As a spin-off title, P5T is set after the events of Persona 5. We start in the coffee shop until we are thrust into another dimension by some strange phenomena. Soon the Phantom Thieves must figure out what has happened to the world as they know it. What exactly are these fiendish enemies who seem to be attacking them from all corners? And who is the mysterious Elina?

I came to this game as a newbie with no expectations (high or low) about Persona 5 Tactica. I knew I was in for a treat, however, when a John Milton quote flashed up upon loading. “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven”. Perhaps this is not the basic tactical anime game I thought it would be?

As a noob, I could’ve been confused about the P5T plot and characters but thankfully this wasn’t the case. The initial scenes at the cafe introduce each of the Thieves, giving away clues to their personalities through delightful banter. It becomes clear that this little gang have been through some trying times in the past. They are obviously looking to enjoy some peace and quiet but that peace doesn’t last for long, of course.

persona 5 tactica promo image 5
Image Credit: SEGA

The first thing that struck me about the general style of Persona 5 Tactica was how bold the graphics are. It is like being transported straight into a comic book. As the game begins it is clear P5T has a smart and engaging script. The conversations can be pretty long at times but they don’t get boring thanks to the camp and dramatic anime styling. If you cannot stand long cutscenes, and want to get straight to the action, then you are given the option to fast forward in the bottom right corner. I honestly recommend not skipping them though as you miss out on the marvelous plot and funny quips. This skip option is particularly useful, however, if you accidentally start a conversation again.

The story itself doesn’t seem to be too entwined with previous games. If it is connected I haven’t felt like I am missing out on any context. Character backstories are linked to past titles but you’re given subtle contextual clues as you play. So there is no urgent need to play any Persona games before starting this one. One great thing about playing P5T is that if you enjoy getting to know the thieves and their abilities then you will almost certainly feel like you want to delve into previous titles. Meeting the original Phantom Thieves of Hearts was a joy. Each of them are distinct with their own personality, skills, and a supernatural power called a ‘persona’ which we learn more of as we play through the early stages.

During a bit of a story set up we see The Phantom Thieves are transported somehow into another world of ‘kingdoms’, taken over by a tyrannical leader. Here we meet the Legionnaires, a group of brainwashed enemies following the orders the main antagonist, Marie. The Phantom Thieves must fight off the mysterious Legionnaires in this new world using their weapons and personas.

I soon realized, after a bit of a fight with the Legionnaires, that these ‘personas’ are kind of like manifestations of each character’s soul. They can use the power within them to fight off the enemy at the cost of their skill points (SP). As I am entirely new to this whole concept it struck me as surprisingly spiritual for a fun tactical game!

The battle gameplay is a lot of fun. You navigate a grid with the three characters at your disposal and use boxes to shield you from attacks as you fire ranged weapons. As mentioned above, personas use up skill points (SP) so they should be used wisely; this is all part of using strategy to your advantage! If you use the right attack to weaken the Legionnaire, you are granted the use of the ‘1 More’ action which gives you an extra strike at the enemy player. One of my favorite features during combat is when you can move your characters into a triangle formation and use the ‘Triple Threat’ move with devastating consequences for the enemy.

The skill tree is not too complicated and uses Game Points (GP) as an upgrade currency. These are earned by completing quests and passing stages with full stars. This basically means that the better you do, the higher ranked skills you can obtain. The best thing is that you can get GP back by swapping skills out if you want to try something else. Each character has their own Game Points to spend on their skill tree so you also don’t have to worry about choosing which one to level up first.

The Phantom Thieves personas are fun to play about with and as you progress you get to discover more of what they can do. It is also useful that members available for your party are introduced slowly, giving you time to learn how to use each one properly. As a strategy noob I am new to the grid-based map and turn-based style battles but found them highly enjoyable. It doesn’t take long to pick it up but that doesn’t mean it is easy! There was one fight where my noob skills would only take me so far and I just couldn’t clear the stage. I was relieved to discover you can switch between difficulties if faced with a tough round of enemies. The devs clearly want you to prioritize fun.

persona 5 tactica promo 3
Image Credit: SEGA

Part of the strategy means choosing the best three allies into take into battle through each stage, and equipping them with the best weapons and personas you have. Choosing who to take becomes really important as they each have their own skills. Some prefer close combat while others can use longer range powers. The aim of each stage is to eliminate enemies as quickly as possible to get three stars and the best rewards. If you plan and strategize correctly each battle can be really satisfying. Switching between using a gun or a persona is fun and really adds to the strategy element. I’m not the best strategy gamer but I don’t feel that matters with Persona 5 Tactica. Each early stage is designed to subtly teach you how to play, giving you the opportunity to see how each attack works.

Each stage is interspersed with interactive scenes in the gang’s base. This is where you get to know any new characters and take some time to upgrade weapons and skills. The introduction of each new character is done in a way that isn’t jarring or confusing. When we meet Erina, the leader of another vigilante group, The Rebel Corps, she fits right into our little group. As each character has the same goal of justice and freedom, the group soon feels like they have always worked together. They encourage each other and of course the Phantom Thieves are ready to hep Erina take back what is hers!

The addition of the Velvet Room, where players get to create sub-personas, is another a great break from the action. It is pretty fun to see what new skills you can create, too. At no point does the game feel repetitive or dull, and there is plenty of variety between gameplay and cutscenes.

I’m not going to give much away here about the story because it is best to enjoy it as it unfolds. Let’s just say it is camp, surprising, and so much fun! It is clear Persona 5 Tactica was created for both old and new players alike, and I for one am grateful for that. I look forward to seeing what else the Persona series has to offer.

Persona 5 Tactica

Reviewer: Rowan Jones

Award: Editor’s Choice