During today’s special live stream for the upcoming fantasy RPG Metaphor: ReFantazio, Atlus released a developer interview video with director Katsura Hashino, character designer Shigenori Soejima, and sound composer Shoji Meguro.
The “Creator’s Voice” video for Metaphor: ReFantazio includes new footage and details about the game’s world, the battle system, the use of magic, music inspirations, and the story.
Katsura Hashino: Even though it’s a world where magic exists, people can’t use it without help. In this world, you have to purchase a special piece of equipment to be capable of magic. Magic is a kind of power that is supposed to spring from a person’s imagination, but that art has been lost over time. Now, magic has more restrictions. In other words, people have become reliant on the world’s magical tools. That said, the main characters are able to transform their own bodies into weapons, which we call “Archetypes.” People are born with various heroic aspects, but these embodiments are typically never awakened, and when they are, it’s not as though it was pre-determined.
An Awakening happens by interacting with others and being inspired by their actions. For example, you might think to yourself that someone acts very much like a knight, or another person might seem like a true warrior. By making this connection, the archetype of the warrior, which has been dormant within you since birth, is awakened. That’s how the system works.
The game is set in a kingdom, but the King has been killed. The king who is killed in the process gives way to the person who will gain popularity among the people as the next king. In modern terms, you’d call this an election. This is where the story starts. As this sort of election is cast on the world in the form of magic, the goal of becoming King is a classical one, but the road to that goal is full of ups and downs.
I think one of the things to look forward to is the mystery of how it unfolds under this election magic. Anyone can become king if he or she becomes the most popular. There will be people who make outrageous promises to gain popularity, and some pretty interesting battles and turmoil unfold.
Katsura Hashino: The starting point of the story is that any person can become king if he or she becomes the most popular. After that, many things can happen. Those currently in power frame the election as a competition so they can display their own power, hoping to maintain the control they currently have. The protagonist gets involved in this election race, and as the story unfolds, he embarks on a journey to travel around the country and gather support.
We’re combining this aspect with the element of travel, which is a critical element in a fantasy. In our own unique Atlus approach, we are trying to combine a very grounded and realistic travel experience with a more serious and mysterious main story for players to enjoy.
Previously, with the Persona series, we created stories about daily school life continuing through the first and the second semester of a school year. School life is a bit like a journey in that sense. In the first semester, students are divided into separate classes and basically spend the rest of the school year in the same class. Once in a lifetime, there are these encounters that take place within a defined period of time before everyone parts ways. I think that school life is kind of like a microcosm of the flow of life from beginning to end.
Journeys also have a beginning and an end. You meet and say goodbye to many people along the way. Travel is a common concept in games, and most of the time, you can travel as much as you like without any time constraints. But, just like in our own modern lives, the time allotted for travel within the world of Metaphor is limited. Maybe you could travel for just a week or two weeks, or you might have only three days.
By framing this election as a travel experience, something we’ve experienced in modern times, those in the running are faced with the need to travel around the country within a set amount of time. In order to turn the people you meet across the world into supporters, you have to fight a variety of battles. Basically, the idea is to follow the main storyline and enjoy how it leaves you wondering what could happen next.
But in terms of the time you have between those major events, the strategy you make, and the order you do things in is all left up to the player. I guess it puts you in a situation where you’re playing, and you’re not sure what the correct answer is, but in a good way. When you’ve got this dungeon that you absolutely have to clear, for example, do you head straight there to get it done? Or, because this dungeon looks difficult, do you make all kinds of plans to, for example, do this other quest over here first and do some leveling up, and then go there? I don’t know how to describe it, but you can make judgment calls as you play, where you’ll consider the difficulty of each quest or the sense of danger you feel, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for having completed a quest based on those assessments.
I think one of the main attractions of this game is that it takes the good part of the Persona series to date, which progressed on a schedule, and adapts it in a way that perfectly matches the storyline for this work and the travel system we’ve created.
