The Persona series had a massive year in 2020, with the success of Persona 5 Royal and the PC port of Persona 4 Golden. With the series' 25th anniversary coming up later this year, fans are excited about the prospect of a Persona 6 announcement as well. Unfortunately, even if Persona 6 ends up getting confirmed, it'll likely be a few years away from a Western release.
The Persona franchise is renowned for creating a JRPG experience that merges together social simulation elements with dungeon crawling. This allows players to not only enjoy the classic turn-based battles that the genre has become known for, but also develop a deep understanding and affinity for the characters in the game. While the Persona series is one of a kind, fans looking for similar games with an emphasis on social aspects should give some other JRPG titles a try.
Despite being one of the lesser known JRPG series in the West, the Trails franchise has become one of the hallmarks in the genre for its detailed worldbuilding and complex characterizations. The Trails series is unique in that all of its games are interconnected, meaning that characters and plotlines from previous arcs will carry over to future ones. As the games all take place within a few years of each other, the overarching narrative involves almost all of the characters to some extent. Players that enjoy spending time interacting with different characters and building bonds with party members will find plenty to love in the Trails series.
Although the entire franchise has been around since 2004 with the release of Trails in the Sky, it wasn't until the Trails of Cold Steel arc that developer Nihon Falcom decided to introduce social simulation elements. While it's highly recommended to start the saga from the beginning, the later entries in the series are the ones that heavily emphasize the social link and bonding event systems much like Persona games.
Featuring protagonist Rean Schwarzer and his classmates in a military academy, Trails of Cold Steel allows players to immerse themselves in a daily school routine whenever there's downtime. Persona fans looking for a JRPG series in a school setting with a heavy emphasis on social bonding should look no further than Trails of Cold Steel.
Although Fire Emblem: Three Houses has more of a tactical approach to the JRPG genre compared to Persona, it shares a number of similarities that fans will enjoy. Taking on the role of Byleth, a former mercenary turned professor, players will guide a house of students through classes and battles. Much like previous Fire Emblem games, the core combat features a turn-based tactical system where players control different units in strategic combat. However, Fire Emblem: Three Houses also introduced social simulation and time management elements unique to the game.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses focuses on building relationships with different characters in between the battle segments, and features a calendar system much like the Persona series. Players will have classes to teach, and free time activities to engage in while they are out of battle, with these bonds eventually translating to exclusive events. Although the tactical RPG combat system might take Persona players some time to adjust to, the social aspect of the game should be familiar ground.
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