Persona 5 Tactica review: A strategic, heartfelt spin-off

Persona 5 Tactica review: A strategic, heartfelt spin-off
Images via P-Studio

Written by 

Ben Williams

Published 

15th Nov 2023 13:08

When we thought we couldn’t get enough of Persona 5 spin-offs, here comes Persona 5 Tactica - a grid-based tactical RPG that brings the legendary Phantom Thieves into another new genre. 

Rather than having us feel exasperated at yet another Persona 5 side-title six years after the original game, enough to become its own sub-genre at this point, Tactica is a stylish delight that brings out a surprisingly fun combination of the tactics and P5's timeless characters.

SPOILER: This game contains light spoilers for the opening hours of Persona 5 Tactica.

GGRecon Verdict

A fun tactical RPG for newcomers and veterans to the genre, Persona 5 Tactica is a must-play for any Persona 5 fan thanks to its wonderful cast of new and returning characters, alongside an approachable yet deep combat system.

Whilst the story and gameplay aren’t as gripping as its source material, Tactica is still the best Persona 5 spin-off by far. If you’re starting to feel the itch waiting for Persona 6, this latest stint with the Phantom Thieves will help make the holdup a little bit easier and will have you come away smiling.

Back to the Metaverse

Taking place during the later events of 2017’s Persona 5, Joker and the rest of the Phantom Thieves are suddenly transported from LeBlanc into the first of multiple kingdoms run by a tyrannical ruler, Marie, who’s oppressing its citizens. 

Once all in the group but Joker and Morgana are brainwashed as Marie’s servants, the remaining two team up with Erina - the leader of the Rebel Corps who is at war to overthrow Marie and her Legionnaires. 

The Phantom Thieves at the start of Persona 5 Tactica
Click to enlarge

With this alliance, the Phantom Thieves and the Rebel Corps aim to take back their friends, free the kingdom from tyranny, and ultimately solve the mystery of what brought them there in the first place. Of course, that’s all through beating the hell out of everyone via grid-based combat. 

A Triple-Threat of strategy

Taking the form of a pseudo-sequel, Persona 5 Tactica is made for those who’ve played Persona 5 first and foremost. Whilst anyone who’s into tactical RPGs could still pick it up and use the game’s “Memo” function of notes to fill you in on what’s going on, you’ll only really get the true context to understand everything if you’ve completed the original game or Persona 5 Royal. 

To that extent, Persona 5 Tactica works great as a tactical RPG on all levels - being able to ease in genre newcomers whilst satisfying those who’ve played plenty before. The unique selling point here is the mechanics you get when merging elements of Persona 5 with tactical grid-based combat titles.

Playing as Joker in Persona 5 Tactica
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For example, Persona 5’s elemental weakness mechanic which you could exploit to gain “One More” follow-up attacks has been replaced with the cover mechanic - which both you and your AI enemies will be factoring into your turn-based strategies most of all. 

Whilst in cover, units of your party members or your enemy are resistant to melee and gunfire attacks. However, using the special abilities of your Personas will nullify that resistance and get them out in the open and vulnerable. 

If you manage to attack an enemy with any type of move out in the open, you’ll get a critical hit and “down” them - allowing your unit a One-More to not just attack again, but to move further up the grid as well. Depending on the placement of your three party members, you’ll be able to surround that downed enemy to initiate a Triple Threat - an all-out attack to inflict massive damage on that fallen foe and any others caught in its range. 

The opportunity for a Triple Threat in Persona 5 Tactica
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There are plenty of other ingredients in the grid-based combat to consider the further along you get; from supporting enemy types and battlefield explosives to Restoration Squares that heal health;  but Persona 5 Tactica’s depth will have you thinking about the grid placement of all your party members with every move. 

As you ultimately get to grips with its layers, you’ll feel all the more satisfaction when you’re suddenly able to chain multiple attacks and take out multiple enemies in one turn. With Persona 5 vocalist Lyn being back to feature in Tactica’s battle soundtracks as well as the opening songs, you’ll still feel the series’ signature personality throughout every stage. 

A cast that steals our hearts

In between battles, you’ll be spending downtime at an alternate version of Cafe LeBlanc as your home to optimise your loadout of weapons, buy new abilities in the skill tree for each party member, and spend time talking to members of your team - the latter of which is when the game really shines, especially in its chibi-esque art style. 

A funny Toshiro Kasukabe moment in Persona 5 Tactica
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Intriguing combat aside, a Persona 5 game would be nothing without a decent cast to weave it all together. Thankfully, Persona 5 Tactica will please any fan with not only the returning array of zany characters and well-performing voice actors from the original game, but the chance to watch them mix with new ones as well. 

