Persona 6 may be revealed this year as Atlus‘ Persona 25th anniversary looms overhead. Persona 5 is turning five years old this year and after multiple revisions, spinoffs, and thousands of fan tributes and cosplays, it’s reached a point where the developer is probably more than ready to move on. The Shin Megami Tensei series mostly focuses on cycles of rebirth that often involve the end of the world being brought on by mankind’s hubris or ignorance. The Persona franchise took this idea further by adding what on the surface appeared like a mundane high school simulator but really incorporated the idea of social connections being important for the protagonist’s personal growth in each game. While the High School simulator is great and all, what may really make Persona 6 stand out would be eschewing this concept and stepping into the next stage of life. That’s right, I’m talking university.
High School Life is Actually Pretty Restrictive
Lots of people have fond memories of High School. Either it’s misremembering how “cool” we all were or just because we remember it being a simpler time before we had to worry about love, bills, and the IRS. If you really think about it though, High School was pretty limiting. In the world of Persona, your freedom is immediately restricted as instead of hanging out with that cool guy at the airsoft gun store, you are forced to attend class and eventually study for midterms and finals. While this is great for creating a solid game flow where you can’t just do what you want, Persona really dabbles with the illusion of freedom, it also means that while you’re playing one of the greatest RPG series ever made, if you were just a bit older, you could do so much more.
Moving Persona 6 to a college/university setting would still have the basic schedule of classes but open up a lot more to you as well. Lectures at most universities are not mandatory so adding a choice to skip a lecture to sleep in and be well-rested for the Dungeon crawling later in the day would be a welcome change. Player experiences would begin to diverge here as there would be some players who attended every single lecture and improved their core stats to the max while there would be players who were instead able to max out their social links in one playthrough because they skipped lectures left and right. And yeah, there are still midterms and finals but we all know someone who never showed up to class and still somehow got a higher grade than everyone else.
Moving the series to an older age group also opens up the possibility of legal drinking, smoking, driving, etc. While I don’t want a game where the protagonist just gets drunk all the time, the high school setting also restricts the writers from penning certain storylines as there are some things that High School Students just can’t do or don’t deal with. What’s more, Atlus has proven through the excellent Catherine that they can make a fun game with a middle-aged man as the main character, so having this additional storytelling freedom will be a good thing.
Outside of the obvious freedoms, another thing that High School students need to do is wear a uniform. University however opens up Persona 6 to instead allow players to wear what they want and even have some interactions around what they were. Going on a date with your GF and put on the jacket she got you? Easy additional hearts to push her social link along. Wanting to make friends with a skater? Dress like them and maybe they’ll give you the time of day. Customization (without shelling out a crapton of money) is something I’ve always wanted in Persona games. Not only that but this level of self-expression will tie into the theme discussed later. Before that though, let’s talk dating.
Less Skeevy Waifus and Some Much Needed Experimentation
My two favorite potential girlfriends in Persona 5 were Hifumi and Takemi. Both are great options and represent stronger women with great personalities. However while Hifumi is between 16 and 18, Takemi is closer to 25 – 30 years of age. Now, in Japan, the age of consent is a lot younger. Even knowing this, after getting deeply involved with Takemi (easily one of the most interesting storylines), I couldn’t get it out of my head that the protagonist was just 16 and dating someone who had already gotten a medical degree. IE, she could have done SO much better than me. It’s also insinuated that a more thorough “examination” is done later but I’ll leave it with that.
If Persona 6 moves into the university years and ages up the core team, new possibilities open up for dating entirely. A protagonist who is 20 – 24 can now reasonably date teachers, doctors, and even people 40 and over (if they’d have them). I say reasonably not to shame Japan, but instead to ensure western audiences don’t have the violent reaction that occurs with most things outside of western societal norms. Being 20 and dating someone 25 would probably get more western players invested as it would tie closer to most western laws. Further, around this time is when people stop growing physically so the main cast of characters can be fully developed adults which will help with the odd juxtaposition of their teacher in a bikini being seen as a “grown woman” but in the next scene, we see high school students also scantily clad. Having a character with a full-on beard in the party again would be awesome.
What I’m more excited for, if this happened to come to fruition, is the age of experimentation. The college years are the time that most people begin to really find themselves and their orientation is a bit more fluid at this stage. Persona 6 could add two college-age protagonists and allow same-sex relationships and beyond. The main draw for most of the high school simulators of current Persona games is to give players the opportunity to really experience things they would otherwise not experienced in real life. Not only this but the silent protagonist becomes an extension of themselves and many gamers have voiced disappointment over Persona 5’s lack of inclusion. Just saying, a scene with multiple genders you’ve dated all confronting you on Valentine’s day would really be something. All of this is nice of course but what about the main draw of the series, deep, often existential themes?
The College Years Are All About Finding Yourself
College is the perfect place to really solidify the overarching theme of Persona. While each and every entry dabbles into what a Persona is, all tend to come out as “your true self”. What better place to find out who you are than during College. Persona 6 could portray society’s pressures on its young folk to do better than the generation before them and we can explore characters who were forced to go to university because of their parent’s wishes or even their own self-imposed expectations. As the story progresses, the main character could see their personas change to match the decisions you make as you figure out what you’ll be doing in life. The game could delve even deeper into how to deal with failure, feeling like you can’t keep up with others who appear to be doing better than you, putting others on pedestals, etc.
This overarching theme can tie in even further with a member of an older generation wanting to regain their youth. Perhaps they were a Persona user who has aged to the point where they can no longer safely use their power. So they seek to return to their youth to regain that power and do what the younger generation can’t. Make a world worth living in. To do this, naturally, he needs to end the world, and bingo, we’ve got ourselves a Persona storyline. Persona villains are hard to write but I’m hoping you can see how university life can work just as well with the themes of the series as being in High School does now.
Persona 6 is still a mystery but by adjusting the setting to college over the current High School focus, they could add richer storylines, more robust romances, and even dabble into themes not possible before.