Persona 3 Reload Episode Aigis Developer Interview, Discusses Additional Content

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The latest issue of Persona Magazine, #2024 Spring, was released today, and it includes several new interviews for Persona 3 Reload. One of them features general producer Kazuhisa Wada and director Yu Hashizume discussing Episode Aigis, set for release in September 2024.

A previous interview on the P3R expansion pass can be read here.

The “Episode Aigis” story is produced without any changes from the original version.

When did planning for the P3R” Expansion Pass” start?

Wada: It’s a long story, but… First of all, the plan to fully remake “Episode Aigis” was already being considered at the time of P3R’s planning. However, it required too much time and effort to realize, and furthermore, the inability to secure development staff was a roadblock, leading to a situation where we had no choice but to completely abandon it.

Still, we kept thinking, “Is there any way to make it happen?” and continued to explore various possibilities afterwards… And then, after some time, the tremendous feedback from everyone after P3R’s announcement pushed us forward, and various miracles piled up, allowing us to proceed with this development officially. Specifically, it was around the latter half of P3R’s development when, under extremely difficult conditions, a very reliable partner company was found, and we began to consider the possibility for realizing the project.

It was around the summer of 2023 when we were able to make a formal decision on the development while refining the project’s details. However, at that time, Atlus had not completely decided on the project’s structure, so it felt like we were just starting.

Still, we expected that fans would naturally say, “If you’re going to reload, please include ‘Episode Aigis'”, and there was a feeling… no, a conviction that “if we don’t make ‘Episode Aigis’ here, there probably won’t be another chance.” So, I was prepared to push forward recklessly, even to the extent of doing everything myself if necessary. But then, by another coincidence, Hashizume, who has director experience, became available to work on it, and the development could truly begin.

“Episode Aigis” has not had the opportunity for a remake since P3FES in 2007, so I think it was eagerly awaited by fans.

Wada: There’s only the original PS2 version. So, even if it’s a bit of a stretch, we wanted to take this opportunity to work on a remake.

Please tell us why you chose the format of “Expansion Pass” for the distribution.

Wada: First of all, we wanted to provide content while the memories of everyone who played P3R were still fresh. However, since the earliest we could release the main content, “Episode Aigis,” would be around September, there would inevitably be a gap between releases. So, we decided to have you enjoy new sets of BGM and costumes along the way while waiting for “Episode Aigis” to be released.

When resurrecting “Episode Aigis” in P3R, where are you putting the most effort?

Hashizume: Above all, our main goal and what we consider most important is to bring back “Episode Aigis” with P3R’s quality. Since P3R itself is meticulously crafted down to the smallest details, we are producing new characters like Metis with illustrations and 3D visuals that reach that level of quality. Also, regarding battles and such, since it’s based on P3R, I believe the gameplay will be considerably faster than the original version.

Are there any changes to the story from the original version?

Hashizume: The premise hasn’t changed from the story in the original. However, in P3R, there were events where characters acquired and strengthened their traits during dorm life, and we’ve included something similar in “Episode Aigis.” We’ve also added new events centered around Metis.

Wada: I want to make it clear at this point that, like P3R, while adjustments are made to allow for more emotional engagement with the finer details of the story, we haven’t altered the ending from the original version. There may be some players who played “Episode Aigis” in P3FES who would like to see that story changed because it concludes P3’s narrative, but personally, I consider “Episode Aigis” to be part of the series’ history. So, under the perspective of “preserving it as historical fact,” we’ve produced it without changes from the original version. We prioritized thoroughly depicting its themes.

It’s exciting to see Metis depicted in P3R quality in terms of graphics.

Hashizume: Especially since Metis hasn’t appeared in any other titles since the original version.

Wada: This will be the first time Metis is depicted with realistic proportions in a game.

Will the Theurgy and traits added to each character in P3R also be added to Metis?

Hashizume: Yes. As with other characters, Metis will have two types of Theurgy and two types of traits to acquire and strengthen. Traits will be acquired through the new events I mentioned earlier.

By the way, about Aigis, as she awakens to the power of the Wild Card in “Episode Aigis”, will her Theurgy also change?

Hashizume: Yes, as Aigis awakens to the power of the Wild Card, she will lose the ability to use her original Theurgy. So, the only alternative would indeed be Fusion Spells. However, it wouldn’t be fresh if everything was the same as the Protagonist, so we’ve also added some unique options specifically for Aigis.

In P3R, new systems like the Major Arcana were adopted for Tartarus exploration. Are these aspects also carried over to “Episode Aigis”?

Hashizume: Basically, it follows P3R’s format. Also, the original version of “Episode Aigis” didn’t have the Persona Compendium, but it’s available this time. So, I believe persona fusion will be smoother.

The original version had a playtime of about 30 hours, but it seems like that might change this time.

Hashizume: This time, the tempo of battles has improved, especially considering that in the original version, creating the desired persona through fusion required a repetitive process of decide -> cancel -> decide -> cancel… By eliminating these and increasing the density of the playing experience, the playtime might be around 20 hours or so.

Is there anything one should prepare in advance before playing the P3R version of “Episode Aigis”?

