Persona 5 Tactica: Mixed Feelings on This Spinning Off
Persona 5 Royal is the kind of complete experience that left me wanting for nothing, and so I have some mixed feelings about its spinoff games. And Persona 5 Tactica, which moves the groovy action to a satisfying grid-based combat system, doesn’t fully succeed in making me feel the way the original, epic JRPG did. But still, it’s nice to get to see some of my favorite characters again. And Atlus’ combat designers have shown that their skill at making fast-paced, punchy battles that reward clever planning translates nicely to the turn-based tactics genre.
In terms of the timeline, Tactica takes place between the second and third semesters of Persona 5 Royal. And I definitely would not recommend picking it up if you haven’t played at least that far into the story. For one, the in-game encyclopedia contains some fairly huge spoilers for Royal. And for another, it doesn’t really spend much time introducing you to the characters or the concept of the otherworldly Metaverse. I can only imagine someone coming into this adventure with no previous Persona knowledge would wind up highly confused.
The Art Style
The art style took a little bit of warming up to, as well. The entire cast has been partially chibi-fied, if that’s the correct term – though Morgana, hilariously, doesn’t really look much different. That threw me off at first, but eventually I more or less stopped noticing. The art direction is definitely very Persona 5, from the menu screens to the mysterious, sprawling Kingdoms that take the place of palaces this time around. Leblanc looks a bit too bright and cheery; I barely recognized it. But all the new friends and foes show off the sort of zany imagination I’ve come to expect from this universe.
And of course, you can’t call yourself a Persona 5 game without a hard rocking, energetic, jazzy soundtrack. Composer Toshiki Konishi pulled me back into those immaculate vibes immediately with toe-tapping new tracks for hanging out at the hideout, investigating strange new worlds, and general ass-kicking. Vocalist Lyn Inaizumi is back as well, with some memorable performances, including a new boss fight track. These jams aren’t quite on the level of “Beneath the Mask” or “Rivers in the Desert” from the main game. But what is, right?
The Combat System
Overall, I was impressed with Altus’ ability to translate the feel of the Persona combat system to a tactics game as well. Every turn is still about trying to set up combos, but now you’ll be darting around the battlefield, taking cover, pushing or luring out enemies, and finishing with a flashy team-up maneuver. It’s engaging in a lot of the same ways traditional Persona JRPG battles are, in that you can’t get far simply by charging in and focusing your strongest attacks on the first thing you see. Success takes observation, planning, and experimentation.
The ability to rewind to your previous turn is very welcome, too. At first, I was afraid it would make things too easy. But each of these missions is pretty short to begin with, rarely taking more than 10 minutes, so even starting all the way over isn’t terrible. And being able to change up your plan from the moment you knew it went wrong just cuts back on repeating the same exact moves multiple times, since enemy behavior doesn’t seem to have any randomness.
Rather than specific enemies having strengths and weaknesses to certain elements, every attack type in Tactica inflicts a status effect that usually has to do with movement. Wind spells push the target a long distance away from the caster. Psy abilities lure the enemy toward you. Gravity can pull a group of enemies toward a specific point.
Party customization is definitely much simpler than a mainline Persona game, but it’s still fairly extensive. The only equipment you can upgrade are guns, with melee damage increasing automatically as your party levels up. But there are well over 100 fusible Personas to unlock and, for the first time, anyone can equip them as a “sub-Persona,” not just Joker.