Atlus Is Wasting Persona 5 Royal’s Most Compelling Character
The internet’s been buzzy of late for the freshly announced Persona 5 spin-off game, Phantom of the Night (P5X). Fans were intrigued by the new characters, but they were also excited to meet their old favorites again. But when I looked at the screenshots, I noticed one person missing: Goro Akechi. What gives, Atlus? You can’t just pretend that Persona 5 Royal’s main antagonist wasn’t also the series’ most compelling character. He was a true member of the Phantom Thieves group, and his haters can die mad about it.
Goro Akechi is a high school student who acts as a rival for the main protagonist of Persona 5. In the original game, he’s known for betraying the party after pretending to be their friend. He also does this in the enhanced Royal release, but this 2019 update of the game adds additional scenes for him. These social interactions make Akechi feel more like a deeply troubled friend, rather than a shithead cop who had a change of heart at the very last second.
Like most RPG antagonists, Akechi has a tragic backstory. His mother died when he was young, and he grew up as an orphan (who generally face considerable social stigma in Japan). Akechi wanted revenge against his neglectful and cruel father, so he cooperated with him in order to get close enough to assassinate him. Unfortunately, his father also planned to assassinate his son all along. Akechi eventually recognized that the protagonist is a similar person to him, and chose to sacrifice himself to ensure the escape of the heroic Phantom Thieves.
It also helped that in Royal, players got to spend more time with him in an entirely new arc. The post-game added a new semester in which reality has been completely changed. In this altered Tokyo, every character has their personal tragedy undone, and each person lives a happy life. This is the only scenario in which Akechi can be saved. However, he rejects the artificial world and the false happiness that comes with it. Since he’s implied to have died in the original plotline, defeating this world’s owner means he will cease to exist. He doesn’t care. For him, dying is preferable to living under the thumb of some higher power.
But I wanted him to live! When you pursue the ending in which the artificial world is destroyed, Royal teases the possibility that Akechi might have survived. And so I held my breath for the possibility of being able to see Akechi again in the sequel game Scramble. I never ended up finishing that musou game despite completing so many others. Akechi wasn’t in it, and that was definitely part of the reason. I wasn’t terribly invested in a P5 in which he didn’t exist.
I hoped that it was a fluke. Akechi is good, and he deserves to appear in other spinoff games. Now it seems like P5X might let me down too, and I’m starting to lose hope that Atlus remembers who he is. This is homophobia, and I won’t stand for it. Atlus, give us my feral bird son or give me death.