Over the years, Atlus–the studio behind the Persona series, Catherine, and Shin Megami Tensei–has developed a reputation for the way it approaches adult themes and dark topics unabashedly. While this generally makes for an M rating and the mild discomfort that accompanies the clumsy handling of delicate situations, it also makes complete sense. Many of the studio’s titles explore humanity and the human condition, both of which contain their fair share of darkness and messy situations. They’re ambitious topics to explore, and for that, I’ve always had tremendous admiration for Atlus and its Persona series in particular. But even more important than simply starting the conversation is the way the studio frames it–how it juxtaposes the darkness against powerful messages about courage, morality, hope, and idealism to make everything more meaningful. These things combined are what make Persona so beautiful–what shapes its identity.
Persona 5 Tactica not only exemplifies that identity but revels in it. With its chibi-style art, along with situations and dialogue that, at times, feel straight out of the requisite beach episode of an anime, the game offers more levity than Persona 5 Royal. Yet at its core, it remains focused on delivering powerful messages, tackling complex themes, and encouraging those who play it to not only be more sure of themselves but aspire to be more idealistic and kind as well. Tactica does all this spectacularly, using a powerful story and two new characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Together, these narrative elements draw players into the next chapter in the Phantom Thieves saga and reignite the flames of rebellion. Though I went into the game not sure if its genre shift or even the game’s existence would feel truly warranted–not sure if we needed yet another 30+ hours of Joker and friends–I walked away from the game thankful for it and the comfort it gave me.
Set shortly after the events of Persona 5 Royal, Persona 5 Tactica follows the Phantom Thieves as they embark on a new adventure through familiar yet uncharted territory. The journey begins at Le Blanc’s, where Joker is serving up coffee and curry to his soon-to-be-graduated friends while the group discusses their plans for the future. However, conversations come to a halt after the Thieves notice time is now standing still and the Metaverse–the cognition-constructed realm our heroes thoroughly explored in the P5–has seemingly consumed them once again. As quickly as they are pulled back into the cognitive world, however, our heroes note that something is different about the Metaverse this time. Uncovering what that difference is (and how to get back home) then becomes the group’s first priority and sets everything in motion, albeit a bit slowly.
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