Persona 5 Royal is coming to Xbox, PC, and Switch on October 21, and I'm itching to write about it again. The more distance I get from the game, the more I enjoy it – the game is endlessly long to a fault, despite Royal making your time feel more worthwhile than the shorter base game. When I'm not being turned into a rat while trying to escape a palace I'm already growing a little frustrated with though, Persona 5 makes it easy to fall in love with its cast – literally, in many cases, and Joker isn't short of romance options. One choice, however, is often overlooked, and ahead of a new wave of players joining the Phantom Thieves for the first time, I want to make the case for Haru.
Persona 5's attitude to romance is difficult to come to terms with. Individually, they have some of the most grounded and engaging love stories in video games, showing a realistic evolution from friends to lovers with all the cute awkwardness of teenage limerence. Once you dig down into them, some of them can be a little icky. Futaba, for example, is presented as your step-sister. This isn't technically true – she was adopted by the man who has been placed as your ward due to your delinquent past, and you don't meet her until midway through the game when you're both teenagers. But the dynamic built between them is one of a protective older brother and his younger sister. That's nothing compared to the fact that Joker, a teenage schoolboy, can romance several adults during the game, including his own teacher. Despite the game's first villain being a male teacher who molests his female students, Persona 5 is content to joke about a male student having romantic power over his female teacher.
The adults get a raw deal in Persona 5, for the most part. The likes of Tae and Oya are great characters in their own right, they just shouldn't be dating teenage boys. Luckily, as a teenage girl, Haru is free and clear to date Joker. However, she's one of the least popular romance choices, and while I understand why, that won't stop me from working to change it.
The two most popular romance options are there right from the start. From your first day at school, you encounter both Ann and Makoto, and the game positions them as the obvious choices. Ann joins the team in the first palace, and while Makoto doesn't come aboard until the third, she's a constant presence until then. Ann is American, blonde, beautiful, and highly feminine with ambitions of being a model. Makoto has boyish mousey hair, an aggressive take-charge attitude, and is more intelligent but less romantically wise. It's a classic dichotomy.
Haru is the final member of the Phantom Thieves to join, at which point romance quests are likely well underway with Ann, Makoto, Futaba, and several of the adults. Because friendship blossoms into romance, the early stages of each quest plays out the same whether you intend to make that character your beau or not, which means you get to see the relationship develop and decide which one Joker may fall for, rather than just going off looks. Even once she's in the game though, Haru has disadvantages. Your initial hangout spot with Haru is the vegetable garden on the roof of the school, where you'd only go specifically to pursue her. The other characters are encountered at various hotspots. It's only natural that, if Joker is out shopping, he'd go and talk to his friend Ann. And, over time, that conversation might blossom into romance.
However, I don't think it's a mistake to have Haru up on the roof. Haru is an incredibly shy character, often wearing a thick pink jumper pulled up so high it hides some of her face, tucking her knees in to shrink down. It would not make sense to have her wandering the arcades just so you could talk to her. She only has one memorable line in the whole series, which is to decry that All Cops Are Bastards – it's a helluva line to be known for, at least.
Because of this shyness, early conversations with Haru are hard going, needing you to coax her out of shell. You'll need to offer supportive and gentle responses too, and work on the garden with her. There's some drama involved – Haru is an heiress, after all – but it's still atypical of Persona's romances, and perfectly fitting for an atypical character like Haru. If you're about to play Persona 5 Royal for the first time, you've probably heard about Makoto, Ann, and Futaba far more than you have about Haru. Ann and Makoto's stories are rewarding, no doubt, but don't forget about Haru up on the roof either.
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