The Persona 5 universe has expanded once more, with developer Atlus primed to steal more hearts by transporting its charming characters into another genre. This time around, it’s a turn-based strategy extravaganza with Persona 5 Tactica, which transforms the crime-fighting Phantom Thieves into chibi board game warriors.
Set during the events of Persona 5, Tactica opens with one of the studio’s typically stunning animated sequences, choreographed to the electric new track ‘Revolution in Your Heart’. A world-shifting earthquake draws the crew from the comfy Cafe Leblanc into an alternate world called the Metaverse (thankfully not that one). Tokyo is long gone, and in its stead we have battlefields surrounded by romantic European architecture, with wooden battlements to climb and flowery stone features to hide behind. Before long, you run into the ruler of this place: a fuschia-toned bridezilla called Marie, who is hell-bent on having her day in the sun.
So much so that Marie possesses crew leader Joker’s closest allies, turning them into her military puppets to lead scores of Napoleonic brim-hatted baddies against the player. After a fortuitous rescue from Erina, a mysterious new character, you’re tasked with escaping this civil ceremony gone wrong and rescuing your friends across strategic battle stages, where lateral thinking and careful preparation are rewarded.
Persona 5 Tactica doesn’t deviate too far from the tropes of the tactics genre, even though it has some iterative ideas of its own. For example, your special attacks are mapped to each character’s Persona powers, which can rain down offensive and supporting magic to keep your crew kicking. You’ll also be able to level up your party members with dedicated skill trees and kit them out with a host of weapons. Other features returning from Persona 5 include its colourful visuals, to enemies providing an extra turn when they’re knocked down. You can also bring your trio of chibi combatants together for devastating combo attacks – in that sense, series veterans will feel at home here.
You’ll find a range of quirky enemies to outwit, including hulking bruisers that launch footsoldiers to snipe you from afar, to ground-slamming goons that can knock you out of position. Tactica also makes great use of its environments, with explosive barrels to pop and rooftop hideaways that you can Sparta kick enemies from. The hazards and opportunities diverge as you visit different realms across the story, with new enemies and puzzle mechanics introduced all the way through to the end.
Not all of them are winners, though. Tactica rides a thin line between approachable levels and labyrinthian dens, with some mechanics feeling more frustrating than others. Sometimes, it makes you feel like a strategic wizard, but on other occasions, it’s like playing a punishing board game run by a stickler for the rules.
There’s also a surprisingly deep Sub Persona system in Tactica, which allows you to fuse and upgrade Personas in the ethereal Velvet Room, complete with a theme we can’t stop humming. If you’re new to the games, the fusion process can take some getting used to, but you can easily lose hours to it once you figure it out, mashing up mythological heroes and inheriting special abilities. The only compromise here is that they don’t physically appear on the battlefield. However, you do get to see every character’s unique Persona during attacks, offering a chance to appreciate their painstakingly detailed visual design.
Don’t let Persona 5 Tactica’s broadly sweet imagery trick you, though, as the vibe quickly shifts from cutesy and confident to dark and emotionally resonant. The story focuses on one particular soul in need of saving – Toshiro, a politician whose tumultuous history hides one hell of a pain body. The tearjerking story is told through playable dialogue interactions and animated cutscenes that illuminate Tactica’s thoughtful Jungian undercurrent.
While this offering’s run-time is bite-sized in comparison to the behemoth that is Persona 5, Persona 5 Tactica’s story rewards you for pushing through some of the more arbitrary combat sequences, which can drag on as you hone in on the endgame. Despite the fatigue that comes with it, we admired the weight of Toshiro’s arc – which proves despite the Phantom Thieves’ cutesy get-up and chessboard arenas, there’s a lot more than meets the eye on offer.
Persona 5 Tactica is a confident entry into Atlus’ growing catalogue of Persona 5 spin-offs, offering fans more time with the original game’s cast of lovable misfits. The turn-based tactical twist serves as a great vehicle to blend intelligent combat with a delicate story that often leaves you theorising what could come next, both in the narrative and Tactica’s enjoyable arenas. Even without the bustling streets of Tokyo to explore, Tactica summons the same emotional depth you’d expect from the series, with plenty of endearing comical moments, vibrant visual design and sparkling music accompaniment.
- An emotionally resonant story full of engaging twists
- Gorgeous stylisation paints every set piece and menu screen
- Carefully adopts Persona hallmarks into the tactical genre
- Can get a bit tiresome and repetitive toward the end
- A lack of troop diversity hampers combat strategy