The Persona franchise has always handled romance well, even in the games without Social Links. The Persona 2 duology features one of the best-written romances in the series between Tatsuya and Maya, but it’s hard to deny the appeal of romantic Social Links in Persona 3 and onwards. It’s fun getting to know one character, slowly building a romance with them over the course of a tangible, in-game year.
With the lightest setting in the series, Persona 4 is the game that best allows players to sit back and enjoy the franchise’s modern slice of life aspects. Persona 4 a more casual playthrough overall, meaning that Social Links (and their romances) ease their way in rather smoothly. But not every Social Link is a hit, and some romances are honestly better left untouched.
Updated June 23, 2021 by Renan Fontes: Despite Persona 5’s sheer popularity – especially after Royal – it’s hard to believe that Persona 4 still maintains such a devoted following. Balancing a lighthearted tone with a gripping mystery, P4 offers franchise fans something fairly unique. More so when it comes to the romantic Social Links. Persona 5 had fun with its links, but Persona 4 Golden might have the best overall romantic arcs in the of the modern series.
The Sun Social Links for Persona 4 are arguably the worst in the game, if not across all three Social Link games. Both of them scrape the bottom of the barrel with conflict and neither girl has anything resembling a natural or engaging relationship with the protagonist. Of the two, Yumi’s romance is the worst. Not only is it tacked onto the end of the Social Link with no development – presenting the option only at Rank 10 – but most of the Link is spent meandering around Yumi’s bloated personal struggles.
She has problems with both her mother and father, forcing the principle person to behave as a more as observer than ever. There’s usually a passive detail to the principle individual on the subject of Social Link arcs, however Yumi’s takes matters to an excessive and eliminates maximum of your company as a player. Even while he does control to interact together with her in some potential, Yumi’s presence is so overbearing, that it’s difficult to stay engaged in her plot, not to mention develop romantic feelings for her.
Ayane’s Social Link isn’t much better than Yumi’s in the grand scheme of things, but it is better. Ayane is still a very bland character with an even less interesting storyline (though that’s ultimately for the best considering how suffocating Yumi’s is), but her Link developers in a way that actually features the main character and her romance is triggered at a respectable Rank 8.
Through the player, Ayane grows out of her shell, slowly gaining not only confidence but stronger individuality as a person. It’s a nice message for anyone who feels like they need to pick themselves up, but while compelling, the story doesn’t lend itself that well to romance. It’s better contextualized, but any romance with Ayane is just shoved into the Social Link because it’s expected. It also doesn’t help that she looks Nanako’s age.
Added into Persona 4 Golden with quite a bit of narrative focus, Marie is one of the most contentious characters in the series. Atlus is not shy when it comes to adding new cast members to their re-release, but Golden emphasizes Marie to a point where she steals focus. She’s out of place within the game, both visually and in terms of personality. She’s jarringly written when compared to the other characters, and most of her poems are downright awful.
At the same time, she does manage to develop a decent romance with the main character and the romantic angle is held off until Rank 9 (though it’s heavily pushed). While Marie’s presence can be annoying for most of the game, P4G does give her arc enough direction where she’s mostly justified by the time credits roll. Her romance with the main character is also handled in a surprisingly mature way, with the epilogue suggesting that the two might have parted and weren’t able to maintain their relationship.
Chie is a fan favorite for good reason. She’s fun, funny, and pulls her weight as a party member all the way to the very end of the game. That’s enough for most fans to be won over, but a Social Link can make or break romance with a character like Chie, and… Persona 4 doesn’t do that great a job in this regard.
Romance ends up taking a lower back seat for Chie and the primary individual – which, granted, does make experience – but it’s disappointing that their courting doesn’t broaden as naturally as it could, specially when you consider that Chie and the primary character percentage one of the higher dynamics in the sport as far as story associated material is going. Chie’s romance is held off till Rank 9, which is not unusual for party participants, however it way there is little time to definitely stay at the romance among her and the main man or woman. If nothing else, her Social Link is still enjoyable and Chie’s romance-related activities all paint a softer facet to the man or woman.
Yukiko’s actual Social Link is mediocre and builds up to an ending that questionably robs her of her identity, but the romance between Yukiko and the player is handled well, both in and out of the Social Link. Yukiko is weird, funny, and genuinely sweet. Of the main girls, her relationship with the main character feels the most organic as far as the story’s structure goes. Rise is arguably the more natural fit for the lead, but Yukiko is introduced immediately and framed as the initial love interest.
There’s something inherently romantic about rescuing a princess from a castle and then slowly developing a relationship with her. This isn’t love at first sight, but an actual friendship that grows as the main character helps Yukiko find her calling – something the Link doubles down on by locking romance to Rank 9. It certainly helps that Yukiko develops quite a bit of agency herself over the course of the game & her romantic Link. As far as post-romance interactions go, Yukiko’s surprisingly flirtier and friendlier than the game’s other girls as well.
Naoto’s a loaded character who can be read in a lot of different ways. Her relationship with gender is fleshed out considerably in both the main story and her Social Link, but she has romantic threads tied to Kanji along with the main character. While Naoto debatably has more natural chemistry with Kanji – by virtue of him being allowed to speak – her Social Link helps her work through some very personal feelings with the main character.
Naoto’s romance is triggered at Rank 8 and the relationship itself plays out well. Naoto and the main character have surprisingly solid chemistry (as much chemistry as one can have with a silent protagonist) and their relationship develops organically where the Social Link comfortably eases into romance. The detective angle at play also gives Naoto a fun way to bond with the main character while developing natural feelings for him.
A controversial character with a controversial Social Link that leads into a controversial romance, Ai Ebihara has one of the most dynamic arcs in Persona. Treating Ai like any other romance in the game actually leads to her rejecting the main character’s advances down the line. This is conveyed by Ai having the earliest romantic trigger in the game (Rank 6), but this proves to be too early and she can’t maintain the relationship.
It’s only in getting to know Ai platonically that a lasting romantic relationship can form. By denying Ai’s advances in Rank 6, you’ll get another opportunity to reciprocate at Rank 9. From there, Ai develops into a better person with respect for others while keeping her same sassy, flirty, aggressive self. Ai and the main character make a strange pair, but a cute one nonetheless, especially if players take the time to get to know her. Of the non-playable girls, Ai has the most nuanced romance in Persona 4.
Rise is great character writing all around. There’s so much depth beyond the surface level when it comes to her, something the game actually uses to drive her development. Her relationship with the main character plays out smoother than with anyone else, and their romance makes a considerable amount of sense should players pursue Rise’s Social Link. Of course, this can be annoying since Rise’s Social Link almost railroads the players into romance.
Rise is virtually drawn to the primary character from the outset, some thing it is even commented on narratively. In this feel, it is able to feel like Persona four is pushing Rise an excessive amount of on players – specifically considering the fact that her romance begins earlier than every other celebration member at Rank 7. That stated, giving in does result in the game’s satisfactory relationship. Rise is amusing, funny, adorable, and is able to work through her insecurities along the principle individual with out letting herself be defined through their dating.