There was a lengthy wait for Persona 5 but it lived up to all the hype and expectation. Sales are well into the millions and it was critically considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time. Nonetheless, it’s crucial Persona 6 – whenever it comes – moves with the times and finds ways to enhance the experience even further.
Here are some of the things I would like to see in Atlus’s next installment.
The last entries in the series have taken place at High School. This has worked out so far but the fourth time may not be a charm. Atlus will likely continue with marketable, stylish characters. Keeping the cast young and full of potential is absolutely fine with me, but with much of Persona’s fanbase and target audience well into adulthood it’s important for the characters to stay relatable.
A nice compromise would be to move the characters up a rung on the educational ladder. As young adults of 18 or 19, the party could tick the boxes of both youthful exuberance and adult maturity. Persona 6 could easily regurgitate the ‘main character from a faraway land’ trope but also have the option of characters from different countries and cultures (maybe the party could feature a British foreign exchange student!).
University/College is where life’s true freedom and possibilities begin. This fits perfectly with the time-juggling choices of Persona and opens up some new gameplay possibilities. Rather than time ebbing away in a dull class answering the odd question to bolster your knowledge points, our main character could choose what courses they undertake during the semester, each offering different abilities or stat boosts. Taking a geography class could make the dungeon maps easier to fill, or a business course could allow for better negotiation in shops.
As a side benefit, using a main character legally in adulthood would allow Atlus to steer away from controversy. Persona 5’s romantic relationships between a high schooler and adult women was deemed inappropriate by some. Though let’s face it, they’d still throw in an risque teacher-student social link for good measure.
One of the bugbears I had with Persona 5 was how you could maximise a character’s social link only to completely ignore them for the rest of the game. That isn’t how real relationships work.
Like most players I spent a lot of time with Ann in the early months, reaching level 10 and becoming her romantic partner. Safe in the knowledge the ‘Lovers’ Arcana was ticked off the list, I proceeded to spend my time with the fortune teller, doctor, reporter, shogi player and other classmates.
In my defence I did not take things to a romantic level with anyone else (honest!) but when Valentine’s Day came around and Ann professed her love, it felt a little unearned. The only time I had seen Ann for months was in the Metaverse – hardly counted as quality time – and running straight past her to buy expensive plant food. Even when she invited me places on Sundays I knew it was more important to boost my points with literally anyone else.
Adding a penalty for not spending time with your maximised confidants would just be frustrating and a constant worry, so what if once you’ve maximised an Arcana it no longer costs precious time to hang out with them? Or allowing confidants to tag along to stat-boosting activities a bit more. We were able to study with partners during exam season but why not every day if you choose? What’s stopping them having a Big Bang Burger with you? This would make the relationships feel more authentic without wasting your precious time.
Some character customisation
I’m not going to suggest Persona 6 should adopt the overwhelming approach of something like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, but I think a couple of tweaks will really add something.
Though the main character’s actions and dialogue are determined by the player, Atlus still gives them a distinctive design and demeanour. This should remain, but with a choice between male and female. Persona 6 should feature a character of each gender in the vain of Persona 3: Portable and allow the player to pick.
The next customisation should be sexual orientation. The social aspect of the game is hugely important for many players and Persona 5 was criticised for missing a big progression opportunity. Your character was a heterosexual male, simply meaning every female confidant was romanceable and every male confidant wasn’t. Persona‘s beauty is how it thrusts the player into this alternative life channeled through the main character, but when this key facet of socialising was predetermined, it can alienate players and diminish the experience. Heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual should all be options, with character interactions adjusted accordingly.
Finally, though it would not affect the design, there should be a personality choice affecting gameplay. I wouldn’t want anything complicated but for instance, a choice of whether your character naturally favours intelligence, charm or physicality. Depending on your personality type, your dialogue options and battle stats could be tailoured in different ways.
These choices wouldn’t overwhelm the player but would allow everyone to put their own stamp on their character and make each Persona 6 playthrough feel truly unique.
More day-to-day skill involved
Time management is a skill in itself, one needed in heaps throughout the Persona games. But outside of choosing what to say to your confidants a lot of afternoons are spent selecting an activity and letting it play out. I wouldn’t want Atlus tinkering with the compelling confidant arcs much but when it comes to studying, sitting in the bathhouse or eating a burger it’s a case of watching the same little segment over and over.
Atlus added a bit of depth to things like the batting cage, games console and the beef bowl shop, but these were shallow and too sparse. I would actually like more stat-boosting activities to have a semblance of skill attached to them in the form of some better mini-games. The best example is Yakuza 0. Sometimes mini-games are so damn fun they distract from the main game, but Persona 6 has an opportunity to seamlessly integrate them.
Studying could give you a standard stat boost for trying, but to earn extra points you’d be asked series of questions like the SeeD exams in Final Fantasy VIII – basically multi-choice questions testing whether you’ve been paying attention to the game itself. Crafting could be along the lines of Skyrim’s lockpicking. And I’d love a card game as good as The Witcher 3′s Gwent somewhere!
The good thing is there is never just one way of boosting a stat. Having a nice variety of different things (and I suppose a boring non-minigame option for a moderate boost) would really spice up the days not spent in dungeons.
A tweaked battle system
Persona 5‘s battle system managed to be a huge improvement on its predecessors despite changing very little to its substance. The key was speeding everything up and giving more flow to a relatively simple concept. The main downside was that most encounters were won just as the brilliant battle theme Last Surprise was starting to really get going.
When it comes to Persona 6, I’d still welcome a bit of change. An action-based battle system would stray too far from Persona’s roots and my money is on Atlus sticking with a turn-based system. But now we are all used to the pattern of ‘hit weakness, hit next enemy’s weakness, switch persona, hit final enemy’s weakness, all-out-attack, win’. By the halfway point of the game, battles have become systematic.
Turning to the boss battles, these were tremendous spectacles but their gameplay was often either gimmicky or attritional. Morgana’s hints would make it a cakewalk, or it would be a slow, labourious process of whittling down HP whilst replenishing stat buffs every few turns.
The answer isn’t obvious because maintaining a simple, fluid system is critical to Persona‘s gameplay. I would like to see a greater variety of battle tactics. Atlus’s Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a brilliant example of adding that touch of extra complexity to the tried-and-tested Shin Megami Tensei system with session attack combos and filling the SP gauge to execute devastating performance skills.
Oh, and Persona 6 should ditch the rule that it’s an automatic game over when the main character is KO’d – it doesn’t make any sense and leads to cheap, infuriating defeats.
A later bedtime
Sorry Morgana, but I don’t need a cat telling me when I’m tired.
Japan loves cute mascots they can sell as cuddly toys so Persona 6 will probably include a similar creature, but can they please be a little less overbearing next time?
Though I’m half-joking about this, it would actually be an interesting option to actually allow your character to pull an all-nighter doing something that’s important in the short term. You’d sure have to pay for it the next day with depleted SP and a series of tired gibberish as your dialogue options but the more freedom the better.
What do you think? Should anything else be changed for Persona 6?