Persona 5 Tactica has the dance moves of Persona, but not its timing
Persona 5 Tactica is a peculiar addition to the series' canon. Persona 5 has already been expanded through the traditional enhanced edition (Royal) an...
Persona 5 Tactica is a peculiar addition to the series' canon. Persona 5 has already been expanded through the traditional enhanced edition (Royal) and the rhythm game (Dancing in Starlight), as well as the Q2 mazes that non-canonically connected Personas 3-5. Instead of the fighting game we saw with Persona 4, we were given a Musou-style game (Strikers) that served as a direct sequel but completely disregarded any changes introduced in Royal. Now, we have the TRPG Tactica, which also ignores Royal and keeps the flames of Persona 5 burning.
Although we are technically in the Persona 5 era, it mostly feels like we are waiting for the beginning of Persona 6. It has been hinted at multiple times (or fans speculate that it has been hinted at), and Strikers felt like the perfect farewell to the crew. I have been enjoying a good TRPG and have fallen more in love with Persona and, in particular, the Phantom Thieves with each new addition to the team. However, after Strikers, I am torn about the idea of revisiting the game and undoing that initial farewell. Even after completing the game at Gamescom, I am still undecided.
I played the first 15 minutes, enough to reach the tutorial boss (but not defeat it), and another 15 minutes a bit further into the game where we encounter the new character, Erina, and learn the "All-Out Attack" ability. This move convinces me that Tactica is the Persona-infused TRPG I've been waiting for, but I'm not entirely convinced by the gameplay itself just yet.
Time is an important factor in Persona 5. You must complete each palace (as well as other quests or side stories) by specific deadlines, and the calendar drives the story forward as you progress through the school year. Simultaneously, Strikers is defined by the summer, which takes place in this golden yet bittersweet time where you spend one last vacation with friends whom you convince yourself you will know forever, even though you are aware it could be the last time you are all together.
From what I have played, Tactica lacks all of that. There is no sense of time passing, and how could there be? In order to make sense, it must ignore the fact that it cannot be squeezed into the existing timeline, thus making it simply an TRPG with Persona 5 characters rather than enriching the world of Persona 5 itself. However, that does not mean it is a complete failure.
It is difficult to judge the quality of a game based on its beginning, but the Persona 5 vibes are present, even with the change in art style. Personas still have a role in combat (the exact extent of their variation is unknown at this point), while firearms play a more prominent role in battles. Overall, it feels like Persona distilled into the form of a TRPG. The "All-Out Attack" also occurs when three Phantom Thieves surround an enemy, seamlessly merging something so iconic from Persona 5 in a way that aligns with the conventions of a TRPG. It is stylish and impactful, fitting the game's lore and relying on the connections between the characters. I only hope that the rest of the game can keep up with its energy.
As for the opening boss and Erina, both seemed to feel at home in the world of Persona. However, Erina still has a little way to go to ensure that she feels like a true part of the Phantom Thieves, especially since the additions in both Royal and Strikers were overlooked. It is a significant challenge to join such a tightly-knit team, and how well Tactica is received by hardcore fans will likely depend heavily on the resonance Erina generates. Kasumi might have managed it, but Erina needs to make me forget that Kasumi is not there.
Before playing Persona 5 Tactica at Gamescom, I believed it would likely be a good TRPG and unlikely to blend as well with the world of Persona as Strikers did. Now, having played it, I am more convinced on both counts. Hopefully, I am right about the first and wrong about the second.