I like Persona 5, however through the years, Atlus’ fashionable, supposedly socially-conscious RPG hasn’t beloved me. Queer Persona followers know the sequence to be fraught, and even essentially the most passionate amongst us deal with it just like the enjoyable uncle who claims to like everybody and nonetheless says one thing extraordinarily out of pocket every vacation. I figured Persona 5 Tactica, the tactical spin-off launching on November 17, would observe all of the earlier video games and discover some technique to throw a jab at queer folks for no cause. However after years of feeling like one among my favourite sequence has been attempting to push me out, Tactica opened the door for me, if just for a second.
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We aren’t going to get into any massive, overarching story spoilers as I clarify how, however a quick scene in Tactica’s first chapter does require somewhat table-setting. If you’d like completely no context, perhaps reduce this tab and are available again whenever you’ve completed the primary chapter.
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Persona 5 Tactica opens with the Phantom Thieves, the teenage superhero vigilantes heading again into the supernatural world referred to as the Metaverse. This time they’re dealing with Marie, a tyrant bride who has repurposed a whole city to carry her dream wedding ceremony. There’s no must get into the why and who right here, because it’s a spoiler, however this serves to arrange the scene we’re right here to speak about. It’s referred to as “The Best Marriage,” and you will discover it within the Speak menu in Café Leblanc after you discover out Marie’s plot.
The Phantom Thieves focus on Marie’s plan of their residence base, and the dialog strikes on to the staff’s personal concepts of “dream weddings.” Ann excitedly talks about how she will’t wait to put on a white wedding ceremony gown, and it’s all very cute. Ultimately, Ryuji turns to our largely silent protagonist, Joker, and playfully asks which of the Phantom Thieves he would marry.
I went by way of a couple of levels of subverted expectations right here, so maintain my hand, Phantom Thief, and let me stroll you thru. When Ryuji requested the query, I totally anticipated my choices to be restricted completely to the ladies within the room, as that might replicate the unique Persona 5’s extraordinarily restricted view of romance. These spin-off video games don’t import your P5 save, so video games like Persona 5 Strikers discover methods to ask you who your paramour within the first recreation was so you possibly can expertise somewhat continuity.
However a lot to my shock, Tactica allowed for everybody within the room to be an choice, together with Ryuji, who I’ve headcanoned as my Joker’s unrequited crush since first taking part in Persona 5 in 2017. Even nonetheless, my trepidation wasn’t gone, as any time a dialogue choice gave me an opportunity to counsel how my Joker felt a door was immediately slammed in my face. Persona video games haven’t simply denied characters’ doable queerness at each likelihood, they’re usually keen to show any gesture towards it right into a mean-spirited joke.
I braced myself as I selected Ryuji, prepared for Tactica to hit me with the metaphorical backhand within the type of my would-be boyfriend jolting away in the other way…nevertheless it by no means got here.
Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku
As a substitute, what I acquired was a extremely candy scene of Ryuji in a trendy white tux, saying he couldn’t consider the individual of his desires had been proper by his aspect the entire time. It was a reference to the most effective interactions between Ryuji and Joker in OG Persona 5, one usually pointed to by followers as a second that means some degree of romantic belief between the 2. However right here in Tactica he additionally acknowledged sparks had been flying between the 2 since they met at first of Persona 5, and I believed to myself it was about rattling time he wisened as much as this.
As Joker stops pondering his dream wedding ceremony it’s again to actuality, the place he and Ryuji aren’t courting, regardless of these sparks. The scene then ended, and earlier than a wave of pleasure hit me, my first feeling was a way of aid.
Persona 5’s homophobia drawback
Persona 5 has at all times positioned itself as a narrative about standing up in opposition to oppressive forces within the identify of standing up for the little man crushed underneath their boots. The Phantom Thieves use their supernatural powers to combat crooks as small-time as an abusive highschool coach and climb up till they attain a serious politician. The sport tackles energy imbalances, class points, and corrupt legislation enforcement, however queer id has at all times been its blind spot. Even because it stumbles in advocating for victims of abuse by placing those self same folks by way of the identical violence after the very fact, at the least Persona 5 does, in some unspecified time in the future in its 100+ hours, take a stance.
However in relation to how id is a marginalizing issue, Persona 5 has at all times been keen to shun, and even level and snort at queer folks. Males, particularly. Taking part in the unique Persona 5 as a homosexual man was an extremely disheartening expertise because it each refused to let me go down a romantic path with any of my male pals, and likewise bombarded me with assumptions of who Joker, and by extension, myself, was in its dialogue.
Picture: Atlus / CloverWorks
On prime of this, Persona 5’s remedy of its sole canonical homosexual males, two harassers assaulting Ryuji in the midst of a crowded road, stays one of many lowest factors within the sequence. The English localization staff stepped in for the definitive Persona 5 Royal model by making these characters enthusiastic drag queens keen to indicate Ryuji the ropes quite than predators, however even that can’t make Persona 5 an inclusive recreation when it’s totally bored with telling a narrative about queer characters, even when the participant is attempting to push it in that path. Certain, you possibly can inform a random shadow in a buried battle menu that you just like males, however by way of dwelling as a homosexual teen in supernatural Tokyo? Persona 5 received’t allow you to.
It’s irritating as a result of I’d argue the social hyperlink arcs between Joker and Ryuji or Joker and his rival Goro Akechi nonetheless take pleasure in essentially the most romantic stress within the recreation, way over a lot of the girls the participant can pursue. However actually, it didn’t come as a shock that Persona 5 was dismissive of queer id, as a result of Persona nearly at all times is.
Persona three has bizarre transphobic jokes that I’m curious to see dealt with in Persona three Reload. Persona four almost has fascinating conversations about queer id with social gathering members Kanji Tatsumi and Naoto Shirogane initially being offered as probably working by way of male attraction and gender fluidity respectively, just for the sport to handwave these conversations, fall again on the established order, and interact in some informal queerphobia alongside the best way. Shoutout to Persona 2, which had a homosexual romantic curiosity in 1999. I want your successors adopted go well with, however perhaps they will shifting ahead?
Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku
Persona 5 Tactica doesn’t make good on the sequence excluding queer folks, and it positively doesn’t repair that it made us the butt of the joke for nearly 20 years. Nevertheless it does trace that perhaps the longer term’s trying brighter for queer Persona followers sooner or later. Now, even when the love tales that ought to’ve been there aren’t, these of us who spent years taking part in as Joker pining for Ryuji or Yusuke (apologies to the Akechi lovers however he isn’t right here, R.I.P. to you) have one thing in hand to beat the headcanon allegations.
I didn’t flirt with any of the ladies in any of those video games as a result of I used to be actually dedicated to the self-insert bit. Now I lastly have at the least one scene on this complete sequence that acknowledges that my Joker desires to smooch his golden retriever finest good friend. This leaves me somewhat extra hopeful that whoever I play as in Persona 6 may get a boyfriend of his personal.P