In recent years, Japanese RPG powerhouse Atlus has seemed to get quite a kick out of coming up with unique spin-offs of its Persona series. Based just on the last three mainline titles, we’ve seen 2D fighting games, 3D dungeon crawlers, hack-and-slash action adventures pitting players against hundreds of enemies at once, and even a dancing game or two.
Now, in Persona 5 Tactica, we get a game that both brings something new while also feeling fitting and familiar: a turn-based tactical RPG.
As the story kicks off, Persona 5’s team of teenage heroic outlaws, the Phantom Thieves, find themselves whisked away to an alternate reality where the population lives under tyrannical oppression. Before they can fully get a grasp on what’s happened to them or where they are, our heroes run into the Legionnaires, a military group made up of strange beings that help keep the people in subjugation. Suddenly, a revolutionary fighter named Erina shows up, offering the Phantom Thieves rescue in exchange for their help.
Thus, the stage is set for a whole host of different scenarios where strategic battles play out between the Phantom Thieves (with Erina in tow) and the Legionnaires. Before heading to the battlefield, you’ll put together a squad of three fighters from familiar Persona 5 faces and new recruits such as Erina, and then carefully plan how to win each scenario without having your entire team wiped.
On each turn, characters can both move to a different location and perform an action, which include familiar battle options from using weapons to summoning supernatural Personas to unleash one of their powerful skills. Who you pick to put on your squad for each battle will of course be important, but what techniques they have available for those fights can also turn the tide, which will be up to you through unlocking paths on character-specific skill trees.
While there are plenty of elements in Persona 5 Tactica that’ll feel familiar to anyone who has played games like XCOM or Mario + Rabbids, there are also plenty of elements that also feel true to its familial roots. Triple Threat Attacks are a nod to the All-out Attacks of Persona 4 and 5, where all three of your squad members can team together to unleash massive damage upon an enemy they’ve surrounded. Meanwhile, the Baton Pass also returns, but instead of giving one character’s turn to a teammate, it offers a chance to swap out KOed squad members for fresh fighters waiting in reserve.
While Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei franchise is no stranger to more tactical gaming experiences, this is the first time that the Persona series is delving into strategy RPG territory. And yet, it wouldn’t surprise us if the Phantom Thieves end up stealing the hearts of fans of that genre just like they have so many others.