Is Hoping for the Female Protagonist in Persona 3 Reload a Lost Cause?

One of the things that inevitably happens with the port of a game or its remake, is the clash between the decisions made by the developer and the expectations of the gamers who experienced one of its past versions. Sometimes, it is just about a few details nitpicked by a minority. Whereas other times the critics are aimed at major aspects of the game. The latter situation is the one in which falls the latest debate regarding Persona 3.

All began when Atlus ported Persona 3 Portable on modern consoles last year. At that time, fans voiced either of the following complaints depending on their own expectations:
– Why choose to port the PSP release over the PS2 enhanced version, Persona 3 FES, which features better graphics and The Answer storyline?
– Why not offer a definitive way to play Persona 3, one that perhaps includes the additions of both Persona 3 Portable and Persona 3 FES?

Outside of the story segment and dungeon exploration, Persona 3 Portable features a point-and-click gameplay unlike Persona 3 and Persona 3 FES.

With the recent release of Persona 3 Reload, it seems Atlus elected to stick with the base story content and focus fully on the presentational upgrades. The recently released title includes neither The Answer episode from Persona 3 FES nor the female protagonist exclusive to Persona 3 Portable.

Many fans hope these contents will either be added as paid DLC or be part of an enhanced version of Persona 3 Reload. To their disappointment, Kazuhisa Wada, Persona team general producer, gave an interview to GamarWK (translated by Persona Central) that isn’t so positive regarding the requested contents. In this interview, the producer stated there is no plan for an enhanced version of the game similar to Persona 4 Golden or Persona 5 Royal, very much dampening those fans’ hopes.

As for what remains of these hopes, a rumor keeps them going. Despite Wada’s comments, leaks have suggested The Answer from Persona 3 FES will be added as DLC, with some dataminers strengthening its plausibility. Whether these hints are correct or not, Atlus didn’t make any announcement regarding the aforementioned DLC as of yet. At this point, if seeing The Answer added to Person 3 Reload is plausible, the female protagonist inclusion is, however, shrouded by thick clouds of uncertainty.

For anyone showing interest for this young lady, the question is: Is there any hope this girl gets added to Persona 3 Reload as an alternate female protagonist? Yes, there are many reasons to think she could be part of Person 3 Reload in the future, although this won’t happen without overcoming a few problems!

The female protagonist is exclusive to Persona 3 Portable. The Persona community calls her FeMC for short.

By porting Persona 3 Portable several months ago, Atlus introduced new fans to the female protagonist, with players potentially getting attached to this character. Canonically named Kotone Shiomi, this girl isn’t just a cosmetic female version of the male protagonist, Makoto Yuki. While most of the Social Links are the same for both protagonists, there are many Social Links that have significant changes or feature a wholly new confidant. If the player chooses to assume the role of Kotone instead of Makoto, they will get to know Saori Hasegawa as confidant of the Hermit arcana instead of Isako Toriumi.

Aside from the distinct elements of the Social Links, some events in the main story of Persona 3 Portable are altered depending on the main character’s gender. In fact, the very fate of one of the characters can be changed if the right choices are made during the female protagonist playthrough. Gameplay-wise, there is also a clear distinction between Kotone and Makoto. Whereas the young girl uses a spear as weapon, the young boy resorts to one-handed sword. Ultimately, despite their respective Persona bears the same name (Orpheus), they don’t have the same appearance. All these differences accounted, they offer a strong replay value to Persona 3 Portable.

It is possible to meet Saori Hasegawa only if the player assumes the role of Kotone Shiomi instead of Makoto Yuki.

Knowing Kotone or not, there is an objective interest to her addition: extra immersion for a significant part of the fan-base. Many video games offer the players the possibility to create a character to their liking and better transplant themselves (or an alter-ego thereof) into the world. Although this sometimes extends to choosing the character’s appearance, the most recurring choices at disposal remain the name and gender. The game where these options tend to be part of are the ones featuring either a silent protagonist or one whose choices reflect those of the player. Thus, this feature is present in Fire Emblem Engage, Rune Factory 5, Harvestella, Granblue Fantasy: Relink, and many more.