Hashizume: There’s no need for specific save data to access this content. To put it another way, if you’ve purchased both P3R and the “Expansion Pass,” you can play “Episode Aigis” without playing the main game at all. The Persona Compendium and character levels are generally uniform, so everyone starts under the same conditions. However, we are currently considering some form of transfer element for those who have cleared the main game.

Two new songs for the opening and battles are also included.

Next, I’d like to ask about the music. Will songs like “Heartful Cry” from the original version of “Episode Aigis” be included with new arrangements? Will there also be additional new songs?

Wada: “Heartful Cry” is a song I personally love, and in this game, we’re delivering it with the best arrangement by Kitajoh (Atsushi Kitajoh, the P3R Sound Composer). Regarding new songs, we’ve prepared two. One will be the opening song, which will have a completely new animation produced for it. The other will be the battle song for preemptive attacks. Both of these new songs are composed by Kozuka (Ryota Kozuka, Composer for the Atlus Sound Team). With vocals by Azumi Takahashi and rap by Lotus, these songs are quite good, so I hope you’ll also look forward to them.

The fans were hoping for “Episode Aigis” to be remade as expanded content to P3R, but another thing that P3 fans have been hoping for is the implementation of the female protagonist from P3P into P3R. Is there a possibility of this happening?

Wada: I’ll begin with an apology, but unfortunately, the appearance of the female protagonist in P3R will not happen. Of course, we considered the inclusion of the female protagonist alongside “Episode Aigis,” but the more we delved into it, the more hopeless it seemed… The development time and costs would likely be two to three times that of “Episode Aigis,” making it challenging to entrust entirely to external companies and exceeding our capabilities.

Even if P3R and the “Expansion Pass” were to exceed our sales expectations and resolve the cost issues, the release would still be far off. Additionally, the expectation is also that we make completely new games, not just remakes, so we need to allocate limited development resources accordingly. I deeply apologize to the fans who have supported us for a long time, but we are happy that P3R has been released and that “Episode Aigis” will be as well, and that many are interested in playing those. This would be the moment if we could do it, so I’m very sorry to the fans, but I don’t think there’s any possibility to make it happen in the future either.

I see… it’s disappointing, but understandable. However, it’s reassuring to know that P3P has already been remastered for HD and can be played on PCs, providing an opportunity for those who haven’t played it yet to experience the female protagonist.

Wada: I’m glad that we could preserve P3P for this era, including on PC. It’s not a full remake, but… That’s why, even if it’s only for “Episode Aigis,” which could only be played on the PS2 version, I really wanted to remake it this time.

The BGM set and costume set are also full of highlights!

The Expansion Pass offers a variety of highlights aside from “Episode Aigis.”

Hashizume: Regarding the two EX BGM sets, “Persona 5 Royal EX BGM Set” and “Persona 4 Golden EX BGM Set,” we’ve added a new feature that allows you to change dungeon music. In P3FES and P3P, there was an element where Fuuka could change the BGM, right? Originally, the idea was to add more battle songs, but the suggestion from the sound team was, “Instead of just adding battle songs, how about letting players change dungeon music too?” We proceeded based on that proposal.

Wada: If we limit ourselves to battle songs, the selection of songs we can use would be limited. So, these two sets contain not only battle songs but also plenty of iconic tracks from P4 and P5.

Hashizume: Each set includes five dungeon songs.

By the way, in the “Persona 4 The Golden EX BGM Set,” there’s the “Junes Theme,” but will it also play in dungeons?

Hashizume: It will indeed. When you listen to it, you’ll suddenly feel relaxed (laughs). For the BGM, I recommend setting it to random so that you’ll hear unexpected tracks.

So, during intense dungeon moments, the “Junes Theme” could suddenly start playing (laughs).

Hashizume: Exactly. Please try listening to it while being chased by shadows (laughs).

What do you think of the “Velvet Costume & BGM Set”?

Wada: For this attire, we discussed what kind of costumes to include among the team. We narrowed down the various options and decided on the Velvet costumes. The set’s BGM includes five songs related to the Velvet Room. Together with the costumes, it turned out quite nicely, I believe. Additionally, at the time of release, only costumes for the main characters in the main story will be available, but Velvet costumes for Metis will also be added with the release of “Episode Aigis.”

Lastly, could you each share a brief message for everyone eagerly awaiting the release of the P3R “Expansion Pass,” especially for those awaiting the release of “Episode Aigis”?

Hashizume: For those who may have heard of “Episode Aigis” but haven’t played it, or for those entering the world of P3 for the first time with P3R, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to experience the epilogue and the conclusive story of P3. And for those who have played the original version, please enjoy “Episode Aigis” revived with P3R’s quality. We, the development team, will do our best to meet the release date!

Wada: If we were to release P3R, we absolutely had to include “Episode Aigis.” Without it, the P3 story would feel incomplete. So, we went to great lengths to somehow get it into production because we felt it was our duty as the IP holder of the Persona series. We’re still in the middle of development, but we’ll work hard to deliver it to everyone in September, so please look forward to it…