The Battle System
As for what kind of game we are making this time, as creators involved in Persona, naturally, we have included command battles, which you might say is our specialty or our expertise. I wouldn’t exactly call them a waste of time, but often, battles with low-level opponents that you already know how to beat can, at times, feel like a hassle. Those parts should be quick and fun. There are other parts that are more deserving of the player’s time. It could be a part of the story that leaves you wondering what happens next or the party customization aspects or planning your journey as you strengthen your party. We would like players to spend their time on the more interesting aspects like these.
In order to achieve this, we decided to adopt a new battle system where we have the command battles as the base, but on top of that, we’ve incorporated a system where you’re able to defeat enemies on the field directly if you determine that they are weaker than you. It’s not a separate two-part system where some enemies can only be fought in command battles or some must be defeated with action. We actually let the players judge which enemies are stronger than they are or which ones they have fought before. We were very particular about letting the player make that determination and giving players the option to choose at all times. This is an all-new system, so I strongly encourage you to pick it up and play with it.
Characters / Art
Shigenori Soejima: The main character wears a checkered coat, and some people said, “Isn’t it strange that he is traveling wearing white clothes that can get dirty?” I designed the protagonist with the idea that I wanted to create a character with a sense of style, prioritizing design. Both Persona and Metaphor don’t have a name for the protagonist, meaning they’re the player’s characters, but the context in which I designed the protagonist this time is a bit different.
When I draw illustrations, there’s an overall impression you get when the protagonist comes to the forefront. How should I put it? I think you can sense more of the character in the eyes than before, going beyond just a self-projection. For example, the protagonist does things like riding on a sword, and there’s a vehicle called a Gauntlet Runner.
Hashino: Since the setting is a new world of fantasy, we need to borrow some new wisdom and creative energy.
The original designs of the vehicles, which we call Gauntlet Runners, were made by the famous designer known for his work on Evangelion and other productions. We decided to approach Kodaka Kazuma, who has been very active in works such as Nier: Automata, to create the background artwork. We had in-depth discussions with both about the themes of the game, the nature of the work, the story, and various other baselines. The ideas and proposals they came up with felt very unexpected. It was creatively stimulating for us to hear their interpretations and ideas. Piggybacking on this, I feel they provided such power and creativity to the game. I couldn’t be more satisfied.
Shoji Meguro: I feel that the diversity of the music is very extensive and broad in range. The theme was based on religious music, but it also needed to reflect the world view of Metaphor. The world of metaphor has many different tribes of people, so their faiths are as varied as they are. I took it upon myself to dig deeper and contemplate what music rooted in this idea would be like. I think there is a much broader interpretation of the music since they were written in accordance with such a theme. It’s not often that we’ve done such large-scale live recordings of the music at Atlus, so I feel that the sound is very elaborate in that regard. We are taking a different approach than with Persona.
To all RPG fans around the world
Hashino: Naturally, the game has a lot of battles, character growth, party customization, and the everyday aspects of travel. We designed it with the intention that the player can enjoy these various elements while always keeping pacing in mind. As the work nears completion, I think it has a great deal of those elements in a very condensed form.
The way it’s turning out, I don’t feel like there’s anything quite like it out there. I want it to bring Metaphor: ReFantazio to RPG fans around the world. I can’t talk specifics yet, but I would like to bring a demo of the game to events in countries around the world so you can play through it for yourself. So, I look forward to meeting you, and I hope you will continue to support us.
Atlus 35th Anniversary
During the earlier live stream, Atlus announced that they will be having celebrations for the company’s 35th anniversary, with the creation of a brand logo.
As described in the video, this will include the “Atlus Brand 35th World Tour: Road to Metaphor: ReFantazio” event in 2024, where the company plans to bring the latest information on the game globally, potentially with demo events around the world.
Metaphor: ReFantazio will be released worldwide in Fall 2024 for the Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4, PS5, and Steam.