Persona 3 Reload Expansion Pass Developer Interview

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Famitsu has conducted an interview on the Persona 3 Reload recently announced Expansion Pass downloadable content with Persona series general producer Kazuhisa Wada and Episode Aigis director Yu Hashizume.

The interview touches on the development issues behind making Episode Aigis, how the episode has been adjusted from the original release, and the lack of the female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Wada and Yu Hashizume.

The Challenges Behind Remaking “Episode Aigis”

Before asking about the Expansion Pass, I would first like to touch on the main game. It has been about a month since the release. How has the feedback from players been?

Wada: I am filled with gratitude right now, the reactions from people playing the game are comforting, and I feel as though all the hard work we have put into the game has been rewarded. My heart is feeling cleansed. Above all, I am relieved that the remake has been positively accepted by players.

I am sure that there are many players who haven’t played any previous version of Persona 3, and people who have learned about the series through the animated movies. Was it received well by these players as well?

Wada: That’s what it feels like. And it seems as though there are many people who enjoyed Persona 5 and have gone on to take an interest in Persona 4 and Persona 3, and those people are now playing the game. As a developer I’m interested to learn how these people feel playing P3R. I would be happy if more people can learn about the series though this remake.

Right after the announcement of P3R, a lot of long time Persona 3 fans said that they would like the “Aigis arc” remade. I feel like the Expansion Pass was announced in response to this request, but when did you start planning this?

Wada: We wanted to make it happen from the first drafts of P3R, as we felt that it would be essential to have the concluding arc if we were remaking Persona 3. Due to various circumstances, however, there were a lot of difficulties which had to be overcome in order to make the remake a reality, with challenges from the outset of the main P3R project. As a result we had to abandon the remake of Episode Aigis.

It must have been a serious problem for you to give up.

Wada: Even so, deep down, I couldn’t just give up on it, so even while developing the main story I kept searching for ways to make it happen. After finally announcing P3R to the world, we received a lot of feedback from fans asking about the follow-up story. It was reassuring for us to share the same feelings, and having that support gave us the push to make it happen. I am truly grateful.

So the official development decision was made after the main game of P3R was announced.

Wada: This also leads into the reason that we had a hard time. The development team, led by director Takuya Yamaguchi, was focused solely on the development of the main story, so there was almost no resources to devote to the later story. I had very little time to spare but I was thinking of going back to a director position and working on it if the opportunity came up. However, One day I received information from another team within the company that it might be possible to assign a staff member from there with directorial experience.

That was when Hashizume came in, right? This is your first time appearing in media, so could you please introduce yourself?

Hashizume: My name is Hashizume and I am the director for Episode Aigis. I joined Atlus as a mid-career hire, and first worked on Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, and then Radiant Historia Perfect Chronology, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux and Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore. Most recently I worked on Soul Hackers 2. I was primarily the battle planner for each title, and also served as the director on Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore.

I see. All of those titles were created by a separate development line from the Persona team. Is it common for people to participate from across teams, rather than transferring?

Wada: It’s rare for someone in a director position. We were in such dire need of talent that we had to make an exception (laughs).

Hashizume: One day I was suddenly approached by the head of another team, which surprised me too (laughs).

How did you respond then?

Hashizume: I couldn’t just say “I’ll do it!” right away. I also considered that being in charge of the direction on an important title like Persona 3 would be an immense pressure. However I thought being involved in the Persona series as an Atlus developer would be a valuable opportunity, so I decided to take on the challenge.

So, Wada-san thought that Hazhisume could be entrusted with the task?

Wada: He’s been exceeding expectations and is doing very well as a director. When I first approached him I just casually asked, “Could you give us a little support?” But in the end, he got really involved (laughs).

The Philosophy Behind the Remake

The intention behind P3R was to rebuild it with graphics and systems to match the level of Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal for current consoles, without changing the fundamentals of the scenario or characters. What was the approach behind Episode Aigis? 

Hashizume: The main idea behind Episode Aigis was to remake it with the same intentions and quality as the main story of P3R. We are working hard to carefully rebuild the game so that you can enjoy both the main story and the follow-up story.

Wada: I think the original version of Episode Aigis (included in Persona 3 FES) caused some controversy among players due to its content, but at the same time I feel that is a historical part of the Persona series and should not be distorted, so again we haven’t done anything to change it at its core.

