Metaphor: ReFantazio Director Hashino Interview on ‘Fantasy’, Persona Similarities, Calendar and Deadline System


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 first part of the interview is with director Katsura Hashino, discussing the game’s title, similarities with the Persona series, and the nature of “fantasy.”

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

It has been a while since we last interviewed you when this project started. Could you reiterate why you and other staff who have worked on the “Persona” series decided to create a fantasy RPG?

Hashino: At the beginning, we didn’t have the premise of “let’s work on fantasy next!” Instead, we wanted to create something “new,” and we sought out staff members who were willing to start from scratch with us. That’s how Studio Zero, our in-house production team, was established to develop this game. As we discussed various things together, and we started to notice that the word “fantasy” came up frequently.

We have released many games set in the modern world, such as the “Persona” series and the “Shin Megami Tensei” series. However, the fantasy genre has always been popular, and we became curious about the reasons behind its enduring popularity, so we wanted to explore that in our own way.

In a previous interview, you stated, “If we think about how the unique experiences and emotions that we’ve aimed for in our previous games can only be portrayed in the world of fantasy, then now is the time to take on this challenge.”

Hashino: Yes. One of the themes i the keyword “utopia,” which you can see in the revealed footage. People love fantasy world, and they often embody fantasies and ideals that cannot be achieved in the real world. However, for those who live in those worlds, our everyday world may appear as a utopia.

From that perspective, what if by playing the game through the perspective of “myself in a fantasy world,” what the protagonists are trying to achieve was somehow applicable to our own reality? What if, after completing the game, we were able to experience something that brought back some feelings to the real world? With these questions in mind, we inserted scenes of the real world at the beginning of the trailer.

And this game’s title, called “metaphor,” represents that, correct?

Hashino: Originally, classic fantasy literature often had those kinds of elements. On the other hand, if we were to make a game, we could depict a world completely divorced from reality, and such content might be a good distraction from the daily grind. However, completely severing that connection would also be a waste, don’t you think? I believe the reason that fantasy continues to compel people even now is because it is rooted in something more than that.

I had the opportunity at one point, thanks to your generosity, to observe a debate among the development team. The topic was: “What kind of discoveries and emotional moments make people feel like they are on a ‘journey’?” If the style of the “Persona” series typically involves traveling from one central hub to various places, is “Metaphor” more about traveling from one place to another?

Hashino: That’s right. As the protagonist travels around the world, he meets people who support him and become a source of emotional strength. They won’t follow him on his journey unless they are party members, but the bonds formed through various events along the way will always remain with him. We thought that if players could experience this kind of feeling, even though the structure may be different from the “Persona” series, we would be able to create a game that is uniquely our own.

In the released footage, there are scenes where the protagonist shakes hands with various people.

Hashino: By meeting people who represent the values of the location he travels to, the protagonist can discover something he doesn’t yet possess, and grows from that influence. The game is unique in the way it incorporates this kind of interaction with others as a source of strength.

I see. In games like “Persona 5,” players had the freedom to decide how to spend their daily lives starting from the first semester, but how does the journey in this game progress?

Hashino: This game also uses the so-called “calendar” format. When people travel these days, they decide where to go for tourist spots and in what order to make their trip more efficient. Planning these itineraries can be part of the enjoyment of a journey, right? In this game, there are deadlines for things to do in each destination. Players are free to choose how they spend their days within that time limit, and they can find plenty of detours that are not directly related to the main story.

It sounds like it will be quite fun to explore! I get the impression that you and your team have deconstructed the elements of the games you’ve worked on before and reinterpreted them as a fantasy RPG.

Hashino: If there was an element that matched the know-how we’ve taken a long time refining and wanted to express in this game, we incorporated it without hesitation. Of course, we didn’t just use the exact same elements as in the past without making them appropriate for this title. If you’ve experienced the “Persona” series, you will likely easily understand this game’s systems, and even if you are new to it but enjoy fantasy RPGs, I believe you will be able to enjoy it with a fresh perspective.

At first glance, it seems like the game is taking a conventional approach, but there seems to be something more to it than that.

Hashino: At one point, I showed the game to staff members from another development team, and I received a reaction like, “I thought it might be a conventional fantasy RPG, but I’m relieved that it’s different.” I took that as a sign of encouragement (laughs). This game has various aspects that differ from what is typically considered “fantasy,” and players will be able to feel that in many ways, both big and small, when they actually play it.

When it comes to Atlus games, we tend to expect something more than the ordinary (laughs). The release is scheduled for next year. Are you nearing completion?

Hashino: It took some time, but we are at a point where we can say that we are on our way to achieving the work we’ve aimed for. We’ve continued working on this title firmly without any deviations along the way, and we are now approaching the final stages. We hope that you’ll be able to imagine what we have in store for you based on the footage, and please look forward to future updates.

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