If you’re a fan of RPGs, there’s a chance you’ve joined the ranks of millions of players around the globe who have fallen in love with Persona. Great characters, lengthy and engrossing stories, and challenging, strategic gameplay have built Persona into one of the premiere RPG series. Once you’re pulled into the universe of a Persona game, it’s an experience that will leave you craving more. To satisfy that hunger for top-class gaming experiences, Atlus is releasing two Persona titles over the coming months: the strategic spinoff Persona 5 Tactica out November 17 and the highly anticipated remake Persona 3 Reload launching in February 2024, both releasing on PS5 and PS4. We had a chance to play both games recently, so read on and learn more about what to expect!
Persona 5 Tactica: New realm of royal regard
Persona 5 Tactica is a very different experience from the preceding series. It’s not a remake–rather, it’s a spin-off featuring the beloved Phantom Thieves gang we came to love in Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal being whisked away to a whole new genre. Sometime during the events of Persona 5, the team sits in Leblanc, watching the news and discussing events, when they see a report about a missing politician. No sooner than the report ends the TV starts going haywire and everyone finds themselves in a strange new place with their Phantom Thieves garb on. It’s not a Palace, but it does seem like a place with ties to royalty, with a visual theme akin to historical France… and a laughing villainess named Marie.
This otherworldly kingdom has been overrun by spectral Legionnaires, and their tyranny is only kept in check by the Rebel Corps led by the enigmatic Erina, who the Phantom Thieves quickly find common ground with. But the rules of engagement in this realm are quite different from their usual battles.
Join the grid-based revolution
The enemy skirmishes in Persona 5 Tactica take place on a grid. Here, during your turn, you can position individual characters and have them perform various actions: ranged gun attacks, close-range melee strikes, or a variety of Persona techniques that consume SP.
The crux of combat involves positioning. Each character has a unique movement range that can be affected by their current position and terrain. Additionally, characters can use obstacles and barriers on the battlefield as cover to reduce or nullify damage from enemy gunfire. The range and use of Persona skills can also be affected by that character’s location.
Where the strategy starts to get deep and juicy is figuring out how to manipulate the enemy into a disadvantage while holding the upper hand in your own position. Close-range melee strikes can knock down enemies or even push them into a different place on the map–but they can also leave you as a sitting duck on the enemy’s turn if you aren’t careful. Hitting an enemy’s weakness can knock them down and grant the attacking character an extra opportunity to move and attack, but that same rule applies to your foes, as well. Carefully downing enemies and maneuvering members of your squad into a triangle formation allows you to perform a multi-character Triple Threat attack, delivering a massive blow to multiple enemies caught in the crossfire. But even in the heat of battle, sometimes the best strategy is to wait and see–being in the right place at the right time might just grant some benefits.
You won’t have to wait too much longer to take up the mask once again and join the rebellion–Persona 5 Tactica launches November 17 on PS5 and PS4.
Persona 3 Reload: Back to the old-school
Persona 3 Reload is a ground-up remake of the groundbreaking PS2 RPG that established many traditions for Persona games that followed. Our demo took us into two distinct portions towards the beginning of the game: the first few levels of the ever-morphing maze Tartarus, and a challenging team expedition/boss battle on a monorail ride gone haywire.
Winding mazes of Tartarus
Tartarus is a towering, many-floored domain of malevolent Shadows that emerges during the Dark Hour, a period of time late at night imperceptible to most of humanity… save for a handful of students at Gekkoukan High School. It’s up to these students, the Special Extracurricular Execution Squad, to attempt to conquer the maze, level by level, night by night, until its mysteries unravel–not an easy task when its shape is constantly transforming!
We took the starting SEES expedition lineup, consisting of the player hero character, ace archer Yukari, and sarcastic slacker Junpei, for an initial expedition through the dark and winding mazes of Tartarus. The isometric view of the original has been replaced with a more traditional third-person perspective, which really allows players to enjoy the much-enhanced exploration and navigation features.
Touch a shadow in Tartarus, and it’s off to the turn-based, weakness-exploiting combat Persona fans have come to love. Unlike the original, you have full control of all party members from the get-go–no awkward CPU-controlled combat choices–and a revised menu interface both adds immense style and makes flying through menus a breeze. If you’ve been on a Tartarus trek in the past, you might be pleased to know that all that old knowledge of enemy behavior from older versions of P3 still applies here–but with new Persona skills from later games added into the mix, you’ve now got even more options in a heated battle.
Battle under a full moon
The second part of the demo – a battle under the full moon on a shadow-controlled monorail about to go off the rails–was a bit more straightforward but also considerably more intense. The trio is forced to hurry and prevent a mass-casualty disaster–including a timed encounter with a resilient and very suggestive boss with a seemingly endless supply of summoned shadow minions to do her bidding, forcing lots of strategic skill use. Here we got to see some of Yukari and Junpei’s character traits shine through as they reacted to the crisis, resulting in some big team bonding in the end.
The gameplay and storytelling of Persona 3 Reload remain just as engaging as it always was, and it’s all bolstered by the improved visuals of both the environments and the characters. The character models in particular are stunning, looking like they leaped straight from the pages of character designer Shigenori Soejima’s sketchbook into the game. Whether you’re a veteran Persona fan or a relative newcomer, there will be plenty to experience and/or remember when Persona 3 Reload releases in February 2024.