Social Links are a gameplay mechanic in the Persona series which is representative of the closeness of the main characters' major relationships with others. First appearing in Persona 3, it has undergone multiple revisions in the subsequent entries, Persona 3 FES, Persona 4, and Persona 3 Portable. At its core, though, the purpose of Social Links has remained the same: to strengthen the bonds with other characters in order to indirectly improve one's prospects in battles. Social Links are based on the Major Arcana featured prominently in tarot card decks.
List of Arcana
0. Fool Arcana
The Fool represents a soul seeking enlightenment, and also a start of a journey. The number 0 also holds significant meaning in this arcana, as it can represent emptiness, or limitless potential. It also means the Fool can become anything upon reaching the end of his journey. This is the first Arcana that appears both in Persona 3 and Persona 4. It is the Arcana that the silent protagonists of both games inherit upon gaining the "Wild Card" power. The Fool also includes the members of SEES or the Investigation Team, the groups of the main characters in Persona 3 and Persona 4, respectively. It levels up automatically as the story progresses.
I. Magician Arcana
This arcana can represent self-awareness, change, and self-confidence. It is the Arcana in which the main characters of P3 and P4 establish their very first Social Links. Leveling up S. Link ranks will determine with the player's actions and decisions. Kenji Tomochika and Junpei Iori of Persona 3 and Yosuke Hanamura of Persona 4 are the characters that are associated with the Magician Arcana.
II. Priestess Arcana
Also known as the High Priestess Arcana, the characters that are associated with it are usually proficient in healing and supporting attributes. Leveling up depends on the player's actions. Fuuka Yamagishi is the Priestess Social Link in Persona 3, and shares it with Yukiko Amagi from Persona 4. This Arcana represents knowledge, intuition, and more or less embodies the female paradigm.
III. Empress Arcana
The Empress Arcana represents benevolence, love, and motherhood. A recurring Arcana in the Persona franchise, it is usually associated with characters that excel in Ice-based magic. Mitsuru Kirijo in Persona 3 is associated with the Empress Arcana, while the Velvet Room resident Margaret shares it with the latter.
IV. Emperor Arcana
The Emperor can stand for leadership and power, but can lead to corruption. It can also be described as the epitome of the male ego. It is usually associated with characters who show great talent in Lightning-based magic. This applies both to Akihiko Sanada and Kanji Tatsumi, playable characters from P3 and P4, respectively.
V. Hierophant Arcana
The Hierophant represents understanding, friendship, and assistance. Characters that are associated with this Arcana usually do not hold weaknesses against any element, rendering their stats neutral to all attacks. Shinjiro Aragaki and old couple Bunkichi and Mitsuko are affiliated with the Hierophant Arcana in Persona 3, while Ryotarou Dojima holds the same position in Persona 4. Metis is also of the Hierophant Arcana in Persona 3 FES, in "The Answer" chapter.
VI. Lovers Arcana
Like the name suggests, it is viewed more as a romantic relationship with a person, usually a close friend. Characters who possess this Arcana are skillful in healing or support magic. Yukari Takeba and Rise Kujikawa are associated with the Lovers Arcana. Moreover, it is strongly hinted that both women have romantic feelings for their respective main characters.
VII. Chariot Arcana
The Chariot Arcana represents pride, self-confidence, and bravery. It can also symbolize power, and the will to keep moving forward. Characters and Personae who are associated with this Arcana are proficient in Physical-based attacks. Kazushi Miyamoto and Chie Satonaka are associated with the Chariot Arcana Social Link in P3 and P4. In the female protagonist's side of Persona 3 Portable, the Chariot Arcana is represented by Rio Iwasaki.
VIII. Justice Arcana
This arcana represents the balance between contrasts, rationality; usually a mediator between right and wrong. Personae associated with the Justice Arcana excel mostly in Light based magic spells. The characters associated with the Justice Arcana are: Chihiro Fushimi and Ken Amada from Persona 3, and Nanako Dojima from Persona 4.
IX. Hermit Arcana
The Hermit represents an individual straying from the outside world, choosing to live alone and seek enlightenment within one's self. Personae associated with this Arcana excel in Ailment-based attacks and magic. Maya and Fox share the same Arcana in both games. In the female protagonist's side of Persona 3 Portable, the Hermit Social Link is represented by Saori Hasegawa.
X. Fortune Arcana
This arcana represents fate and luck mostly, and taking opportunities in life. Personae associated with the Fortune Arcana are based on legendary figures featured in Greek Mythology and others. Keisuke Hiraga is associated with the Fortune Arcana, and shares the same position with Naoto Shirogane.
XI. Strength Arcana
The Strength Arcana is represented as virtue and self-control, or sometimes even a longing for recognition. Personae affiliated with the Strength Arcana are mostly excelling at Physical-based attacks and attributes. Yuko Nishiwaki and Koromaru are associated with this Arcana in Persona 3, while athletes Daisuke Nagase and Kou Ichijo share the same position in Persona 4.
XII. Hanged Man Arcana
Hanged Man is portrayed as a man hanging upside-down with one leg. Personae associated with it excel in healing or other elemental magic. The elementary student Maiko and Naoki Konishi share the Hanged Man Arcana Social Links.
