Metaphor: ReFantazio Character Designer Soejima Interview on Initial Concept Art, Protagonist Design

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This week’s issue of Weekly Famitsu magazine #1803 includes interviews for the upcoming fantasy RPG Metaphor: ReFantazio. The interviewees are the three lead developers from Atlus’ Studio Zero known for their work on the Persona franchise: director Katsura Hashino, character designer Shigenori Soejima, and sound composer Shoji Meguro.

This follows a video interview published during yesterday’s announcement live stream for the game.

The second part of the interview is with character designer Shigenori Soejima, discussing the initial “Project Re Fantasy” designs, as well as the ideas behind the protagonist and his companion fairy Gallica.

The first part of the interview with director Katsura Hashino can be read here.

From left: Character designer Shigenori Soejima, director Katsura Hashino, sound composer Shoji Meguro

It has been a while since you’ve worked on character design for a fantasy-themed project (the last being Stella Deus in 2004). What was your enthusiasm for this project?

Soejima: In my childhood and early school years, works like “Record of Lodoss War” and “Dungeons & Dragons” were popular. Even before becoming a professional, I often drew fantasy-style illustrations. I was very excited that “Metaphor” gave me with a chance to draw this subject matter for work after a long time! However, as work released under Atlus, I was prepared for it to not only be enjoyable, but also be challenging.

There’s no point in drawing something that looks like existing work. I wanted to emphasize the designs and core concepts that can be made specifically because of this game. I also wanted to incorporate my favorite fantasy elements, so I just drew various things whole-heartedly.

When the project was first announced, many concept illustrations drawn by you were also released to the public.

Soejima: Those illustrations were partly to see what it would look like if I were to depict fantasy at the time. This game embodies the themes mentioned by Hashino, but instead of keeping that in mind from the beginning, I wanted to first ignite the passion for classic fantasy within myself. At the time, the main character’s age in relation to the game’s themes was not yet determined. But looking back, I believe that even within those images, I represented characters who bear a glimpse of the characters you now see.

Speaking of character design, were there any unique aspects or challenges specific to this game?

Soejima: Yes, there were. For example, I believe that in order to create designs with depth, it’s important to consider the background details, such as the level of civilization and industrial development in this world, the extent of sewing techniques, and even the existence of “screw” technology, etc. Each part of the characters’ equipment, down to the smallest detail, contributes to the overall world-building.

The first trailer depicts large vehicles; as the game’s development progressed, more elements that evoke advanced technology were added one by one. This lead to an increasing number of considerations on the character side as well. Unlike the “Persona” series, which draws inspiration from modern society, this game has its own unique fantasy world. It involves many processes specific to this game, which are both enjoyable and challenging.

The player is meant to project themselves onto the protagonist living in this world, right?

Soejima: While there is a “player = protagonist” dynamic, the protagonist isn’t simply a blank slate. I designed him as an androgynous young man with a gentle yet intriguing aura, possessing a strong gaze. In the case of a fantasy project, if the protagonist is already fully immersed in that world from the beginning, players may find it difficult to see the world from the same perspective. Interpreting the world in their own way is part of the charm of fantasy. In that context, the protagonist is a pure being, while the supporting characters are all unique individuals in a diverse cast that add color to the story.

The little fairy girl who is by the protagonist’s side gives off somewhat of a modern vibe. What is she?

Soejima: That was a deliberate choice. While in the “Persona” series, the main characters have more of a “real life” likeness, in this game, the protagonist is portrayed with a more heroic portrayal throughout the story. On the other hand, the fairy girl’s actions and behavior may give off a sense of “belonging to modern society.” I believe that her presence also contributes to the development of the story and the characters, conveying this game’s themes.

That’s interesting! While we’ll have to wait for further updates to learn more about the other characters, could you give us a little hint about them?

Soejima: One thing I can say is that the various “races” that appear in this game will be important, so I hope you’ll pay attention to them. Instead of assembling the typical races seen in fantasy, we’ve depicted races that exist particularly in this game’s world, each with their unique backgrounds and origins. Some of them are quite unique and presented as “races,” but it was a challenge to incorporate them as individual “characters.” So, please look forward to encountering these distinctive characters.

Metaphor: ReFantazio will be released worldwide in 2024 for the Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4, PS5, and Steam.