I really like Persona 5, however over time, 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 comply with all of the earlier video games and discover some approach to throw a jab at queer folks for no purpose. However after years of feeling like one among my favourite sequence has been making an attempt to push me out, Tactica opened the door for me, if just for a second.
We aren’t going to get into any huge, overarching story spoilers as I clarify how, however a quick scene in Tactica’s first chapter does require a little bit table-setting. If you’d like completely no context, perhaps reduce this tab and are available again whenever you’ve completed the primary chapter.
Persona 5 Tactica opens with the Phantom Thieves, the teenage superhero vigilantes heading again into the supernatural world known as the Metaverse. This time they’re going through 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 known as “The Supreme Marriage,” and you’ll find it within the Speak menu in Café Leblanc after you discover out Marie’s plot.
The Phantom Thieves talk about Marie’s plan of their dwelling 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 principally silent protagonist, Joker, and playfully asks which of the Phantom Thieves he would marry.
I went by just a few phases 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 mirror 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 sport was so you may expertise a little bit 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 enjoying Persona 5 in 2017. Even nonetheless, my trepidation wasn’t gone, as any time a dialogue choice gave me an opportunity to recommend how my Joker felt a door was immediately slammed in my face. Persona video games haven’t simply denied characters’ attainable queerness at each probability, they’re typically 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…but it surely by no means got here.
As a substitute, what I received was a extremely candy scene of Ryuji in a trendy white tux, saying he couldn’t imagine the particular person of his desires had been proper by his facet the entire time. It was a reference to the most effective interactions between Ryuji and Joker in OG Persona 5, one typically pointed to by followers as a second that means some stage of romantic belief between the 2. However right here in Tactica he additionally acknowledged sparks had been flying between the 2 since they met originally 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 reduction.
Persona 5‘s homophobia drawback
Persona 5 has all the time positioned itself as a narrative about standing up towards oppressive forces within the title of standing up for the little man crushed beneath 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 significant politician. The sport tackles energy imbalances, class points, and corrupt regulation enforcement, however queer identity has always been its blind spot. Even because it stumbles in advocating for victims of abuse by placing those self same folks by 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 terms of how id is a marginalizing issue, Persona 5 has all the time been prepared to shun, and even level and snigger at queer folks. Males, particularly. Taking part in the unique Persona 5 as a homosexual man was an incredibly disheartening experience because it each refused to let me go down a romantic path with any of my male mates, and in addition bombarded me with assumptions of who Joker, and by extension, myself, was in its dialogue.
On prime of this, Persona 5’s therapy 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 somewhat than predators, however even that can’t make Persona 5 an inclusive game when it’s solely bored with telling a narrative about queer characters, even when the participant is making an attempt to push it in that route. Certain, you may tell a random shadow in a buried battle menu that you like men, however by way of dwelling as a homosexual teen in supernatural Tokyo? Persona 5 gained’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 sport, way over many 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 all the time is.
Persona 3 has weird transphobic jokes that I’m curious to see dealt with in Persona 3 Reload. Persona 4 practically has fascinating conversations about queer id with occasion members Kanji Tatsumi and Naoto Shirogane initially being offered as presumably working by male attraction and gender fluidity respectively, just for the sport to handwave these conversations, fall again on the established order, and engage in some casual queerphobia alongside the best way. Shoutout to Persona 2, which had a homosexual romantic curiosity in 1999. I want your successors adopted swimsuit, however perhaps they will transferring ahead?
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. However it does trace that perhaps the long run’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 enjoying 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 a little bit extra hopeful that whoever I play as in Persona 6 would possibly get a boyfriend of his personal.P