XIII. Death Arcana
Although it bears the same name, it is not usually represented as a death of a person, but it can symbolize an end to a journey, or a deep change in oneself. Personae associated with this Arcana excel in Dark-based magic spells. Pharos and Hisano Kuroda are both associated with the Death Arcana. Minato Arisato is associated both, with the Fool, and this arcana.
XIV. Temperance Arcana
This arcana is mostly represented with harmony. Personae of this Arcana are usually well rounded with physical attacks and magic spells. Bebe of Persona 3 and Eri Minami of Persona 4 share the Temperance Social Link.
XV. Devil Arcana
The Devil Arcana mostly represents greed and temptation. Personae affiliated with this arcana are proficient in Dark-based magic attacks. President Tanaka and Sayoko Uehara are both associated with the Devil Arcana Social Link.
XVI. Tower Arcana
It is usually represented by arrogance and irony. Personae associated with this excel in Physical attacks and attributes, and some high-level magic spells as well. The old monk Mutatsu from Persona 3 is associated with this Social Link, and shares the same position with student Shu Nakajima.
XVII. Star Arcana
Mostly representing self-confidence and good luck, it can also represent peace, happiness, and acceptance. Personae associated with this Arcana are mostly excelling in fire and almighty-based magic spells. Mamoru Hayase and Teddie are both the Star Arcana Social Links both in Persona 3 and 4.
XVIII. Moon Arcana
The Moon Arcana can represent creativity and inspiration, but can also be "in-tune" with the subconscious, or psychic-like energy in the surroundings. Personae of this Arcana are Magic experts. Both Nozomi Suemitsu and Ai Ebihara are associated with the Moon Arcana Social Link.
XIX. Sun Arcana
Represents happiness and a sense of accomplishment. Personae of this arcana show great skill in fire and light-based magic spells. Tatsuya Suou, the main protagonist of Persona 2: Innocent Sin is affiliated with the Sun Arcana. Others include Akinari Kamiri from Persona 3, and Yumi Ozawa and Ayane Matsunaga in Persona 4.
XX. Judgement Arcana
Usually represented by the balance between Light and Dark forces. It contains some of the highest-level Personae out of all the other Arcane, and are highly proficient in high-level magic and Almighty spells. The Judgement Arcana can be initiated when the player succeeds in maxing out the Fool Arcana Social Link, and triggering the Good ending. In both Persona 3 and 4, this social link levels up automatically.
XX. Aeon Arcana
The arcana that shares the same number as the "Judgement" and is exclusive only to Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable. Personae of this arcana are said to represent the ultimate power and contain more high-leveled personae. It can be triggered when talking to Aigis at school after December 30th without any restrictions on Charm, Courage or Academics. When this social link is mastered, the main character can be able to fuse Aeon's ultimate form, Metatron.
XXI. Worlds Arcana
Representing great balance within all the element and an understanding of ones place in the world. There is only one Persona of the Worlds arcana, Izanagi-no-Okami. No one in either game is represented as the Worlds Arcana for their Social Link, but in Persona 4 Souji Seta obtains this Arcana during his fight with Izanami-no-Okami.
Social Links in Persona 3 and FES
As the two games in which the Social Link system originated, its effect on battles is limited to Persona fusions. As each Social Link is associated with an Arcana of a specific type, fused Personas of the same Arcana gain experience point bonuses, often enabling them to level up before being used in combat even once. Under the version of the system used in these two games, Social Links with girls automatically results in dating them regardless of the player's wishes. It is therefore possible to have multiple girlfiends in theory, although this has consequences of its own, especially with regards to scheduling. As for guys, befriending them is the only option.
Social Links in Persona 4
The Social Link system in Persona 4 is built upon the foundation provided in Persona 3 and FES, although it makes a number of noticeable additions as well. Most importantly from a battle standpoint is the ability to have Social Links with every party member, instead of only the girls. Developing Social Links with the party members enables them to perform a number of helpful assisting actions while in fighting situations. Among other things, progressively growing Social Links can enable them to take mortal blows for the main character, as well as cure ailments and provide critical hits, all without sacrificing their turn. Outside of combat, it is possible in Persona 4 to choose whether to date girls or only stay as good friends with them. The benefits of Social Links with regards to Persona fusions, as well as the ability to only befriend guys, remains the same in Persona 4. Having said that, the manner in which players can interact with the other characters during Social Link events is also changed in Persona 4. Placing a higher emphasis on the individual traits which one can develop over the course of a game, the game sometimes throws hurdles which cannot be overcome until the main character becomes a specific type of person. For example, it is not possible to choose some dialogue choices when conversing with girls without having a high enough amount of Courage.
Social Links In Persona 3 Portable
In Persona 3 Portable, the function of Social Links is predominantly the same as they were in Persona 3 and FES. With the exception of the SEES/Nyx Annihilation Team Social Link, the Social Links affect Persona fusion and nothing more. However, certain aspects of party interaction, such as Team Attacks become available as the party Social Link is increased.