Social Links Have Helped My Self-Improvement – How Persona is Changing JRPGson June 9, 2017 by Mitch Jay
Persona is more popular than ever with the Persona 5’s recent and well-deserved success, and part of that is due to the game’s in-depth “Social Link” & “Confidant” systems. Both work together to help the series stand out in a market where JRPGs are no longer hard to come by, in ways that might blow you away with how impactful they are.
“Confidants” are Persona 5‘s evolution of the social links, the mechanic introduced in Persona 3 that has since become one of the series’ most defining aspects. Most fans will still probably call them social links in Persona 5, anyway. So for the purposes of talking about the system collectively, I’ll just call them “social links” too. Social Links not only strength yourself and your team mates for battle but they allow you to spend time and learn about the lives of others. It’s a brilliant social aspect that encourages a deep, emotive narrative.
While these systems serve to develop your relationships with team members and various other NPCs, which it does so marvellously, there is one other effect that it has which may or may not have been intended — it makes you feel damn good about yourself. While I won’t mistake these fictional characters for real people, their stories and struggles feel real, and Atlus have written them in such a way that it’s easy to call them your friends. You fall in love with their personalities, their flaws, and you want to help them — even though they’re mostly something that you could miss completely.
Other games have attempted to do something similar to social links such as Trails of Cold Steel, Conception II, Lost Dimension, but they’ve not met the lofty heights that Atlus have set. In-depth and engaging, Persona manages to fully invest me into each character’s personal story — JRPGs in general are known for their branching, ambitious stories, but this one aspect of Persona, one that isn’t forced upon you, is what helps it to stand out amongst a sea of JRPGs.
A lot of the fun of the Persona series is the social aspect — things like attending class, hanging out with friends, working, and it’s crazy to think of how engaging these things are when they only take place in a game. I still think fondly of the times I spent with my digital pals, and it’s helped me to better appreciate my own personal relationships in real life as well as be more thoughtful. Persona has helped me, and I’m sure it’s helped many of you too, come to term with their own flaws and has encouraged you to be yourself, and to be happy with you who you are.
The Persona series has grown exponentially in recent years with the fourth game’s arrival on Vita being the must-own game on the system, and since then has boasted many spin-offs which have brought the Persona 3 and 4 casts together. A huge part of this is thanks to social links, where Atlus encourages you to learn and care about a large group of people in ways that not many other games manage. You’re not forced to socialise, but you’re missing out on half of the fun by not doing so, and it’s easily one of best aspects I’ve seen implemented in a JRPG. Well, across gaming in general.
It’s hard to put into words the impact that Persona has had on me, and how much of that is down to the life lessons that it teaches. While all are fictional, I’m of the mind that there’s some truth in each social link that must have been inspired by the team’s personal experiences. They’re certainly not outlandish by any means — human, emotional and brimming with heart, Persona’s Social Links and Confidants manage to not only stand out in the JRPG genre, but in gaming in its entirety. The level of detail is incredible and getting to know your party members has rarely been handled so well, making these social aspects a real treasure.
When I get engrossed into a Persona game and that’s all I end up playing for weeks on end, it isn’t the fantastic gameplay that pushes me forward, but the narrative and characters. I don’t want to leave them to struggle on their own, and I don’t want to see them hung up on their flaws and past. I might play a much more perfect character than myself in-game, but the Persona series has been vital in my road to self-improvement in so many ways. I couldn’t be more grateful for Persona.