Atlus is not done pulling the Phantom Thieves through yet another adventure. Compared to other P5 offshoots like Strikers and Dancing in Starlight, Persona 5 Tactica hits closer to home. This time around, the familiar cast needs to fight through a grid-based tactical RPG, similar to the SMT: Devil Survivor series, in a new story that takes place between the second and third semesters of high school in the original Persona 5 timeline. The solid combat system, though limited to a three-person party, allows for a lot of finely-tuned strategy. However, the linear plot is tangential at best and focuses on characters who aren’t the Phantom Thieves.
As the Phantom Thieves are drinking coffee at LeBlanc, they are suddenly thrust into the Metaverse and find that the world they’ve stumbled into is different enough that their usual powers have been suppressed. Effectively neutered, they have no chance against a female dictator named Marie who drives a tank and is obsessed with her wedding plans. Fortunately, a new character called Erina is able to save Joker and Mona in time, and after running to her rebel base, they make plans to rescue the rest of the team. Along the way, they also rescue a fledgling politician named Toshiro, who had gone missing from the real world in the opening cutscene.
Through the 30-hour adventure, the heart of the story centers around Erina and Toshiro. The Phantom Thieves are involved of course, but they don’t get much character growth compared to the new characters. That said, the narrative is evenly paced and heart-warming, though the various plot twists in the last two chapters should feel quite familiar for Persona 5 fans.
On a better note, the grid-based combat system in P5T is thorough, well-rounded, and mostly balanced. Much of the combat revolves around finding cover and looking for opportunities to get One More Actions by making enemies vulnerable. Movement, spacing, and high ground all matter when using melee attacks, guns, or Persona abilities. Since you can flip between party members on the fly, even in the middle of their turn, fights offer a lot of flexibility. Particularly on the higher difficulty settings, every move requires careful calculation.
As for progression, you will earn Personas that can be fused in the Velvet Room and can be equipped by any party member except Erina to provide extra HP, SP, and abilities. This is in addition to each character’s standard Persona, whose abilities can be expanded and upgraded through the skill tree. Beyond leveling up, skill points can be earned simply by talking to party members before missions. So long as you commit points to spells and SP recovery behind cover, you’ll win most fights with the highest rating of three stars.
Apart from a few side quests that only give you one turn to complete them, P5T is not terribly difficult. Replaying missions is generous with extra experience points and cash, and fusion weapons are powerful compared to anything in the shop. The gameplay does feel restrained and a bit too streamlined, though, with parties restricted to three members and Personas only able to inherit one skill during fusion.
Persona 5 Tactica Final Verdict
Persona 5 Tactica is a diversion that’s worth playing, if just to see the gang back together again for more hijinks with fully-voiced cutscenes and main missions. The adventure isn’t as grand or comprehensive as Persona 5, but the combat system is clever and refined. At least the game proves that the Phantom Thieves still have more to give before the arrival of Persona 6.