Atlus, itself, is aware of this long-established practice in the gaming industry and expressed its desire to embrace it. The first testament of this desire is Kotone Shiomi’s introduction in Persona 3 Portable. And although the later Persona 4 Golden elected to go down the “more story content” route as opposed to introducing a female protagonist option, the desire still comes up in the studio. During an interview given to Waypoint, Katsura Hashino, who worked on seven Persona games including main entries and spin-offs, stated on the matter of choosing the protagonist’s gender: “Every time the development on a new Persona game starts, this subject always comes up at the very beginning.”

Despite Persona 4 getting its own handheld release following Persona 3 Portable, the former didn’t offer the possibility to choose the protagonist’s gender. The option was considered though.

Some fans are backing Kotone’s addition, the developer hasn’t dismissed the basic idea, and there are definite benefits to it. So why isn’t she a reality in Persona 3 Reload? Two hurdles are likely preventing it to happen, one that is minor and another one that requires a great endeavor to overcome.

The introduction of Kotone Shiomi in Persona 3 Portable didn’t happen without controversy. Among the Social Links changed for the female protagonist, there is party member Ken Amada. Like any male of the SEES (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, a group comprised of Persona users), the young Ken can be a love interest for Kotone in event the player chooses so. With this possibility comes an issue, Ken is too young, only 11-year-old during the events of Persona 3.

However, altering how the Social Link of Ken plays out would easily solve this issue. The developer already did a similar edit with Persona 3 Reload, by allowing the male protagonist to opt for platonic relationship with female confidants if desired. In the previous versions of Persona 3, maxing many of the female Social Links wasn’t possible without the relationship turning romantic. Considering such correction has already been made, changing the relationship between Kotone and Ken is both feasible and warranted.

Even in Persona 3 Reload, Ken Amada is 11-year-old. Despite such young age, it can be romanced in Persona 3 Portable during the female protagonist playthrough.

The biggest hurdle of all to see Kotone Shiomi in Persona 3 Reload remains simply the effort needed to achieve it. Like mentioned before, the girl isn’t just a counterpart of Makoto Yuki dressed like a girl. She has her own personality and the bonds she shares with many supporting characters aren’t always similar to the male protagonist’s. Thanks to these major differences, including Kotone in the game requires adding specific scenes, dialogs, and characters.

Of course, there’s the thought that Atlus did it before, why not do it again? The reason Kotone addition in Persona 3 Portable was possible is related to the PlayStation Portable’s limitations. Due to these limitations, the developer had to turn many parts of the original Persona 3 into either visual novel segments or 2D portions with a point-and-click gameplay. With such simplistic design, adding the female protagonist didn’t require as much work as it would for a full 3D game.

A similar hurdle is what prevented the inclusion of a female lead in Persona 5. About the matter, Katsura Hashino made the following statement: “When thinking about how much work goes into accomplishing such a feat, it’s a huge amount. Honestly, to put that option into the game, we’d have to cut out other things to compensate for the workload, and every time that’s the situation we’ll basically say, ‘it’s not worth it’.”

Ironically, it is thanks to the PlayStation Portable limitations that including Kotone in Persona 3 Portable was possible.

In the end, the question isn’t whether or not Kotone can be added in Persona 3 Reload. The possibility and the reasons to include her are undeniable. However, the game developer must be reassured regarding her addition’s payoff.

Beyond how much Kotone’s presence in the game will be worth money-wise, it would ensure Persona 3 Reload gets an important claim: being the definitive way to experience Persona 3. Otherwise, Persona 3 Portable can pride itself on a major asset Persona 3 Reload lacks, which is inconvenient for a remake that is naturally assumed to be superior to previous versions of the game, independently of the developer’s actual intent or ambitions.

If Persona fans wish to save the female protagonist from being omitted, they must voice their desire to see her added in Persona 3 Reload.

Released just recently, Persona 3 Reload sold over one million copies worldwide within a week, becoming Atlus fastest selling title to date. This milestone undoubtedly proves the growing interest of the public for the Persona franchise. If this interest can provide enough momentum to the pleas for Kotone Shiomi, Atlus may reconsider her inclusion in Persona 3 Reload. In event the developer has such change of heart, it likely won’t add the female protagonist for free considering Atlus past record and the tediousness of the task.


Mohamed Lamine Coulibaly

Fascinated by the screens since I saw them, video games are a sorcery I quickly become obsessed with. This passion culminated with the discovery of the RPG. At the time, they were likely the sole titles where story and world building mattered as more as gameplay. Now, I am, writing about them, especially my favorite ones, the JRPG!

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