More than any of its predecessors, Persona 5 has turned out to have real staying power. Atlus initially released its groundbreaking JRPG going on eight years ago, and yet here we all are still talking about it and getting psyched for its next spin-off. Part of this is due to good, consistent marketing on the part of Atlus and SEGA, but it’s also because spin-offs like Persona 5 Strikers, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight have all been good, and it’s looking like they’re going to do it again with Persona 5 Tactica. Like the others, it’s not just “Persona 5, but it’s -Blank-.” No, Persona 5 Tactica offers its own unique blend of new and familiar, and its looking like it’ll even manage to be a fun tactical RPG too.
The first thing players will notice about Persona 5 Tactica is how much more manic and animated it is. In everything from the art style to the overall tone, it’s looking like Atlus is going for a more lighthearted and cartoony adventure with this one. For one, the Phantom Thieves are all slightly exaggerated versions of their normal selves. Joker is more aloof, Ryuji is more goofy, Futaba uses more game speak and so on.
They aren’t completely different, but they are goofier than usual. This goes doubly so for the villains, whose personalities and goals are more over-the-top this time around. This is complimented by a more expressive and colorful art style. Everything and everyone is just plain fun (funny even) to look at, lending the game a much more lighthearted tone overall.
This feeling also comes out in Persona 5 Tactica’s combat system. Like Mario vs. Rabbids: Kingdom Battle or Sparks of Hope, it’s a greatly simplified version of games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Where Mario vs. Rabbids retains the more rigid movement and action phases, however, Persona 5 Tactica is more freeform. Effective use of abilities and keeping units out of harm’s way are still important, but it’s positioning that’s the most vital.
Just like in Persona 5, characters can jump in with a melee strike, at range with a gun or go for even greater damage/effects by summoning their Persona. Melee knocks enemies out of cover, and guns will down those who are exposed, allowing players to get an all-important “One More.” “One Mores” are just as vital here as they were in the RPG, perhaps even more so. See, they allow party members to move further, make additional attacks and even set up extremely powerful “Triple Threat Attacks” capable of outright eliminating enemies in one shot.
It’s all taken even further with the addition of “charge” abilities, which grant characters different buffs for not attacking for a turn. Still, essentially nothing has changed between the RPG and Persona 5 Tactica: downing groups of enemies and taking them all out are still very much the Phantom Thieves’ bread and butter here. It’s just a matter of using all available resources, especially the extra movement and actions granted by “One Mores” to expose enemies, down them, surround them and launch those all or nothing strikes. Enemies can do all of this too of course, so one can’t just run on in without a plan.
These encounters are puzzles to be solved more than anything else, and it’s not just about getting through them and moving on to the next. Solving encounters quickly or within certain conditions yields much-needed resources and experience, so going back and experimenting with older missions is highly encouraged.
Persona 5 Tactica has a lot going for it. It’s different enough from Persona 5 that fans aren’t just getting more of the same, yet it’s not so different that it’ll be unrecognizable. The new, cartoonishly exaggerated art work and animations are thoroughly enjoyable and don’t go so far that they become annoying (for the most part), and these more animated Phantom Thieves are just plain fun to watch too.
Its tactical combat initially appears to be more simple than the established giants of the genre, yet it has a surprising amount of depth and puzzle-solving to it. Really, there’s a lot to like here, so fans of Persona 5 or even just tactical RPGs would do well to give this one a look when it releases across all major platforms on November 16.