Persona 5 Tactica Preview
Persona 5 Tactica is the latest spinoff title featuring Persona 5‘s iconic cast of colorful characters. This time, the Phantom Thieves of Heart are stranded in a surreal fantasy Kingdom. And the new authoritarian threat they’re facing takes the form of a furious pink bride enslaving the populace with kisses. The game isn’t very subtle with its messaging, but with visuals and music like this, it doesn’t need to be.
This game starts in media res for the Phantom Thieves. In other words, it won’t make a ton of sense unless you’re already familiar with Persona 5. Fortunately, Persona 5 is a great game so I can happily recommend you play that first. Or at least watch the anime.
Joker and his friends prepare for the third years’ impending graduation–and Joker’s return to his hometown. While they’re reaffirming their bonds, a missing Prime Minister candidate sets the media and the internet ablaze with rumors about what happened to him. When the TV at Leblanc starts fritzing in the middle of a broadcast, the Phantom Thieves are transported to yet another strange new world.
There, Marie, a mysterious pink woman dressed like a bride, tries to mind control everyone into becoming her servants. Joker and Morgana manage to escape. They soon join forces with Erina, a rebel determined to overthrow Marie. They also find the missing politician Toshiro in Marie’s prison. Toshiro seems to have a connection to Marie, but he claims not to remember any details. Whatever the case, Joker must work with both of them to rescue his friends and return to Tokyo.
Persona 5 Tactica is a Refreshing New Direction
I wondered what a Persona 5 tactical RPG would look like. The answer is slick, stylish, and fun. Persona 5 Tactica does a good job of translating the stylish high-octane action of Persona 5 to a strategy RPG. The introduction of cover mechanics as a core gameplay mechanic is an interesting choice. But it does feel very in line with Persona 5’s stealth and movement gameplay.
The first tactic introduced is knocking the enemy out of cover with melee attacks and destroying them with ranged attacks. Limiting the number of active party members at a time to three is an odder choice. But it makes sense given the game’s focus on positioning and using cover. The same goes for other decisions, like making Personas a renewable crafting resource. Making All-Out Attacks depend on the positioning of your characters is brilliant, too.
I had to spend a lot of time trial and erroring my way through various stages. It was hard to judge enemy attack ranges. I can’t help thinking it would have been simpler if the grid was present by default.
There’s no city to wander freely around this time. Instead, you buy weapons, access the Velvet Room, and open dialogs from the hideout. The result is a game world that feels much smaller even though it’s a Kingdom instead of a city.
The Phantom Thieves are Back and Smaller Than Ever
The Phantom Thieves of Hearts are back again, this time in adorable Chibi form. I was afraid the art style shift might impact the game’s overall feel. However, I found that the game’s cute visuals actually added to the experience. Both because the new style allows for more surreal animation and because of Persona 5 Tactica’s take on its parent game’s themes of rebellion. There is a real sense of camaraderie between the characters that’s charming to watch.
The game features English and Japanese audio. And the English dub is genuinely fantastic. The distorted voices are especially effective this time around. And the music delivers another dose of Persona 5’s distinctive throbbing sound.
This title’s graphics are cute and stylized rather than highly detailed. This is not a complaint. The game looks really good. And the animated cutscenes bring on all the detail and flair that the 3D graphics lack. All the same, I found myself missing the more detailed designs from Persona 5 proper.
Most portal fantasy titles indulge in a sense of escapism and show off fantastical scenery and vast vistas. Persona 5 Tactica’s choice to focus on smaller environments feels almost deliberate. The Phantom Thieves are based out of one room in a familiar café. Backgrounds in cutscenes are usually simple. Only in animated sequences does the world feel big and fantastical.
Not All Good News
Persona 5 Tactica has five distinct gameplay modes ranging from Safe, where you cannot die, to Merciless, where one slip means game over. The preview levels I played were quite hard even on Normal. The game seems to demand you stop and level grind periodically. And heaven help you if you didn’t fuse the right Personas before taking a quest. This was annoying, especially when a time limit tripped me up rather than a strong enemy.
There are also a lot of loading screens in this game. The game even comes to a screeching halt between cutscenes. Sometimes I hit a button during pre-mission prep and the game would take a second or two to respond. Not a deal breaker, but definitely noticeable and irritating.
I wish the game levels included a grid so I could plan out movements more effectively. You can turn the grid on manually by analyzing units, but it doesn’t show permanently. It can be really hard to judge an enemy’s attack range as a result. Fortunately, you can undo an entire turn from the pause menu at any time. This is key, especially since the game’s beginning is way harder than you’d expect on Normal.
All in all, I had a good time with Persona 5 Tactica and I’m eager to see what the Phantom Thieves get themselves into next. But I’m also hoping against hope that a Day 1 patch adds an option for a permanent grid on the battlefield. I am so tired of accidentally launching Thieves across the map by setting off exploding barrels too close to them.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***