It’s true that when I played the original version of Episode Aigis I was shocked. The actions and words of the protagonist’s friends driven by grief struck a chord with me…

Wada: There are scenes where some characters reveal emotions that they didn’t show in the main story. Although the basics of the scenario have not changed, some individual lines have been slightly adjusted to better suit the current era and the main story of P3R. I think the reasons behind why each ally decides to fight will be more convincingly conveyed.

As for my personal memories, I am a big fan of Fuuka Yamagishi, but the words and actions of Yukari Takeba in later scenes are particularly memorable. In one particular scene I was so moved and thought to myself that “Yukari was thinking about me (the Protagonist) in this way…”

Wada: If a line leaves a strong impression it cannot easily be changed, even in a remake. When I asked people who played the original version and that are now part of the remake’s development team about their impressions of the game, they often talked about Yukari’s behavior. Personally I found it a refreshing insight that many female players said that they sympathized with Yukari here.

Expansion Pass Contents, Not Just a Sequel

The original version of Episode Aigis was quite long. How long do you think the remake version will take to beat?

Wada: The game’s systems and pace are based on the main P3R game, where we had improved the overall pace, so we expect the play time to be slightly less than the original version.

Hashizume: For example, in dungeons you can move by dashing as in the main story, and as you are controlling Aigis you can explore faster by shooting objects and enemies from a distance.

In the main story of P3R, the interior of Tartarus had changed quite considerably. How has the dungeon in Episode Aigis been adapted?

Hashizume: The “Abyss of Time” which players will explore in this sequel is randomly generated like Tartarus, so it will feel familiar in that way. However, there is a completely new aspect to it. I can’t give details just yet but we have added some new exploration elements.

Is the BGM also arranged, as with the main story?

Wada: Yes, it has been completely arranged by Atsushi Kitajoh (the composer for P3R) and two new tracks by Ryota Kozuka (a member of the Atlus Sound Team, like Kitajoh) have been added. One is the new opening song, and the other is the battle BGM which plays when you launch a pre-emptive attack.

Kitajoh’s arrangements were great in the main story, and Kozuka demonstrated his skills in the Persona Dancing series, so I am looking forward to it.

Wada: I really like Kitajoh’s arrangements, and I felt like Kozuka’s new songs had a kind of “emo” feeling to it. When I mentioned this to him, he said that was what he had tried to keep in mind. I would like everyone to listen to it.

For the Expansion Pass, the Persona 5 Royal EX BGM Set and the Persona 4 Golden EX BGM Set will be released on March 12, 2024 and the Ultramarine Blue Costume and BGM Set will be released from May.

Wada: In the main story, even though you could change the BGM for battles, you could not change the dungeon exploration BGM. By purchasing the Expansion Pass, you will be able to change the dungeon BGM for both the main story and follow-up story. We also have costumes for all party members including Metis, so please look forward to that as well.

Episode Aigis is scheduled to release in September. How is development progressing?

Hashizume: Currently at around 40-50%. The overall base has been completed so we will continue with creating and improving the quality of each aspect. We will continue to work hard towards the simultaneous worldwide release in September.

I am looking forward to it

About the Female Protagonist and the Future

I would like to take this opportunity to ask a question. I’ve heard a lot of requests from fans that they wish that the female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable would be included in the remake. Is there a possibility that this will be added in the future?

Wada: It pains me to say this… but unfortunately there is no chance of including the female protagonist. Of course we also considered plans to include her, but the hurdles were too high. It was expected to take a long development period and would have cost several times more than Episode Aigis. Additionally, as the Persona Team, we have a mission to not only work on remakes, but also on “completely new works.” Our staff members are working in unison towards future developments you can look forward to, so we appreciate your understanding.

Got it, we are looking forward to the future. Finally, could you please give a message to fans who are looking forward to the Expansion Pass?

Hashizume: Even if you knew about the sequel to Persona 3, you could only play it in Persona 3 FES,  so I’m sure there are many people who haven’t played it yet. I would be happy if you would take this opportunity to experience the final story of P3R.

Wada: In recent years there have been many cases where we have almost completed development before announcing a title to the world, but Episode Aigis is still in the middle of development. Still we’re working hard on it and am feeling confident that the finished product will be something that everyone will enjoy. There will be a bit more of a wait until September, but we appreciate your continued support.

Famitsu