Erina is a wholesomely headstrong and compassionate leader, making her a charming addition the the group. Although, it’s the young Diet member Toshiro Kasutabe who is the standout newcomer by far. 

By essentially throwing the personality of a real-world adult into the middle of a Persona story - trying to get them to comprehend the anime/video game physics-defying madness that is Persona 5 - makes for not only a touch of grounded humour being added to the team’s dynamic, but also some of the funniest moments in a Persona game ever. All the while, the politician expected to be the next Japanese prime minister still has a great arc outside of being the comic relief in his own right.

Talking to Toshiro in P5 Tactica
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Throughout its meaty campaign, Persona 5 Tactica’s story does admittedly lose steam in places, with the pacing feeling sluggish towards later parts of the first act or as the narrative of the next can struggle to get going after shifting kingdoms.

Nevertheless, it’s the continuous back-and-forth blend of comedy and charm between Persona 5 Tactica’s eccentric cast that will keep you going all the while. 

A Persona for all 

Despite the original Persona 5 already having an emphasis on the Phantom Thieves group as a whole, Tactica feels even more focused on teamwork with the way it handles Personas and how they’re integrated into the tactical combat. 

Essentially losing his Wild Card ability from the original game which let him switch between a variety of Personas in one battle, Joker can now only equip one in addition to Arsene called a Sub-Persona. The twist though is that every other party member can equip one as well. 

Shiisaa, a Sub-Persona in Persona 5 Tactica
Click to enlarge

So, as you acquire new Personas either after winning battles or through fusion in the returning Velvet Room, you’ll be able to additionally buff out each Phantom Thief with a Sub-Persona’s stats, Unique Skill, and Inherited Skill. 

As you play more of the game and come to grips with which skills work compared to others, the experimental customisation is a whole lot of fun - especially when you find that perfect Sub-Persona combo that complements the move set of the party member you’ve equipped it with.

Some systems are better than others 

Encouraging you to try out all manner of loadouts and find a playstyle that fits you, P5 Tactica’s couple of issues in how it handles Persona skills and moves might be more noticeable to some players than others but still feel like issues nonetheless. 

Firstly, the fact that Sub-Personas only have two skills, one being it's own and another being inherited from its materials, can be a little frustrating as you can frequently face having to pick between essential passive skills which buff your characters - or even lose track of the ones you have without checking your whole party back and forth numerous times. 

An Oni fusion with Passive skills in P5 Tactica
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The other is the Ailment moves which replace elemental attacks e.g. Instead of Wind, Fire, Electric or Dark-type moves, there are those which reflect ailments or add other effects like Sweep (knocking an enemy back), Burn, Shock or Despair. Whilst these present another strategic layer on paper, the Ailment system ends up becoming a superfluous element in combat. 

Since I already had unlockable damage-dealing attacks for each party member’s signature Persona, and the Cover system replaces exploiting type weaknesses to get One Mores, you’ll more often than not be choosing Passive and Support skills which enhance your Party’s stats and abilities. 

As you continuously fuse your Personas to get stronger ones to keep up with more powerful enemies, situations like seeing a fusion’s Unique skill is a Vortex-type move instead of a Passive move that enhances your attack power becomes a regular nuisance over time.

Joker using Arsene's Phantom Judge Voltage attack in Persona 5 Tactica
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The combat of Persona 5 Tactica makes for a good time overall by integrating new twists from its source material in this new format. It’s just not all of them are as vital or useful as intended. 

The Verdict 

A fun tactical RPG for newcomers and veterans to the genre, Persona 5 Tactica is a must-play for any Persona 5 fan thanks to its wonderful cast of new and returning characters, alongside an approachable yet deep combat system.

Whilst the story and gameplay aren’t as gripping as its source material, Tactica is still the best Persona 5 spin-off by far. If you’re starting to feel the itch waiting for Persona 6, this latest stint with the Phantom Thieves of Hearts will help make the holdup a little bit easier and will have you come away smiling.

4/5

Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Review code provided by the publisher.

Ben is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon. Alongside his BA (Hons) in Business Management is a wealth of gaming and entertainment writing experience, having previously occupied roles as a Copywriter in e-commerce at Overclockers and Guides & SEO Writer at GameByte and FragHero. When not whipping up guides and reviews, Ben’ll be off playing the latest Pokemon games, Overwatch 2, Spider-Man, The Witcher, and Final Fantasy - all before reading manga and listening to Ice Nine Kills.