Help me, everyone. I’m just not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone in Persona 5.
Before you bring out your extra rusty pitchforks and torches, know that I adore Persona 5 and most of its cast. Not all confidants—the game’s social link mechanic in which the main character builds relationships with characters and unlocks combat abilities—are created equal. It stands to reason, then, that not all of your protagonist’s love interests would be suited to personal preferences. That’s life with relationships and varying personalities, after all.
But man, I’m just not feeling anybody this time.
I’m playing as intended—sampling characters’ qualities through initial meetings, testing the waters of how interesting their tumultuous backstories are, and then deciding whether to be full-fledged friends to create bonds that cannot be broken. It’s a more calculated approach to building friendships that’s not so different from acquiring ones in real life. Well, minus the fact your Persona friends can help you acquire battle skills to fight demons.
With the ever-looming pressure of Persona 5’s daily schedule and time management gameplay, I’ve had to make almost snappy decisions to figure out which confidants I want to further relationships with. Your free time is precious in a Persona game and making most of its usage means little room to waste on characters who aren’t as engaging. It’s this aspect of some of the Persona games that gives them part of their depth and signature identity.
I’m usually really invested in playing along with Persona’s dating sim portion of the game. I am for Persona 5, too. But part of the problem for me is that some of the later confidants just aren’t very interesting enough to see their stories through. With little time to spare, I’ve taken a very game-like approach in deciding whether to go through with their stories. Their worth to me is based on how valuable their unlockable skills are in combat with a secondary focus on their personalities.
Take the shogi master Hifumi Togo, for example. Lovely lass! Her overbearing mother isn’t as great. She is also really into battle strategies and becoming one with shogi. It’s scary. She’s not a bad character but when there are people to pursue such as Makoto with her tough exterior, well...what I am really supposed to do?
Then there’s poor Haru. I have to admit I would enjoy gardening with her because I’d love to see how the quality of her future vegetables are rated by Sojiro (who is, come now, pretty damned cool). Haru comes with so much baggage tied to the game’s story that I feel as though I already know her character—even if one point to the confidants system is to explore more of their personality outside of their essential story inclusions. It doesn’t help that her entrance happens so late in the game so I’m finding it hard to start a friendship with her. I’ve already decided her fate and relegated her as new game plus material, should I ever do that.
None of this should really be surprising as it’s impossible to know everyone during a first run of the game*. But in past entries, I usually have a good idea of who I want to pursue. That’s not the case with Persona 5.
*Edit: Some readers have pointed out that it is possible, with the Fortune and Temperance Arcana being particularly helpful. Even so, my follow up line stands. I don’t feel as though I need to max ranks to have an idea of who I’d like to pursue in this game.
The other ‘problem’ I’m finding is that some of Persona 5’s characters—even when their stories may not be as interesting—are just people I’d like to hang out with without attaching any romantic notions to them. I don’t feel the need to muddy the already strong representations of friendships with the game’s complicated handle on adult relations. I tried that with the main character’s teacher, Kawakami, seeing both of her story paths: with and without sexual implications. I hated the protagonist’s blunt, aggressive dialogue trees in the moment pushing him forward into the lover zone. On the flip side, remaining friends was a much better portrayal of Kawakami which I felt spoke to her position as an educator and personal story progression.
Relationships with Persona 5’s dateable teenage peers haven’t been working out so great for me either. For the sole reason that I’m quite content with being friends with these characters dealing with the game’s mature themes that cover a broad spectrum of abuse.
Similar troubles plagued me once in the past with Persona 3. I opted to romance Mitsuru out of curiosity but not because I particularly had an affinity for her. After creating multiple save files for every romance option available and going through with each, it was clear to me that Persona 4’s Chie was the best girl. Persona 5’s romance options are not as clear cut for me, and thus not a priority for me in my first run through of the game.
I’m more invested in the game’s story and its uncanny—but unsurprising—reflections of the real world. I’m still loving how comical some of its moments are even if the game’s content is incredibly depressingly dark. And I’m also really satisfied knowing that having a Persona “waifu” isn’t mandatory. Because you know what? That’s a perfectly valid way to play this game too. I’m coming to terms with that and enjoying getting to know everyone as friends.
Although... if I really had to choose someone, it’d be Ann.
Honestly, I’m hoping for the option to date the men of Persona 5 because Yusuke is the best husbando. Aren’t we all?
I’d really just love to hear your own romantic choices for Persona 5, Kotaku readers. Who is the best waifu? It’s still Chie across all games, isn’t it? I don’t blame you for thinking that.